Manhattan is full of storied hotels, but few can match the colorful provenance of the Warwick. The hotel was built in 1926 by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst as part of his plan to provide a place for his mistress, Marion Davies, to live. One of the most powerful men of his era, Hearst built the Warwick to be one of the grandest hotels in the city. While Davies lived in the hotel's penthouse for only a few years, the hotel grew into a New York institution that has hosted many of the biggest celebrities of the twentieth century. Cary Grant lived in the hotel for a number of years. During their first appearance in New York, the Beatles stayed at the Warwick, as did Elvis Presley when he was in the city.
Backstory and Context
Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst was one of the most powerful men in the United States when he became infatuated with Marion Davies in 1916. At the time, Davies was a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl and by many accounts, Hearst was immediately smitten and reportedly attended performances for several weeks straight just to watch her. Eventually the couple began a relationship that would last for years and was the talk of New York and Hollywood.
Hearst was devoted to Davies and accounts of their relationship often refer to her as his "soul mate." But marriage was not an option for the couple as Hearst already had a wife, Millicent, as well as five children. Millicent was devoutly religious and refused to grant her husband a divorce. Instead, the couple lived separately for many years. To provide Davies a base in New York and to be able to see her whenever he wished, Hearst began to develop plans for the Warwick Hotel where she could stay and Hearst could visit under the premise of visiting his property. Hearst hired acclaimed architect Emery Roth to design an elegant hotel that would be within walking distance of New York's Theater District. When the Warick was completed, in 1926, Hearst moved Davies into the top floor and she lived there off and on through the 1930s when she retired and moved to California.
The Warwick isn't only known for its somewhat scandalous origin. Over the years, the hotel hosted a number of celebrities from music and film, including Cary Grant, who lived in the Warwick for several years. Irving Berlin and his wife were also residents. During their first trip to the United States in 1964, the Beatles stayed at the property while in Manhattan, and on a return visit in 1966, the band held their press conferences at the Warwick. It was during an interview in the Warwick that John Lennon made his controversial remark that "the Beatles are more popular than Jesus." Elvis Presley was also known to be a regular at the Warwick when he was in the city.
One of the hotel's restaurants, Murals on 54th, has a colorful history as well. Hearst hired Dean Cornwell, who painted murals depicting Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth when Raleigh received his charter and when he landed at Roanoke. The murals were completed, but Hearst and Cornwell had a disagreement over the artist's fee, and Cornwell retaliated by including some discreet, but mildly offensive, details in the paintings.
Sharp-eyed film buffs can find any number of nods to old Hollywood in the Warwick. The hotel features photographs of many of its famous guests and former residents, including Davies. The carpet in Randolph's Bar and Lounge features a stylized rosebud pattern, a subtle nod to the film classic "Citizen Cane," which was loosely based on Hearst's life.
Hammond, Julia . The Warwick New York--William Randolph Hearst's Testament to Love , Storied Hotels . Accessed October 21st 2019. https://storiedhotels.com/warwick-hotels/the-warwick-new-york-william-randolph-hearsts-testament-to-love/.
Our History, Warwick Hotels . Accessed October 23rd 2019. https://www.warwickhotels.com/warwick-new-york/hotel-history.
Miller, Tom. The 1926 Warwick Hotel--No. 65 West 54th Street, Daytonian in Manhattan. September 26th 2012. Accessed October 23rd 2019. http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-1926-warwick-hotel-no-65-west-54th.html.