The Drake Hotel opened its doors in 1926 as a “new apartment hotel,” a luxurious home with hotel service to provide “relief from household burdens.” Offering spacious rooms and suites accommodated with innovations such as automatic refrigeration, it attracted residents including silent film star Lilian Gish. For many years, the Drake Hotel was one of the most famous places for entertainment and hospitality in New York City.
The hotel’s restaurant, the Drake Room, opened on December 21, 1945 and was an instant success. Its unique ceramic tree, great food, and impeccable service attracted entertainment stars, bankers, and politicians, making it one of the most cosmopolitan rooms in New York. For six years, Cy Walker was the featured performer.
But with the rise of new hotels and luxury apartments, the Drake Hotel began to decline. The hotel regained some of its lost fame from the opening of Shepheard’s, a dining room and discotheque in the hotel basement in 1963. Open seven days a week for cocktails, dinner, and supper with continuous dancing, it became the most fashionable nightclub in Manhattan. Lee Radziwill and Julie Newmar danced the Frug to a live disc jockey from 7:30 PM to 3:00 AM. Unlike other discotheques such as the L’Interdit (in the basement of the Gotham Hotel on 55th Street and 5th Ave) and Il Mio (at the Delmonico Hotel on Park Ave and 59th Street), Shepheard’s was not private, admitting all comers, and thus, always drew crowds.
Despite continuing to receive notable guests throughout the decades including Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, and Jimi Hendrix and being the choice of accommodation for touring rock bands including Led Zepplin and The Who in the 1960s and 70s, the hotel passed through multiple owners until it was sold to developer Harry Macklowe for $440 million in 2006. In 2007, the hotel was demolished for a new type of luxury residential skyscraper to rise in its place.
Known as 432 Park Ave, it will be the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere upon its completion in 2015. The slender 84-story skyscraper is an architectural icon both in design and engineering, shaped by the “logic of luxury” which is defined as having expensive land and air rights, being designed by “starchitect” Rafael Vinoly, and boasting extra high ceilings and abundant amenities. As was the Drake Hotel a symbol of its time, 432 Park Ave is a representation of a new era of modern luxury.