Grand hotels with deep railroad roots

Hotels and railroads go way back.

The relationship worked: Travelers needed somewhere to sleep, so railroad companies built hotels.
Though the earliest railroad lodgings in the United States were primarily for railway workers, later hotels catered to the lavish lifestyles of Gilded Age travelers.
“The people who are taking long-distance railroad excursions in the 1880s, 1890s, are generally quite well-to-do people,” said Andrew Sandoval-Strausz, a professor at the University of New Mexico and author of “Hotel: An American History.”
Many of the country’s grand railroad hotels were constructed from the 1880s through the first decade of the 20th century.
It was a fine time to be rich (before U.S. income tax) and a fine time to operate a luxury hotel (before cars changed travel patterns forever).
The new hotels often also offered some less-expensive rooms to attract the rising middle class, Sandoval-Strausz said.
Though Canada has a slightly different railway-hotel history, lavish château-inspired hotels built by railroad companies started popping up there during the same period.
Fortunately for travelers today, some of the railroad hotels across the U.S. and Canada are still taking reservations.

InterContinental New York Barclay, New York

With the construction of the Grand Central Terminal in New York between 1903 and 1913, the New York Central Railroad electrified its tracks and put them underground, creating valuable real estate above the rails.
The Barclay, which opened in 1926, was built on “air rights” leased from the New York Central Realty and Terminal Corporation, a division of the Vanderbilt-owned railroad.
It was the last of four railroad hotels built around the terminal. Tracks to Grand Central are still located under the hotel, although underground passageways to the station are no longer in use.
Today, the InterContinental New York Barclay is on the verge of reopening after an $180 million renovation of the original hotel designed by Cross & Cross, the architectural firm behind Fifth Avenue’s Tiffany & Co. building.

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