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JW Marriott Essex House

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JW Marriott Essex House

JW Marriott Essex House
General information
Location 160 Central Park South
New York City, New York
Opening 1931
Owner Strategic Hotels & Resorts
Management Marriott Hotels
Height 140.51 m (461.0 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 43
Design and construction
Architect Frank Grad & Sons
Other information
Number of rooms 509
Number of restaurants South Gate Restaurant and Bar
Lobby Lounge

The JW Marriott Essex House, opened in 1931 and commonly known as the Essex House, is a 44-story luxury hotel with 509 Art Deco style rooms, located at 160 Central Park South in Manhattan, across the street from the southern border of Central Park. The building also includes a large number of condominium residences. It is immediately recognizable by its original red neon rooftop sign.

JW Marriott Essex House New York is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[1]


  • History 1
  • Facilities 2
  • In popular culture 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Construction began on October 30, 1929, one day after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The hotel was first intended to be named the Park Tower and then the Sevilla Tower. However the Great Depression slowed construction and the hotel did not open until October 1, 1931, as the Essex House.[2] It was built on part of the expansive site of José Francisco de Navarro's "Navarro Flats", built in the 1880s as an experiment in condominium apartments.[3]

The following year, the hotel erected its iconic six-story sign on the roof. It was also taken from its bankrupt owners by the US Government's Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which owned it for the next 15 years.[2] In 1946, the hotel was bought by the Sterling National Bank & Trust Co. They sold the Essex House to Marriott Hotels in 1969, who operated it until 1985 as Marriott's Essex House. Marriott sold the hotel to Japan Air Lines (JAL) in 1985, who ran it under their Nikko Hotels division as Essex House Hotel Nikko New York. Japan Air Lines then sold it to Strategic Hotels & Resorts in 1999, who brought in Starwood Hotels to manage it under their Westin Hotels division as Essex House - A Westin Hotel.

The Dubai Investment Group acquired the hotel from Strategic in 2006 for $424 Million.[4] They put it under their Jumeirah Group as Jumeirah Essex House and undertook a $90 million renovation, overseen by Hirsch Bedner Associates, an Atlanta-based design firm.

In 2012, Strategic Hotels & Resorts re-acquired the hotel from the Dubai Investment Group for $325 Million - $50 Million less than they had sold it for 6 years earlier.[5] The hotel was renamed JW Marriott Essex House New York on September 8, 2012, after the sale closed.[6]

The hotel was formerly the home of a many-starred restaurant, Alain Ducasse at Essex House. However, Ducasse closed the restaurant at Essex House in January 2007. In early 2008, South Gate Restaurant and Bar opened in the hotel.[7]


The hotel's main restaurant, South Gate, features a seasonally inspired modern-American menu and overlooks Central Park. Other facilities include The Spa, a 24-hour fitness center and business center. JW Marriott Essex House also features banquet facilities including the Grand Salon, Petite Salon and Art Deco Salon.

In popular culture

In the famous 1932 photograph Lunch atop a Skyscraper, the neon Essex House sign can be seen in the background.

In the mid-1930s, humorist Arnold Auerbach and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk, newly graduated from Columbia University, roomed together in an Essex House suite while writing for "gag-czar" David Freedman and Fred Allen.[8] Essex House featured as "April House" in Wouk's semi-autobiographical novel, Inside, Outside.

Milton Berle's mother, Sarah, died in her apartment at the Essex House on May 30, 1954. The famous Russian composer Igor Stravinsky lived there from the autumn of 1969 until his death on April 6, 1971.

On January 13, 1979, R&B singer Donny Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, after an apparent suicide leap from the 15th floor room in which he had been living.

Mary Boland Star of Broadway and Hollywood died in her sleep in her apartment on 23, June, 1965.

The Essex House is known for its relationship with the American television program Saturday Night Live. In the early years of the show, announcer Don Pardo would proclaim that "guests of Saturday Night Live stay at the Marriott's Essex House!"

The Essex House is mentioned in the 1976 movie All the President's Men (as well as the 1974 book of the same title.) Reporter Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman) called former U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell (Nixon Administration) late one Saturday night at the Essex House to get a comment from Mitchell on a Watergate story appearing the next day in The Washington Post. The article stated that Mitchell was one of the men who controlled a secret cash fund from which the Watergate burglars were paid. After Bernstein read the paragraph to him, Mitchell unleashed a colorful threat regarding Post publisher Katharine Graham's anatomy. According to Bernstein, Mitchell's comment appears verbatim in the film and book as it actually happened.

In the animated film Madagascar, the neon Essex House sign can be seen several times in the background during scenes in the Central Park Zoo.

In Gary Nadeau's short film Pizza Verdi (2011), the popular Essex House sign is visible in the shots over Central Park.

In the Doctor Who episode "The Angels Take Manhattan" (2012), the Essex House is prominently positioned in the background during the Central Park scenes.


  1. ^ "JW Marriott Essex House New York, a Historic Hotels of America member". Historic Hotels of America. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Christopher Gray, "Streetscapes: The Navarro Flats: When Spain Reigned on Central Park South". The New York Times, 17 June 2007.
  4. ^ "Jumeirah Essex House | Buildings". US /: Emporis. 2006-01-16. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  5. ^ "Strategic Hotels Acquires Essex House, Will Rebrand as JW Marriott". Frequent Business Traveler. 2012-08-17. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  6. ^ "Strategic Hotels Acquires Essex House, Will Rebrand as the JW Marriott". Frequent Business Traveler. 2012-08-17. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  7. ^ ZenFoodster Eats. "South Gate | Manhattan | Restaurant Menus and Reviews". Zagat. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  8. ^ [Herman Wouk, The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion (New York: 2010),] ISBN 978-0-316-07845-0, p 78

External links

  • JW Marriott Essex House
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