Teaching Students About The Pennsylvania Hotel

The Pennsylvania Hotel, an iconic historic landmark in the heart of New York City, has been a popular destination among travelers and tourists for decades. It is an ideal location to learn about American architecture, culture, and history. This article will explore the significance of the Pennsylvania Hotel and discuss the benefits of teaching students about this historical gem.

The Pennsylvania Hotel: A Brief History

Constructed in 1919, the Pennsylvania Hotel was designed by architecture firm McKim, Mead & White, a celebrated leader in the American Renaissance movement. Stepping into its grandiose lobby transports you to a different era with its soaring ceilings, marble columns, and ornamental plasterwork.

The hotel’s strategic location across from Pennsylvania Station facilitated convenient access for rail passengers, making it an instant success. It quickly gained a reputation for luxurious accommodations and exceptional service, and it became a hub for social activities and gatherings. The building itself is an excellent representation of early 20th-century Beaux-Arts architecture and has played a pivotal role in shaping New York’s skyline over its century-long existence.

Why Teach Students About the Pennsylvania Hotel?

There are several reasons why teaching students about this historic landmark can provide unique educational benefits:

1. Architectural importance: Learning about Beaux-Arts architecture offers students insight into an influential architectural style popular in America from 1880 to 1920. By studying this beautiful structure up close, they can appreciate intricate architectural details that defined the period.

2. Cultural significance: The hotel has been connected to several key moments in America’s cultural history, including famous guests like silent film actors Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Teaching students about these cultural connections helps capture their interest and personalizes history while showcasing significant figures who once visited this elegant venue.

3. Real-world context: Bringing students to visit the hotel creates a tangible learning experience that connects classroom topics to real-life scenarios. Exploring the nuances of hotel management, historic preservation, and sustainable tourism offers a unique and engaging learning opportunity.

4. Historical context: The Pennsylvania Hotel has managed to withstand wars, economic downturns, and natural disasters throughout its history. Understanding the role this landmark played in shaping New York City’s evolution broadens students’ knowledge about urban development and resilience.

Incorporating the Pennsylvania Hotel into Curriculum

There are various ways teachers can incorporate this landmark into classroom learning. Below are some suggestions:

1. Art and design projects: Students can create drawings, paintings, or digital renderings focusing on architectural features of the hotel or exploring period interior design themes.

2. Creative writing exercises: Engage students in writing personal narratives or fictional accounts set in or around the Pennsylvania Hotel, invoking its historical setting, famous guests, or significant events that occurred there.

3. History lessons: Lessons surrounding historic architectural styles, the economic boom during the early 20th century, or key events such as Prohibition can be enriched by incorporating the Pennsylvania Hotel as a contextual reference point.


The Pennsylvania Hotel offers a unique learning experience that combines architecture, history, culture, and hands-on education. By teaching students about this storied landmark, we provide a captivating lens through which they can explore past and present American culture while contemplating their connection to significant moments in history.

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