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Stanley Turkel, Manager and Avid Historian of Hotels, Dies at 96

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Stanley Turkel, whose profession as a hotelier, hospitality consultant and historian required him to ascertain into more hostelries than a million-mile frequent flier, died on Aug. 12 in his own bed in Alexandria, Va. He was 96.

His death was confirmed by his son, Marc Turkel.

In 10 books and 270 blog posts, Mr. Turkel (pronounced tur-KELL) explored the idiosyncrasies of lodgings in Recent York and around the globe — from the history of the unique hyphen within the name of the Waldorf Astoria in Recent York to the revelation that the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Piano Bar in Recent Orleans revolves on 2,000 steel rollers.

He introduced readers to César Ritz, the namesake of hotels, a snack cracker and an adjective. He recalled the ever present windup figure of a harried executive that the Sheraton chain featured in a campaign with the slogan “Keyed-Up Executives Unwind at Sheraton.”

Mr. Turkel was greater than a hotel maven; he was also a polymath. A civic activist, he was president from 1967 to 1978 of the City Club of Recent York, a company whose influence over municipal government waned in the ultimate a long time of the twentieth century. He subsequently served as chairman and was a trustee of the club for 30 years.

Starting in 1978 Mr. Turkel edited The Gadfly, the club’s bulletin, and delighted in posing what he called impertinent inquiries to public officials, each in print and in person.

He was also lively within the civil rights movement; he attended a six-lecture course with W.E.B. Du Bois in 1956, joined the March on Washington in 1963 and wrote his first book, when he was 79, on Reconstruction.

Mr. Turkel was highly opinionated and expressed his views on a big selection of subjects without reservation. He was an inveterate correspondent to The Recent York Times: Some 40 of his Letters to the Editor were published between 1961 and 1989 — on subjects from a advice that major corporations adopt subway stations to a criticism that the offensive strategies utilized by skilled football coaches had change into “boring, hackneyed and wholly predictable.”

His skilled expertise, nevertheless, was hotel management, a field he entered after apprenticing in his father’s laundry business in Manhattan.

In 1963, he was hired by the brothers Laurence and Preston Robert Tisch, who owned the Loews Corporation, to administer their 1,800-room Americana Hotel on Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan (now the Sheraton Recent York Times Square). He then ran the Drake Hotel, at Park Avenue and East 56th Street, and the Summit Hotel (now the DoubleTree by Hilton Metropolitan), on Lexington Avenue and East 51st Street.

His avocation was hotel history, which he wrote about on his blog and in books, amongst them “Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry” (2009), “Built to Last: 100+ Yr-Old Hotels in Recent York” (2011), “Hotel Mavens” (2014) and “Great American Hotel Architects” (2019).

He researched the origin of the American plan of dining (“low cost, unlimited food included within the room rate”) compared with the European plan (“the guest paid just for his room”). He also investigated claims that the 74-room City Hotel, in-built 1794 on lower Broadway, was the primary structure erected solely to be used as a hotel, and that the Parker House in Boston is the oldest constantly operating hotel in America.

Apartment hotels proliferated in Recent York within the late nineteenth century because they were exempt from the stricter construction codes that applied to tenements and other residential buildings. Of the 32 100-year-old Recent York hostelries in his book, Mr. Turkel wrote, only 20 began as full-service hotels.

As for the Waldorf’s on-again, off-again hyphen (it’s off again), it symbolized the truce between William Waldorf Astor, who opened the Waldorf on Fifth Avenue in 1893, and his cousin John Jacob Astor IV, who demolished his mother’s house round the corner in 1895 and built the Astoria hotel. Each hotels stood on the location of what’s now the Empire State Constructing.

Stanley Howard Turkel was born on Sept. 2, 1925, within the Bronx. His father, Nathan, an immigrant from Poland, owned Recent York Wet Wash Laundry, which catered to hotels and other business customers. His mother, Molly (Kurtzman) Turkel, was a homemaker.

“As late as 1949, the so-called ‘home routes’ (near East 91st Street) were serviced by horse and wagon,” Mr. Turkel wrote in a letter to The Times in 2000. “Once I sometimes worked as vacation relief for the regular routemen, I discovered that the horses knew the purchasers’ addresses and invariably stopped in front of the subsequent constructing for a pickup of dirty laundry.”

After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School when he was 15, he attended Recent York University’s Bronx campus. He enlisted within the Army Air Forces when he was 18 and returned to finish his education at N.Y.U. in what’s now the Stern School of Business, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.

He worked for his father’s laundry company, enrolled in a one-year program on the School of Laundry Management on the American Institute of Laundering in Joliet, Sick., and served as a laundry consultant with the Victor Kramer Company for seven years before joining Loews in 1962.

He left the Summit Hotel to administer the Sheraton hotel brand for the ITT Corporation from 1968 to 1975, where in 1970 he launched what was said to be the primary 1-800 telephone number for reservations. (It was promoted by an promoting jingle performed by the Boston Pops.) In 1976, he began his own consulting firm.

His marriage to Barbara Bell resulted in divorce. Along with his son, he’s survived by a daughter, Allison Turkel, from that marriage; his stepchildren, Josh and Benay Forrest; one grandson; and two step-grandchildren. His second wife, Rima (Sokoloff) Turkel, died in 2014.

He lived in Flushing, Queens, until he moved to Alexandria 4 years ago.

Mr. Turkel was named Historian of the Yr in 2014, 2015 and 2020 by Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He was working on a memoir at his death.

If he had a favourite hotel, his son said, it might have been the Drake, which he managed for 2 and a half years after the Tisch brothers bought it in 1965. It boasted Shepheard’s, which billed itself as Recent York’s first disco. He also rehired a former fixture of the Recent York music scene, the cafe society pianist Cy Walter.

“The Drake was each classic and contemporary,” Marc Turkel said in a phone interview. “Shepheard’s provided nightlife and entertainment and was ‘hot’ when he managed it within the early to mid-Sixties. Yet he brought back after which championed the profession of Cy Walter, then an older man, and luminaries equivalent to Arthur Rubenstein, the classical pianist, who stayed there. My father loved that dualism.”

Mr. Turkel did have a favourite management maxim, which amounted to a version of congestion pricing: A lower rate is best than nothing.

“Nothing,” he told The Times in 1995, “is more perishable than an unoccupied hotel room.”

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