The Sheraton's Oldest Employee Shares A Few Memories From The Hotel's Heyday
Back in May, our resident hotel archivist JetSetCD posted scans of the very 1960s-looking Hotel Americana, which these days we all know as the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. And while plenty about the hotel has changed over the years, one thing that's remained constant is a particular server that's worked for the hotel since it opened in 1962.
Tilla Soeder came to the US from Germany in 1959 when she was 21 years old, and, on the advice from her aunt and uncle's neighbor, she applied for a job as a server at the soon-to-open Americana Hotel. The rest, as they say, is history...
HotelChatter: Do you still work here?
Tilla: I still work here. But right now I'm on sick leave, unfortunately.
HC: What is your favorite part about working here?
Tilla: My favorite part is the atmosphere, the connections we make with guests; it's just a big family. Yes, things get hectic, but that comes with the job. At least we don't get bored!
HC: How different was the hotel back in the 1950s?
Tilla: When I came, we had the Colombian Coffee House downstairs. That was such a popular restaurant, we seated 350 people each day. People would be waiting on the stairs when we opened in the morning: the line never stopped!
HC: Who used to have breakfast there?
Tilla: Business men would come and have breakfast down there because we had a public announcement system. They'd show up, put their name down, and every other second you would hear, for example, "Mr. Goldstein, would you come to the desk, please?" They just wanted to get their name called out in public—the business men loved it!
For more of the interview, read on below!
HC: What else do you remember about the Colombian Coffee House?
Tilla: We also introduced the first coffee mug in New York City. You know, big coffee mugs, like you see everywhere nowadays. It used to be just a cup an saucer. We were the first restaurant that had a mug. It was a beautiful white porcelain mug with a gold 'A' on it—'A' for Americana Hotel. We used to sell three or four hundred mugs a day. $2 apiece!
HC: Who do you remember coming?
Tilla: Count Basie, Mohammed Ali...so many came every day for breakfast. It was a big meeting place for New Yorkers.
HC: What did they order?
Tilla: A lot of them just had coffee and a bagel. They just wanted to be there and make business connections.
HC: What else do you remember from when it was the Americana?
Tilla: We had a famous nightclub called the Royal Box on the second floor, very classy, expensive drinks. We had every star come and perform in that nightclub. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. They would rehearse in the afternoon, so we'd get to watch them.
HC: Who else came to the hotel?
Tilla: Pavarotti was here. He ordered room service.
HC: Did you serve him?
Tilla: No. In those days, women were not allowed to do room service, only men.
HC: Why was that?
Tilla: Well...can I say it? Because women might be asked to perform something else, another service—and they would do it, for the money.
HC: What do you think about what happened with Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the Sofitel New York?
Tilla: Everybody in the hotel business feels that it was her, that she was after the money.
[Photos: Sheraton Hotels; HotelChatter]