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Carter's View

The Pierre Hotel at 795 Fifth Avenue on the southeast corner at 61st Street will close in December for renovations that are expected to take about two years to complete.

The renovation will affect the building's lobby and 200 hotel rooms, but an article in the November 2, 2007 edition of The New York Times by Charles V. Bagli indicated that during the renovation the hotel "will provide limited service for the permanent residents in about 65 cooperative apartments in the 42-story tower.

In 2005, the cooperative that controls the property signed a 30-year management contract with the Taj Hotels.

The hotel was erected in 1929 by Charles Pierre. It was designed by Schultze & Weaver, the firm that also designed the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue at 59th Street.

Although the silhouette of the Sherry Netherland is infinitely more memorable and dramatic and interesting than the Pierre's, the Pierre's more conventional formality and light tones made for a more compatible transition with the white mansions of "Millionaire's Row" north of it on the avenue that were already being razed to make way for expensive apartment buildings.

Furthermore, in an age when contextual design had not yet reared its wagging head in architectural circles, the Pierre's light colors were more appropriate as a backdrop for its very impressive small neighbor on the same Fifth Avenue block, the Metropolitan Club.

In "Fifth Avenue, A Very Social History," published in 1978 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., Kate Simon recounts some of the Pierre Hotel's early history:

"Ambitious and tenacious, like many of his fellow Corsicans, Charles Pierre Casalesco left his father's Ajaccio restaurant where he had been the busboy, to go as Charles Pierre to the brilliant Hotel Anglais in Monte Carlo....On a job foray to London, he was picked out by Louis Sherry for a position in New York. Twelve years of Sherry's brought him to an impasse. Smart women were beginning to smoke in public rooms. Mr. Sherry forbade it in his restaurant, an irritating, old-fashioned prohibition, Pierre thought, and, after flights of heated words he left. A stint then at the Ritz-Carlton on Madison Avenue at Forty-sixth, followed by his own restaurant, first on Forty-fifth immediately west of Fifth Avenue, and later at 230 Park, a place equally famous for its cuisine and for its care of American heiresses who, it was seen to by M. Pierre (himself occasionally the escort) went directly home to Mama. Inevitably he became a conservative elder statesman, deploring the vast democratic size of World War I parties and the unrestrained Prohibition guzzling that followed after. He soldiered on in this frantic new world that had lost its manners until a group of admirers and financiers, among them Otto H. Kahn, Finley J. Shepherd (who had married Helen Gould), Edward F. Hutton, Walter P. Chrysler, Robert Livingston Gerry (the son of Elbridge Thomas Gerry, lawyer, philanthropist and grandson of Elbridge Gerry, the inventor of 'gerrymandering') and others decided to use the site of the Gerry mansion at Sixty-first Street and Fifth Avenue for a hotel to be managed and run by Charles Pierre."

The hotel went into bankruptcy in 1932 and six years later, oilman J. Paul Getty bought it for about $2.5 million and subsequently sold many cooperative apartments in the building. Trust Houses Forte Corporation took it over in 1973 and in 1986 the hotel became part of the Four Seasons chain.

In 1988, the hotel's duplex penthouse with an enormous ballroom with double-height arched windows, was put on the market with the highest price tag ever believed then asked for a single co-op - $20 million. A couple years later, it was sold to Lady Fairfax for about $12 million, who was reported to have sold it in 1998 by The New York Observer for more than $20 million. More recently, it has been on the market with a $70 million pricetag.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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