Park Central Hotel
This photo shows the hotel shortly after its opening
Arnold Rothstein was a racketeer, businessman, and prolific gambler who in many ways was the original "Don."
Today, the Park Central is a popular independent hotel owing to its elegance and proximity to top New York attractions.
In 2013, archivists discovered this recording of King's 1962 speech to the New York Civil War Centennial Commission.
Nelson Rockefeller invited King to speak and is pictured with King at the hotel along with Cardinal Francis Spellman on the left.
Backstory and Context
Arnold Rothstein was murdered in this hotel in 1928, nine years after he allegedly "fixed" the 1919 World Series. Rothstein was born in 1882 and from a young age, he Rothstein demonstrated skill as a gambler. By the time he was 20, Rothstein was operating his own casino and quickly cultivated a reputation for being cunning and manipulative which earned him many names like "the Brain," "Mr. Big," and "Big Bankroll." In addition to his gambling, Rothstein was also heavily involved and influential in racketeering and selling liquor during prohibition. His techniques were followed after his death by some of the largest crime syndicates of the 1930s.
Arnold Rothstein's proclivities often involved gambling and crime. For example, he purchased and operated a horse track in Maryland where he was suspected of rigging the races. Rothstein denied these allegations, but few believed him, especially after his involvement with the infamous World Series of 1919. Five White Sox players were found guilty of throwing the game to the Cincinnati Reds and two of those men were indicted for their involvement. Rothstein is considered to be the mastermind behind the operation and he won approximately $350,000 for betting against the heavily-favored White Sox. Rothstein was indicted for his involvement but never convicted of any crime relating to the incident.
Rothstein was killed inside one of the hotel's suites in 1928. The same fate befell Albert Anastasia, a founding member of the Gambino crime family. In 1957, Anastasio was shot dead in the Park Central's barbershop. Both men turned to organized crime at a young age, and both wound up dead in similar fashion in the same place. Rothstein was one of the original "big men" in the organized crime profession, and his death occurred just one year after the illustrious hotel opened.
The hotel was also home to leaders who fought for human and civil rights. Eleanor Roosevelt lived in one of the hotel suites from 1950 to 1953, a time in which the widowed First Lady helped shape the United Nations Committee on Human Rights. On September 12, 1962, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech commemorating the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. In that speech, King challenged the prevailing view among many whites that the United States had become a place of racial equality. "If we look at our history with honesty and clarity we will be forced to admit that our Federal form of government has been, from the day of its birth, weakened in its integrity, confused and confounded in its direction, by the unresolved race question," King exclaimed. The only known audio recording of that speech is linked below.
Images of Martin Luther King and the Park City Hotel from the New York State Archives.
Yaniv, Oren. "Recording of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. giving 1962 speech in Midtown made public." Daily News(New York), January 20, 2014.
Arnold Rothstein, The Mob Museum website, accessed 11/21/17 https://themobmuseum.org/notable_names/arnold-rothstein/