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Celebrating the PGA's 95th Anniversary at the Historic Radisson Martinique on Broadway

On Wednesday, August 31st, I found myself wandering down to New York City - not distractedly but with a purpose - as I had been issued an invitation from the Historic Hotels of America to attend the PGA's 95th Anniversary Celebration at the historic Radisson Martinique on Broadway. The celebration was to include the unveiling of the "PGA Gallery at the Martinique" which contains historic pictures of the organization's past as well as an appearance by the Wanamaker Trophy which is awarded annually to the Professional Golf Association champion.

Even though it has been way too many years since I've picked up a golf club myself, I was looking forward to seeing the hotel where history was made in 1916 and I had a feeling that perhaps my dad would be coming along with me in spirit not to see the hotel but because he had always enjoyed watching golf matches on Sunday afternoons and he might have thought my going to an event held by the PGA was pretty cool. If memory serves he was a fan of Lee Trevino whereas I believe my mom was more of a Phil Mickelson fan.

Now I know that there are a lot of people who think that golf has got to be the most boring game on the face of the planet but unless you've ever gone out and swung a club yourself and realized how hard it is to hit that small white ball so that it eventually lands in a hole in the middle of a green within a certain number of strokes, you have no idea how tough the game really is. Or how much fun it can be when you get it right. Or how frustrating it can be when you get it wrong. Anyhow, before I get totally off track and start to reminisce about all the games both good and bad that I've played, let me tell you some about the Radisson Martinique - a hotel that has quite an interesting history in addition to being where the PGA was born.

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A member of the Historic Hotels of America and New York City’s oldest operating hotel, the Radisson Martinique on Broadway stands majestically at the corners of Broadway and 32nd Street in Greeley Square where it first opened its doors in 1900 amid the “champagne sparkle” of Broadway where it was said by Henry Collins Brown, curator of the Museum of the City of New York, that all the world came “to shop, to dine, to flirt, to find amusement, and to meet acquaintances.”

A stunning Beaux Arts building (the neoclassical architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris), the Hotel Martinique was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, the renowned New Jersey-born American architect who also designed the Dakota Apartments in Central Park West (1884), the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston (1912), New York’s Plaza Hotel (1905), and the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. (1902) amongst many other beautiful buildings.

The hotel was built in three phases with the original building facing 33rd Street constructed from August 1897 to September 1898. Shortly after the 17-story Hotel Martinique opened, the owner and namesake of the hotel, William R.H. Martin, decided to double the size of the building and hired Hardenbergh to once again oversee the design. The addition was built in two phases with a 43-foot frontage on Broadway constructed from October 1901 to March 1903 and the corner piece of the building on Broadway and 32nd Street added between April 1909 to September 1910. On December 21st, 1910 the newly expanded Hotel Martinique re-opened with a total of 600 rooms as well as an elaborate mosaic-tile floor in the lobby and 18-story spiral staircase - both of which remain to this day.

The beautiful hotel that Hardenbergh had created was of a French Renaissance design constructed of glazed brick, terracotta and limestone with a scaled mansard roof adorned with towers and ornate dormers; a design that featured rusticated stonework, architectural accent cartouches and appliqués, and balconies on all three of its main facades.

Hardenbergh had a reputation for designing buildings for long-term use and not short-term profit and that was quite evident in the Hotel Martinique which was located within walking distance of the newly opened Pennsylvania Station and Macy’s department store on Herald Square while just across the street was the massive Gimbels New York department store that offered 27-acres of selling space. On May 1st, 1931 another grand building joined the neighborhood when guests in the Dutch Room of the Hotel Martinique illegally toasted the grand opening of the Empire State Building with Prohibition-restricted champagne.

By the mid-century when the theater district moved north to Times Square and the best stores left Sixth Avenue for new locations on Fifth Avenue, the Hotel Martinique lost business and began to slide into decline. By 1974 the City of New York was warehousing 448 homeless welfare families in the building which became known as “America’s most notorious welfare hotel” with dimly lit, squalid rooms and corridors as well as problems with lead paint, asbestos removal, prostitutes, and drug dealers. Finally after years of bad publicity, in the late-1980’s New York City decided to stop using privately-owned hotels as emergency shelters for the homeless and emptied the Hotel Martinique as they moved the families to other apartments around the city. The last welfare family left the Martinique in 1989 and at that time the building was acquired in a 99-year lease by Harold Thurman, a real estate developer from Long Island who owned the Hilton Hotel at JFK International Airport.


The hotel remained vacant until 1996 while it underwent massive renovation and restoration work and Thurman looked for a hotel chain that wanted to invest in the newly restored building.  On May 5th, 1998 the Hotel Martinique was conferred landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, a move that was designed to insure that the historic architectural qualities of the building were left unchanged and intact thereby assuring that future generations would see the beauty of the hotel as it was originally built. In May of 1998 the hotel reopened as the Holiday Inn Martinique on Broadway providing tourists with beautiful accommodations within walking distance of many of New York's most popular attractions.

Now named the Radisson Martinique on Broadway following extensive renovations in 2006 - 2007 by Carlson Hotels (which operates the Radisson brand) that cost upwards of $10 million, against all odds the hotel is a stunning landmark building in the heart of midtown Manhattan just blocks away from the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Penn Station, Macy’s and the Chelsea art galleries and restaurants. Some have called it nothing short of an urban miracle that it was able to escape its checkered past to reach even further back into its glorious history and once again become the grand hotel that it was originally designed to be.

So how - you may ask - did the Hotel Martinique become the birthplace of the largest working sports organization in the world which is comprised of more than 28,000 dedicated men and women who promote the game of golf to everyone, everywhere? Good question to which I have the answer!

As earlier stated in the history of the Martinique, the hotel was located in a very popular part of New York City and as such it was there in the hotel's Taplow Club that department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker sat down with a group of New York-area golf professionals and well-known amateur golfers whom he had invited to converse with on the subject of forming a national association.

The PGA wouldn't be the first formal golf association in the country though as the United States Golf Association had been formed previously on December 22, 1894 following a need for rules and order. At that time there were 41 golf courses operating in the United States with two unofficial national championships for amateur golfers being held each year (one at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island and the other at St. Andrew's Golf Club in Yonkers, New York) along with one professional tournament at St. Andrew's. As none of these championships were officially sanctioned by any governing body for American golf, considerable controversy often occurred among the players and organizers so the USGA was formed to resolve the question of a national amateur championship. Together with the R&A (the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews based in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland), the USGA governs the game worldwide, jointly administering the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status, equipment standards, and World Amateur Golf Rankings. The USGA's working jurisdiction is made up of the United States, its territories, and Mexico.


When Rodman Wanamaker sat down with his invited guests in the Taplow Club on January 17th, 1916, it was with the intent to discuss the subject of forming a national association that would promote interest in golf as well as to help elevate the vocation of golf professionals. Wanamaker saw the public's growing enthusiasm for golf as the beginning of a national trend and believed that if they formed an association that golf professionals could enhance equipment sales as well as promote the growth of the game - something that I'm sure appealed to him as a department store magnate. During the meeting, Wanamaker also hinted that should a newly formed organization be formed it would need an annual all-professional tournament and offered to put up $2,500 and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund should that happen.

Additional meetings were held over the next two months and on April 10th, 1916 Rodham Wanamaker met once again with the group of prominent golfers and industry representatives at the Hotel Martinique but this time on the second floor.  In what would become the boardroom of the Professional Golfers Association, thirty-five charter members signed the newly formed constitution and by-laws and with that the PGA of America was officially founded with the motto "Experts in the game and business of golf".

The inaugural PGA Championship was conducted from October 9th to 14th at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York where James M. Barnes defeated Jock Hutchison, 1-up, in the Championship match. As he had previously hinted at, Rodham Wanamaker donated the trophy that bears his name to this day and a purse of $2,580 and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was that very history that the PGA was celebrating on August 31st on the second floor of the Radisson Martinique just down the hall from the famous boardroom. The celebration featured short speeches by Julius Mason, PGA of America Senior Director of Public Relations and Media Relations; the 37th President of The PGA of America, Allen Wronowski; Susan Anselona, Vice President and General Manager of the Radisson Martinique; Historic Hotels of America Executive Director Thierry Roch; Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist Dave Anderson; and John Wanamaker-Leas, the great grandson of Rodham Wanamaker. All were understandably proud of the role that the PGA has played in America's history and the role that the historic Martinique hotel played in forming an organization that "takes pride in the commitment of its men and women member professionals who after 95 years have elevated themselves by their dedication to a sport that elevates the human spirit on many levels."

Cutting the ribbon to the PGA Gallery at the Radisson Martinique
President of The PGA of America, Allen Wronowski and Susan Anselona, Vice President and General Manager of the Radisson Martinique cut the ribbon officially opening the PGA Gallery at the Martinique

Historic Hotels of America and the Radisson Martinique on Broadway helped the PGA celebrate by opening a permanent PGA exhibit on the second floor near the historic PGA Boardroom where the organization was officially formed almost 100 years ago. "By creating the PGA Gallery at the Martinique, we are continuing to encourage historic preservation of the founding fathers of The PGA, while at the same time showcasing this hotel's rich history," said Susan Anselona of the Radisson Martinique. "Our goal is to bring these two special organizations to the attention of the traveling public."

The doorway to the PGA Boardroom
Picture montages of memorable PGA moments.
The Inaugural Senior PGA Championship at Augusta National Golf Club in November 1937.
PGA Professionals Byron Nelson and Harold "Jug" McSpaden offer instruction advice to World War II veterans, October 1944. Nelson won the PGA Championship twice.

The pictures above were just a few of the many that were on display.  Additionally during the reception there was a display with some rather interesting PGA artifacts for guests at the reception to look at:




Of course what celebration would be complete without a cake and something to drink? I must say that the signature drink of the Martinique is quite tasty!


And it certainly wouldn't be a party without presents now would it? The nice thing is, it may have been the PGA's anniversary but the guests were the ones to get the lovely gifts!



The gift bags were provided by the Radisson Martinique and they certainly spared no expense providing guests with a sleeve of PGA Logo golf balls, a PGA 95th anniversary hat, two crystal stemless wine goblets with the PGA anniversary logo, a Radisson Martinique chocolate bar, some great literature on both the Historic Hotels of America and the Martinique, and a one year membership in Preferred Golf Club that I can either keep for myself or give to a designated recipient.  Trust me, I know just the perfect person to receive that wonderful gift and I'd be willing to wager she and her husband get more use out of it then myself and my bad back ever would and she most definitely deserves this nice gift for being so nice to me!


Even though my name was spelled just a bit wrong (everyone always seems to forget that third "O"), I am very honored that I was extended the invitation to attend this historic event in New York City and to get a glimpse of the historic Radisson Martinique on Broadway as well as share in the celebration of the PGA as they get one year closer to their 100-year anniversary.  Additionally it was a real pleasure to meet Thierry Roch of the HHA and spend some time chatting with Gina Galatro who is the HHA's Manager for Marketing Communications.  I thank you both very much for the invitation and for the chance to once again visit New York and dream of being a real writer while taking part in a piece of history!

Comments

  1. I adore the stone intarsia floors... Beautiful!

    As a child who grew up in a golf household, I know how important the PGA is to the sport. At the country club we belonged to, they featured a Byron Nelson burger and held many a PGA tournament on their course.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a neat weekend. The hotel is gorgeous. I love it when magnificent architecture is preserved.

    I have never golfed but my bil Rick, his father and brothers all love to golf and several of my neighbors golf. One is a scratch golfer and Mike has a 2 handicap. He was just invited to golf in the Wounded Warriors Tournament and LOVED it. They golf at various Master's courses. He's one happy camper, I can tell you! Mike and Rick already have a few games planned for Lynda and Rick's next visit!

    Nice bling! I'm not much for stem-less wine glasses as the warmth of your hand is really not ideal for the wine but those are pretty neat!

    I can't wait to see where you wander next!

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  3. What a checkered past this beautiful building has had! And what a fab w/e for YOU! Wowza. Great job on detailing everything, as usual. I love following along on your adventures. Where are WE going next?...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I used to pass this hotel all the time when I worked in midtown and never really saw it
    thanks for all the info

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  5. I had no clue they had turned this massive places into welfare hotels. My goodness I am surprised there was anything left to salvage... Imagine the hotel's knowledge it holds in it's walls.... royalty to hookers and druggies, so glad you were there to document this hotels past and current adventurers... Well Done again ~ distracted wanderer... wander on my friend

    ReplyDelete
  6. You are a real writer, Oh Duchess of Distracted Wandering.

    What a beautiful hotel. Interesting post, my dear!

    My mother was looking at it too over my shoulder and she said the neighborhood was her old "stomping ground." She worked on the 45th and 70th floors of the Empire State Building back in the day.

    ReplyDelete

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