The original twelve-story Hotel Albert, a red-brick and cast-iron balcony structure, still stands on the southwest corner of University Place and 11th Street in Greenwich Village. It is now a residential cooperative. But the history of the Albert is much more complicated than the simple recitation above. We are fortunate to have an extensive, recently-published (April 2011) history of the Hotel Albert prepared by Anthony W. Robins, architectural historian of Thompson & Columbus, Inc. Robins writes in his introduction:
The co-op apartment complex known today as “The Albert Apartment Corporation” began life as the Albert Apartment House, an early apartment building adjoining a hotel called the Hotel St. Stephen. By 1887, the apartment building had been converted into a second hotel, the Hotel Albert, and by the end of the 1890s, the two hotels had become one institution. The Albert was not just any hotel: Over the course of a century – from the 1880s through the 1970s – the Albert played a significant role in New York’s cultural life, housing guests ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson, Hart Crane, and Thomas Wolfe to The Mamas & The Papas, and the Mothers of Invention, with many, many more in between. The list of famous residents easily puts the Albert in the same league as such better-known hotels as the Chelsea or the Algonquin, but perhaps because it stopped being a hotel several decades ago, its history has been forgotten.
Today’s Albert Apartment Corp. consists of four buildings. The original Albert Apartment House, which became the core of the Hotel Albert, still stands, largely intact, at the southeast corner of University Place and East 11th Street. It was built in 1881-82 to designs by Henry Hardenbergh, the prominent American architect who also designed such major institutions as the Plaza Hotel and the Dakota apartments. The 12-story extension to the Albert on University Place was added in 1903-04, and the shorter extension on the northeast corner of University Place and East 10th Street in 1922-24.
Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (1847-1918) began his own architectural practice in New York in 1840 and became one of the city’s most distinguished architects. His earliest midtown hotels, the Waldorf (1893) on Fifth Avenue and West 33rd Street, and its addition, the Astoria (1897) on Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, have all been demolished, but when constructed, they set the standard for luxury hotel design, both on the exterior and the interior. The turrets, gables, and balconies seen on the exteriors formed a picturesque composition, while the comfortable interior arrangements, and fine decoration added to the sumptuousness of the visitor’s experience.