Literary hotels in NYC: Stay where your favorite authors lived and wrote

by Jane Reynolds on July 27, 2010

Find your favorite books in the vast collection at the New York Public Library

Most of our country’s greatest literary minds have lived or stayed in New York City at one point or another. And as wordsmiths dedicated to lives of pen and paper, they inevitably wrote during their time in the Big Apple. We checked out the hotels where they met, stayed, and wrote, from seedy rest stops with cheap rent, to meeting places for witty exchange amongst fellow authors, to sites of lavish celebrations of one’s literary success . So gather up your book club (or just your nose-in-novel honey) and head to NYC to visit the hotel haunts where your favorite authors were inspired–you just may be inspired too.

Club Room at Hotel Elysee

Club Room at Hotel Elysee

Stay: Hotel Elysee

Many recognizable names–Joe DiMaggio, Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner–have called Hotel Elysee home, but possibly the most notable resident is playwright Tennessee Williams, who lived in the hotel for fifteen years until his death in 1983. Williams wrote all of his later works in his suite (named the Sunset Suite in his honor) and guests were known to complain that they could hear his typing late into the night.

Read: A House Not Meant to Stand, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams’ final play, A House Not Meant to Stand, is a dark comedy set in rural Mississippi (where Williams grew up). He wrote it in his suite at Hotel Elysee and it was produced in the final years of his life at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. However, it wasn’t published until 2008.

Lobby at the Washington Square Hotel

Stay: Washington Square Hotel

On his first tour of the United States, Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas lived in the Washington Square Hotel (then the Hotel Earle) after being kicked out of his previous hotel for his loud, late-night partying and outlandish room service requests. Thomas liked his new location because of the easy-going staff and its proximity to his favorite Greenwich Village bars.

Read: Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas

Thomas’ most famous piece, Under Milk Wood, is a play he wrote for the radio in 1954 that was later adapted for the stage and then screen (in the same-titled 1972 film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Peter O’Toole). Set in a fictitious Welsh village called Llareggub (read it backwards), it exposes the innermost thoughts of its cast of curious characters through the all-knowing “eyes” of the blind Captain Cat.

Inside Hotel Chelsea

Stay: Hotel Chelsea

Name a notable actor, writer, or musician, and they’ve probably stayed at the Hotel Chelsea. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, Hotel Chelsea seems best known for some macabre events — like the alleged murder of Sid Vicious’ girlfriend or Dylan Thomas’ death by alcohol poisoning. But it has cheerier history as well — when it opened in 1884, it was the tallest building in New York and literary greats such as Tennessee Williams, Mark Twain, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke have written there during their extended stays.

Read: 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke wrote this legendary science fiction novel when he was living in Hotel Chelsea in 1968 (it was adapted for the big screen the same year). Based on Clarke’s collection of short stories, particularly The Sentinel, 2001: A Space Odyssey examines the promise and danger of technology.

Palm Court at The Plaza

Stay: The Plaza

The century-old Plaza is a New York City landmark that has been the site of extravagant weddings (Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones), Oscar-winning movies (Almost Famous), and A-list parties (Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball). After the success of In Cold Blood, Capote threw a lavish party, called the Black and White Ball, at The Plaza in honor of his book and The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. Invitations were highly sought after and only the most elite of the “in”-crowd were on the guest list.

Read: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Truman Capote completed In Cold Blood in 1966, after six long years of research and writing. The highly-acclaimed non-fiction novel tells the gory story of the 1959 murders of a wealthy Kansas farmer and his family. It examines the psychological relationship between the murderers as well as the lives of the victims and the impact their deaths had on the community.

Round Table Room at the Algonquin Hotel

Stay: Algonquin Hotel

The Algonquin Hotel was the site of the famous Round Table meetings in the 1920s. A group of writers, critics, and actors, the Round Table — including names like Robert E. Sherwood, Dorothy Parker, George F. Kaufman, and Edna Ferber — met for lunch daily to discuss everything from literature to politics. They also collaborated on a revue titled No Sirree! to jump-start the Hollywood career of fellow Round Tabler Robert Benchley. This group is also responsible for founding The New Yorker, which is free for hotel guests. The Algonquin has hosted many other notable literary minds as well — one of the first hotels to accept single female guests, the Algonquin has hosted the likes of Gertrude Stein and Maya Angelou. William Faulkner wrote his acceptance speech for the 1949 Nobel Prize in the hotel’s lobby.

Read: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying, his most famous novel — ranked among the best novels of twentieth-century literature — in just six weeks. Written in a stream of consciousness, As I Lay Dying tells the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family’s struggle to honor her dying request.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Scott D. Kenan August 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm

With all due respect, as Tennessee Williams’ last significant assistant, I can tell you that TW lived primarily in Key West the last 15 years of his life, but did always stay at the Hotel Elysee when in New York during the time I worked for him. In those six months, we probably spent a total of 3-5 weeks at the hotel. I would bet he worked at least a little on most of his late plays there, but your claim that he wrote A HOUSE NOT MEANT TO STAND THERE is off the mark.

I was working for him when Gregory Mosher and Andre Ernotte mounted the play in its final form at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in April, 1982. Given where his typewriter was positioned in the Sunset Suite, I doubt others heard his typing and neither I nor he ever heard that there had been any complaints of its tapping!!!

See my TW book’s website for more details: or my political blog to see what kinds of people have been telling lies, half-truths, and/or outright fictions about my former employer and friend: .

Muchos gracias,
Scott D. Kenan
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (in exile)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: