It’s been quite some time since JFK Airport was known as Idlewild, its name from 1948 through 1963, when it was renamed for assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
But the forthcoming TWA Hotel in the long-vacant iconic and historical TWA terminal will bring back a lot of that fabulous bygone era with state-of-the-art new amenities.
“I think it’s one of the most important buildings in America. I just love being part of it,” Tyler Morse, CEO of developer MCR, told Metro. “Our objective was to bring this building back to what it was in 1962. Being able to refashion this for the public again is an extraordinary opportunity.”
Construction on the 505-room hotel, which Morse said is on schedule to open in early 2019, has been challenging as crews have had to not only work around the existing Eero Saarinen-designed terminal, which has sat vacant since 2001, but also modernize the landmarked building. Crews first faced a building “filled with asbestos” and lead paint, as well as heating and ventilation issues, Morse said.
“The building was never properly air-conditioned back in the day, that had to do with its iconic design,” he said. “Redesigning that in a way that can’t be seen so the historic building maintains its integrity was incredibly important — and created a lot of design challenges.”
Another test came with transforming a 1956 Lockheed Constellation from a plane into a bar and restaurant. The Connie, as it is known, needs to meet building and fire codes and get power without the engines running as they would if it was a plane, Morse said.
Work on the hotel will be “topping out” soon, Morse said, meaning that crews will have reached the building’s highest point within the 10 months since they started the foundation. Workers will get a little evergreen tree to put atop the building, and all 450 crew members will sign the highest piece of steel, he added.
TWA flies again
While there’s still more than a year before the TWA Hotel and TWA-themed museum open at JFK, New Yorkers can get a taste of the past — and hotel future — on the 86th floor of One World Trade Center.
The TWA Lounge features a replica of the sunken, vibrant red lounge from Saarinen’s terminal, which is being restored for the hotel. It also includes a functioning Solari departure board, scenic telescopes to spy on the hotel work, more than a dozen of David Klein’s iconic TWA travel posters (there are 48 in total for the project) and lots of TWA memorabilia, including “the most extensive TWA uniform collection that’s in existence anywhere,” Morse said.
That includes TWA’s short-lived paper uniforms with names like “British wench” and “French cocktail” as well as designs by Valentino and Stan Herman.
The TWA Lounge will remain at One WTC after the TWA Hotel opens. For more info, visit twahotel.com.
Fast facts about the TWA Hotel at JFK
• 505 guestrooms, including 22 suites
• 5,000 square feet of conference, event and meeting space
• 8 restaurants and 6 bars
• 10,000-square-foot public observation deck
• The original terminal was designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinan and opened in 1962.
• It was designated an NYC Landmark in 1994
• It was listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places in 2005
• After closing in 2001, the terminal was untouched for 16 years