The Algonquin is New York's most prestigious literary hotel. Except for perhaps the Hotel Chelsea, the Algonquin has more connections to literature and the arts than any other hotel in the city.
In 1902, an intimate hotel with a red brick and limestone façade opened its doors in what had become one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Manhattan. The 181-room hotel was designed by architect Goldwin Starrett. Its first owner-manager, Frank Case, worked at the Algonquin from the time it opened in 1902.
Case worked at the Algonquin from the time it opened in 1902. In 1927 he bought the hotel $1,000,000 in 1927 and remained his manager till his death in 1946.
It was Case who came up with the hotel's name. The original owner had wanted to call it "The Puritan". Algonquins are First Nation inhabitants of North America. They lived in Quebec.
The Algonquin Round Table was a group of thirty writers, editors, actors, and publicists that met on a regular basis at the hotel. The Round Table first met in June 1919 for a luncheon to welcome home Aleck Woollcott, the drama critic for the New York Times, back from World War I.
Within a few years its participants included many of the best-known writers, journalists, and artists in New York City. The Algonquin Round Table, known by the inner circle as The Vicious Circle, included such luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx and Robert Benchley, and the local press clamored to publish their every word.
The Round Table was made up of people with a shared admiration for each other’s work. Outspoken and outrageous, they would often quote each other freely in their daily columns.
At first they met in the Pergola Room (Oak Room now) until the group grew too large and the manager of the hotel Case moved them to the main dining room and gave them a round table. They meet for long luncheons, six days a week.
Their clever anecdotes and witticisms are a major part of American humor.
The members’ opinions and writing strongly influenced young writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Harold Ross, legendary editor and friend of The Round Table, created The New Yorker and secured funding for it at the hotel. The magazine made its debut February 21, 1925.
The period that followed the end of World War I was one of gaiety and optimism, and it sparked a new era of creativity in American culture. As America entered the Depression and the more somber decade of the 1930s, the bonds that had held the group together loosened; many members moved to Hollywood or on to other interests.
A decade after it began, the Algonquin Round Table was over but not forgotten.
The elder child of the hotel manager Case, the author Margaret Case Harriman, among other books, wrote a memoir of the Algonquin Round Table entitled The Vicious Circle, because the members of the Round Table called themselves the Vicious Circle.
In 1993, The Algonquin Round Table was featured in The Young Indiana Jones and the Scandal of 1920 where the titular character meet the group and attend at least two lunches.
Many visitors of the Round Table restaurant in the hotel request to sit at the original “round table” where the renowned personalities met. The ratio of the restaurant from OpenTable in not high- 3.6.
Some hotels have a resident artist, others have a resident band, and Algonquin hotel has a cat. Wikipedia sais: " The practice dates to the 1930s, when Frank Case took in a stray male cat that was initially named "Rusty." Hotel lore says actor John Barrymore suggested the cat needed a more "dignified" name, so the cat was renamed "Hamlet." Nowadays, whenever the hotel has a male cat, he's named Hamlet; but if the hotel has a female cat, she's named "Matilda." The current Algonquin cat, a Matilda, is a Ragdoll that was named 2006 cat of the year at the Westchester (New York) Cat Show. Visitors can spot Matilda on her personal chaise longue in the lobby; she can also be found in her favorite places: behind the computer on the front desk, or lounging on a baggage cart. The doormen feed her and the general manager's executive assistant answers Matilda's e-mail. During 2011, Matilda was temporarily confined to an upper floor or to the limits of a leash tethered to the check-in desk, due to a directive from the city Department of Health.
As of late 2011, Matilda has been confined to the non-food areas of the lobby by an electronic pet fence."
Since 1981, Bob Wilson, working in the hotel starting from 1981, on a question "What is your favorite memory of working at the hotel?" answered:
" I have really enjoyed meeting the different mayors of New York who have all come to the hotel such as Guiliani, Koch and Dinkins. And one time, we had a guest who had a phobia of cats and really didn't like meeting our famous lobby cat Matilda. The guest was jumping up and down on the sofas and chairs in the lobby and I guess had no idea Matilda lived at the hotel. Anyway, the guest ended up staying at the hotel and apologizing for the scene in the lobby, but it was very funny."
The cat has its own Facebook page.
Alice de Almeida, the woman responsible for taking care of Matilda, told about the cat: She’s up at about 6 a.m. and she sits at the front desk waiting for me to arrive at 6:30, and then she eats. There is a woman in Russia who emails her all the time and sends gifts. There was a lady in Japan that hand-made an exact replica of her, two dolls, out of wool. Each strand of wool, strand by strand, she put those in. It looks exactly like Matilda. One is just Matilda, we have her in the showcase out front. And then I have one up here where she has her in a kimono.