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Ellsworth M. Statler and the Statler Hotels

Ellsworth Milton Statler Ellsworth Milton Statler was born on Oct. 26, 1863, the son of William Jackson Statler and Mary Ann McKinney.  The Statlers moved to Bridgeport, OH about 1864, which is across the Ohio River from Wheeling, W. Virginia.   After working for a short time at the LaBelle Glass Factory in Kirkwood, OH, Ellsworth got a job as a bellboy at the McLure House Hotel after his 13th birthday and became Head Bellboy by age 15.  After many years of doing various jobs, running a few businesses, and learning the ropes, he started the Statler Hotel chain.  The hotels were all across the country and noted for their excellent customer service and special amenities that no other hotel provided at the time.

On July 4, 1896 he opened "Statler's Restaurant" in the lower level of the Ellicott Square Building in Buffalo that seated up to 500 patrons.  After many trials and barely avoiding bankruptcy, through the power of adversting and hard work, the restaurant was a success and by 1901 he had $60,000 in savings.  His brother William J. Statler eventually moved from Wheeling and took over the operation.  The restaurant closed in 1940.

At the age of 37 he built the temporary "Statler's Hotel", a 2,084 room hotel and dining room for the 1901 Pan-American Expo which ran from May 1 to November 1 located in Buffalo, NY.  He built another even larger temporary hotel, the Inside Inn, at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.  After these events, the hotels were torn down.

The first "permanent" Statler Hotel that Ellsworth built was also in Buffalo, NY which opened on Jan. 18, 1908 with 300 rooms on the corner of Washington and Swan Streets.  The architectural firm Esenwein and Johnson designed the building and was built by the firm Mosier and Summers.   This hotel was renamed The Hotel Buffalo in 1922 when a second Statler Hotel was built here.  It was sold in the 1930's by the Hotels Statler Company, and in 1967 was closed and later torn down in 1968.

On Oct. 18, 1912, the second Statler Hotel opened in Cleveland, OH at 1127 Euclid Ave.  The architectural firm was George B. Post and Sons and Ellsworth hired Louis Rorimer as the interior decorator (Louis also decorated the rest of the Statler Hotels as well).   This hotel was 16 stories tall with 800 rooms.  An expansion wing of 300 additional rooms were added for travelling men. The hotel was converted into an office building in 1980 as the Statler Office Building.  Today, this hotel has been converted into 295 apartment suites called the Statler Arms.  This $58 million rehab project includes a number of ground-floor shops, as well as 59 apartments reserved for middle-income people. Visit their website for more information.

The Statler Hotel located at 1539 Washington Blvd. Detroit, Michigan was built in 1914 and opened on Feb. 6, 1915.  The building is fifteen stories tall (with a basement) and originally had eight hundred guestrooms, each with a bath, thus creating a new standard of excellence in the hotel industry. George B. Post was a prominent New York architect. The building was designed using subtle Italian and Adamesque architectural detailing.  In 1958, it became known as the Statler Hilton after the Hilton bought out the chain. The hotel was renamed the Detroit Heritage Hotel and it closed its doors in 1975.  Sadly, after failed attempts to sell and renovate this property, demolition of the hotel began in August 2005 in an effort to "clean up" the city's image for Super Bowl XL (40) which was held in Detroit at Ford Stadium on Feb. 5, 2006 (Steelers vs Seahawks - Steelers won).

Click HERE for an awesome website dedicated to the pre-depression era buildings in downtown Detroit including the Statler.

Detroit Statler Hotel

On Dec. 11, 1916, Ellsworth acquired the operating lease for the upcoming Hotel Pennsylvania to be built in New York.  He paid $1,000,000 a year for the lease.  This allowed Ellsworth to finally achieved his dream of operating a hotel in New York City, NY when the hotel opened on Jan. 25, 1919.    It was the largest hotel at the time with 2,200 rooms each with a bath.  The hotel was acquired by the Hotels Statler Company in 1948 and was renamed the New York Statler Hotel.  Later, after the sale to Hilton Corp., it operated as The Statler Hilton, then as the New York Penta, until it reverted to the Hotel Pennsylvania.   As of January 2007, the hotel is slated to be demolished for an office tower planned for completion in 2011.  Here is the website for the current Hotel Pennsylvania.

Statler Hotel - St. Louis The Statler Hotel located at 822 Washington Ave. in St. Louis was opened on November 4, 1917. It was the fourth Statler Hotel built and was designed by George W. Post & Sons of New York with Mauran, Russell & Crowell of St Louis. The 650-room, twenty-story Statler featured lavish public rooms and an arcaded lobby on the first floor with a stunning, two-story ballroom at the top.

The St. Louis Statler was sold by Hilton in 1968 and was renamed The Gateway Hotel.  The hotel eventually closed its doors in 1987.  Check out this website about the Gateway Hotel.

A new hotel tower has been built to the east side of the Statler, and on the west side, connected by a tunnel under Ninth Street and also includes a parking garage and ballroom complex.  The new hotel complex has been renamed the Marriott Renaissance Grand Hotel and opened its doors in April 2003.   Visit their website.

Hotel Stater / Statler Towers Built on the site of Millard Fillmore's residence, it is the second Buffalo hotel built by Ellsworth which opened its doors on May 19, 1923 located at 107 Delaware Avenue.  Statler's hotels nationwide offered conveniences to the average American that at the time were only found in luxury hotels. The building is the English Renaissance Revival style and was built in 1921 by New York architects George B. Post & Sons. 

The hotel was converted to offices in 1984 and renamed the Statler Towers.  In June 2006, British businessman Bashar Issa bought the building, and it is being converted into a mix of condominiums on the top 14 floors of the 18 floor building, partly back to its original use as a luxury hotel with office/retail space on the first floor and basement.  Visit this website for more information about the conversion.

After this hotel was built, the first Statler Hotel that was built in Buffalo was renamed the Hotel Buffalo.

On March 10, 1927, Ellsworth opened another Statler Hotel in Boston.  It was 14 stories tall with 1,300 rooms.  Starting with this hotel, he put a radio in every room for a cost of $50,000.  Here is a link to the current hotel, the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Tower's website.  There is also an interesting article at this website written by Richard Hall about the Statler Library which was located in this hotel to provide books for hotel vistors.

Ellsworth Milton Statler died on April 16, 1928.  The Statler Foundation was established under Ellsworth's will to provide funds for improving the hotel industry.   His former secretary and second wife, Alice, was made Chairman of the Board of Hotels Statler Corp., Inc. and the residuary of the estate went to her.  She went on to build other Statler Hotels in Pittsburgh, PA (1938 - Leased the William Penn hotel), Washington, DC (1943 - Now called the Capitol Hilton), Los Angeles, CA (1952 - Now called the Wilshire Grand Hotel), Hartford, CT (1954 - Imploded in 1990), and Dallas, TX (1956 - Currently vacant) and remained active in the management of the hotels for the next 26 years.

On Oct. 27, 1954, Conrad Hilton, owner of the Hilton Hotel chain, paid $111,000,000 for the Statler assets, the then largest commercial real estate purchase in history.  For a time following, some of the hotels were renamed Statler-Hilton Hotels.  Alice was 71 at the time.

After the sale, Alice continued full-time as the Chairman of the Trustees of the Statler Foundation until her death in October, 1969.

There is one Statler Hotel that remains as a "training ground" for future hotel managers, administrators and workers.   The Statler Hotel at Cornell University is located in the scenic Finger Lakes region of New York State, overlooking Cayuga Lake and the city of Ithaca.  For more information about this Statler Hotel, check out their website. Statler Hotel

The City College of San Francisco has an Alice Statler Library which houses a special collection of research and circulating materials concerned with the hospitality industry.  It is located in Room 10 of the Statler Wing of the Phelan Campus.

There were two books written about E. M. and the hotels:

A Bed for the Night; the Story of the Wheeling Bellboy, E.M. Statler, and His Remarkable Hotels written by Rufus Jarman in 1952. (New York, NY: Harper, 309 p.)

Statler, America's Extraordinary Hotelman. written by Floyd Miller in 1968. (New York, NY: Statler Foundation, 240 p.)

Statler Cartoon Ad Visit this website to see cartoon ads for Statler Hotels from 1945 and 1950 by cartoonist, Tony Barlow.  The cartoons even list the room rates at that time and urge the purchase of U.S. War Bonds.

Also, check out this wonderful website dedicated to the history of the Statler Hotels.  It contains a lot of information and pictures of the various hotels with special dedication to the Detroit Statler.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on the Statler Hotels as well.

View a collection from the archives of TIME Magazine articles that had mention of Ellsworth or the Statler Hotels.

View a collection from the archives of the New York Times newspaper that had mention of Ellsworth or the Statler Hotels.

As a footnote, in the July 3, 2007 issue of the Financial Times (www.ft.com), author Roger Blitz wrote the following article:

"Blackstone on Tuesday bought Hilton Hotels Corporation for $26bn (12.8bn), giving the private equity company the biggest hotel group in the world by number of properties.  The deal, at $47.50 a share, represents a 31.7 per cent premium on last night’s closing price of $36.05 and a 40 per cent premium on Hilton’s price at the start of trading yesterday. It is the biggest deal in the hotel sector."

We've come a long way from Ellsworth's "a room and a bath for a dollar and a half," but without his foresight and ingenuity, hotels wouldn't be the same as they are today.

 

This document has been compiled with information from various people, books and web pages.
Also, I want to thank Andrew Edmonds, a descendant of Ellsworth, for his help as well.


2012 by David Statler of StatlerWeb