The Algonquin Hotel at 59 West 44th Street in Manhattan opened its doors in 1902, designed by architect Goldwin Starrett. Its first manager, Frank Case (who bought the hotel in 1927), established many of the hotel’s traditions as well convinced the original owner of the hotel to name it after the Algonquin tribe who had first occupied the area.
Much of the popular history of The Algonquin Hotel is wrapped-up in one particular group of friends and enemies who beginning in June of 1919 , would meet everyday there for lunch. And if you haven’t guessed it by now, we are talking about The Vicious Circle, or The Algonquin Round Table as they came to be known.
The group was made-up of founding members:
Franklin Pierce Adams, columnist
Robert Benchley, humorist and actor
Heywood Broun, columnist and sportswriter (married to Ruth Hale)
Marc Connelly, playwright
George S. Kaufman, playwright and director
Dorothy Parker, critic, poet, short-story writer, and screenwriter
Harold Ross, The New Yorker editor
Robert E. Sherwood, author and playwright
John Peter Toohey, publicist
Alexander Woollcott, critic and journalist
But the table wasn’t completely inclusive and over a dozen members moved in and out of the circle throughout its lifetime, including Tallulah Bankhead and Harpo Marx. The close proximity of the hotel to the theatre district meant that it was never without a rotating cast of actors and writers. It is because of the Round Table and it’s policy of warmly opening its doors to writers that The Algonquin was designated a National Literary Landmark by the Friends of Libraries USA.
It’s this comforting atmosphere that has led many to claim that the spirits of Algonquin Round Table members still feel at home to occupy the hotel, with sightings of their ghosts not an uncommon experience. To add more mystery to the story, a recent renovation to an attic space on the 13th floor into a small room seemed to make someone very upset. Many strange noises emanated from the room on the night the work was completed and at around 3 am a picture of Dorothy Parker fell off the wall and shattered.