Teaching Students About Hotel Pennsylvania: A Journey Through Time and Hospitality


Hotel Pennsylvania, located in the heart of New York City, has been a cherished and iconic symbol of hospitality since its inception in 1919. Its rich history, architectural charm, and lasting cultural significance make it an excellent learning opportunity for students. Introducing learners to Hotel Pennsylvania not only brings history to life but also provides them with an appreciation of the intricate world of hospitality.

A Historical Overview:

Incorporating a lesson about Hotel Pennsylvania into the curriculum allows students to explore different aspects of American history while also gaining a deeper understanding of the hotel industry. Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the hotel initially opened its doors to accommodate travelers arriving on its railroad lines. With 2,200 rooms, it was considered the largest hotel in the world during that time.

Over the years, Hotel Pennsylvania has witnessed various historical events and evolved with the changing landscape of New York City. Notable guests include President Herbert Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt, Glenn Miller, and Bing Crosby. Educators can focus on these influential figures to emphasize how Hotel Pennsylvania was more than just a hotel—it was a hub connecting generations.

Architectural Significance:

As an example of neoclassical architecture, Hotel Pennsylvania showcases enduring design elements that are often absent from modern buildings. Students can study its design features—such as pilasters, columns, cornices, and intricate moldings— to understand their functions in creating an aesthetically harmonious structure.

Moreover, examining architectural styles like neoclassicism helps students appreciate historical periods and artistic movements relevant to both art history and American history.

The Impact on Hospitality Industry:

Hotel Pennsylvania is often credited as being the birthplace of several innovations that have become standard within the hospitality industry. For example, one notable invention is “Servidor,” a lockable compartment accessible from both inside and outside of guest rooms. It allowed hotel service staff to deliver guest requests without disturbing the guests themselves.

By studying Hotel Pennsylvania’s contributions to the hospitality industry, students can glean valuable insights into the evolution of modern guest experiences.

Connecting the Past with Present:

While the hotel has undergone several renovations and changes in ownership, its legacy lives on as a prime example of grandeur in hospitality. Teachers can encourage students to compare and contrast present-day Hotel Pennsylvania with its early years, highlighting how its ambiance and service standards have adapted over time. This juxtaposition enables learners to think critically about the societal and cultural changes that impact our built environment.


Teaching students about Hotel Pennsylvania provides them with a window into American history, architecture, and hospitality. This journey through time not only enriches their knowledge but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the world around them. By combining historical facts with engaging narratives, educators can inspire curiosity and spark meaningful conversations about our collective past.