Hilton Celebrates 100 Years Today, May 31, 2019
Funny how a single decision can lead to a historic moment.
On Saturday, May 31, 1919, Conrad Hilton set out to purchase a bank. On his way, however, he decided instead to purchase a local hotel in Cisco, Texas called The Mobley.
You might say that the rest is history…
Hilton Celebrates 100 Years Today, May 31, 2019
…so let us take a look at the storied history of what we now know as Hilton — which today is 100 years since that fateful Saturday — through this list of firsts and historic moments related to Hilton about which you may not have known:
1893 Through 1931
- 1893 Even before Hilton was officially founded, a confection known as a brownie is invented under the direction of Bertha Palmer at The Palmer House in Chicago, which is a hotel property that would eventually become part of Hilton.
- 1919 Conrad Hilton buys his first hotel — the Mobley Hotel — in Cisco, Texas.
- 1925 The Dallas Hilton becomes the first hotel property to be branded as a Hilton; and because the setting summer sun can be brutal in Dallas — especially prior to the advent of air conditioning — the elevators, laundry shoots and other non-customer facilities are built along the west side of the building so no guest rooms would face the heat of the western sun.
- 1927 Waco Hilton becomes the first Hilton hotel property with cold running water and air conditioning in public common areas.
- 1931 The Waldorf Astoria hotel property in New York became the first hotel property to launch the concept of room service, which eventually became a standard service that was offered throughout the lodging industry; as the Waldorf Astoria was relocated and rebuilt as a new Art Deco building and became the largest hotel property in the world on Park Avenue at East 50 Street — and it contained telephones and radios in every room; and it was even wired for the advent of television.
- 1943 With the purchase of the Roosevelt and Plaza hotel properties in New York and hotel properties already operating in California, Hilton becomes the first lodging company in the United States with hotel properties from coast to coast.
- 1946 Hilton Hotels Corporation is formed and became the first hotel company after the end of World War II to sell stock in New York.
- 1947 Hilton is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
- 1947 The Roosevelt Hilton in New York became the first hotel to install televisions in guest rooms.
- 1948 Hilton is the first lodging company to install a multi-hotel reservations system called the Inter-Hilton Hotel Reservation System, which was the beginning of the modern day hotel reservation system.
- 1949 Conrad Hilton is the first hotelier featured on the cover of Time magazine.
- 1949 The Caribe Hilton — which is located in Puerto Rico — became the first Hilton hotel property to open outside of the continental United States.
- 1949 Conrad Hilton — who for many years kept a photograph of the Waldorf Astoria under the glass on his desk with the phrase The Greatest of them All written on it — purchases the hotel property.
- 1950 The Stevens Hotel created its first special amenity for female travelers: a folder containing social note paper; a sewing kit and booklet with helpful names and telephone numbers for babysitters; places to get a dress hemmed or ironed; and gift shops — yet many male travelers take these hotel kits home to their wives as gifts.
- 1951 The Stevens Hotel in Chicago is renamed the Conrad Hilton by the board of directors of the hotel property in honor of Conrad Hilton. It remained as the Conrad Hilton hotel property until 1985.
- 1953 The Castellana Hilton in Madrid became the first Hilton hotel property to open in Europe.
- 1954 An iconic drink called the Piña Colada was invented by Ramón “Monchito” Marrero — who was the bartender at the Hilton Caribe in Puerto Rico — as he experimented with a new recipe that blended rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice in an icy beverage; and after three months of perfecting the recipe, Marrero felt that the drink finally captured the flavors of Puerto Rico and served it for 35 years before it eventually became the official drink of Puerto Rico in 1978.
- 1954 Hilton purchases the Statler Hotel chain for $111 million dollars, which became the largest real estate deal in history at the time.
- 1955 Hilton Istanbul became the first hotel property built from the ground up in Europe after World War II in June, which also involved the Department of State of the United States and the government of Turkey.
- 1955 Hilton began a multi-million dollar program to air condition every hotel property in the chain; and the first central reservation office of Hilton known as HILCRON debuts — allowing reservations to be booked at any domestic or international Hilton hotel property and via telephone, teletype and telegram.
- 1957 First in-room direct dial telephone service is implemented.
- 1958 Barron Hilton introduced the new Hilton Carte Blanche credit card, which was the premier travel and entertainment card owned by Hilton Hotels.
- 1959 San Francisco Airport Hilton became the first hotel property to open at an airport, which pioneered the airport hotel concept.
- 1959 The first Annual GRAMMY Awards dinner ceremony was held on Monday, May 4, 1959 at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California — and Hilton remained as the official hotel partner of Music’s Biggest Night for greater than 30 years.
- 1961 Elvis Presley stayed at the Hawaiian Village while filming Blue Hawaii.
- 1963 Hilton establishes its first department of services for women to stimulate greater interest amongst women traveling either in connection with a convention, or independently for business or pleasure.
- 1963 Conrad Hilton became the first hotelier to appear on the cover of Time magazine for the second time, for the issue dated Friday, July 19, 1963.
- 1964 Hilton International is spun off as a separate corporation, with Conrad Hilton as its president.
- 1965 Hilton began franchising hotel properties in the United States and became the first upscale lodging company to develop the concept of franchising hotel properties.
- 1965 The first hotel concept designed for female travelers called Lady Hilton is launched, offering female-only floors or rooms and special amenities at select hotel properties.
- 1966 Barron Hilton succeeds his father Conrad Hilton as president of the domestic Hilton Hotels Corporation.
- 1967 Conrad Hilton became the first hotelier to be featured in a syndicated cartoon: Batman.
- 1967 Hilton establishes an in-house vodka brand known as Darnoc — which is Conrad spelled backwards.
- 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono host their famous “Bed-In” for peace on their honeymoon in a presidential suite at the Hilton Amsterdam hotel property, beginning on Tuesday, March 25, 1969.
- 1969 Doubletree Hotels opens its first hotel property in Scottsdale, Arizona.
- 1970 Hilton becomes the first company listed on the New York Stock Exchange to enter the domestic gaming business with the purchase of the Flamingo Hotel and the Las Vegas International, which was later named the Las Vegas Hilton.
- 1971 John Lennon handwrites the words to the number one hit single Imagine on a piece of Hilton New York stationery while at the hotel property.
- 1973 The first computerized central reservations system — which was known as HILTRON — was developed by Hilton, which became a breakthrough in customer service as the most sophisticated computerized hotel reservation referral and reporting system in the industry.
- 1973 Elvis Presley stays on the 14th floor of the Ocean Tower — which is now the Ali’i Tower — at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa while in Hawaii for his Aloha From Hawaii concert.
- 1973 The first cellular telephone call is placed by Martin Cooper while walking past the Hilton New York hotel property — which is now known as New York Hilton Midtown — on Tuesday, April 3; and a press conference is held at the hotel property later that day to mark the milestone.
- 1974 Hong Kong Hilton hotel property globalized what is now known as the in-room minibar.
- 1979 Conrad Hilton dies at age 91.
- 1982 Conrad Hotels is founded as the new international operating subsidiary of Hilton Hotel Corporation, offering a world of style, connections and flawless service.
- 1983 Embassy Suites hotel division is created by Holiday Corporation.
- 1984 The first Embassy Suites opens in Overland Park, Kansas — just outside of Kansas City.
- 1984 The first Hampton Inn hotel property opens in Memphis, Tennessee.
- 1986 Conrad Jupiters Gold Coast — which is the first hotel property of the Conrad brand — had its grand opening in Queensland, Australia.
- 1986 DoubleTree introduces the signature recipe of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies to welcome guests upon checking in at all hotel properties.
- 1987 The Hilton Honors frequent guest loyalty program is launched.
- 1989 Hilton became the first hospitality company to promise customers the 100 percent satisfaction guarantee with Hampton by Hilton.
- 1989 Homewood Suites opens its first hotel property in Omaha, Nebraska.
- 1990 The Promus Companies, Incorporated is launched following the sale of the Holiday Inn brand.
- 1990 The first CrestHil by Hilton hotel property opens in Lancaster, Pennsylvania — and this hotel property is the precursor to what would eventually be known as the Hilton Garden Inn brand.
- 1990 The Conrad brand debuts in Asia with the opening of the Conrad Hong Kong
- 1990 The Conrad Dublin hotel property is named one of the Best New Hotels in the World by Business Traveler magazine in the United Kingdom.
- 1991 Embassy Suites announces the acquisition of the Park Suites hotel chain.
- 1991 Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista is the first major hotel property to offer state-of-the-art construction and service devices to meet needs of travelers with disabilities.
- 1992 The first international Embassy brand property opens in Canada.
- 1992 A joint venture between Hilton Hotels Corporation and Grand Vacations, Limited establishes Hilton’s entry into the vacation ownership market.
- 1993 The Waldorf Astoria becomes an official New York City landmark.
- 1993 Embassy Suites — together with its sister brand Homewood Suites — becomes the first national upscale hotel chain to offer a 100 percent Satisfaction Guarantee.
- 1993 Hampton introduces new “blended” hotel product, Hampton Inn and Suites.
- 1993 The first Hampton branded international hotel property opens in Canada.
- 1994 Hilton Grand Vacations Club at the Flamingo opens in Las Vegas.
- 1995 Hilton enters cyberspace as its first official Internet web site — www.hilton.com — is launched, as computer users worldwide can now book room reservations and find out about hotel programs and special offers 24 hours per day.
- 1995 The first Embassy Suites hotel property opens in South America.
- 1996 CrestHil by Hilton is renamed Hilton Garden Inn; and a new product line of the Hilton brand is created.
- 1996 DoubleTree acquires Red Lion Hotels.
- 1996 Hilton Hotels Corporation purchases the Grand Vacations, Limited partnership interest; and Hilton Grand Vacations Company, LLC becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Hilton Hotels Corporation.
- 1996 The Conrad brand expands its presence to the Middle East with the opening of the Conrad Cairo hotel property.
- 1997 The DoubleTree merger with Promus Hotel Corporation is approved by shareholders.
- 1998 Hilton spins off gaming operations into a separate publicly held company.
- 1999 Hilton Hotels Corporation acquires Promus Hotel Corporation, expanding its family of brands to include the DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites brands.
- 1999 On the night of the Golden Globes — which is hosted each year at The Beverly Hilton hotel property — actress Angelina Jolie promised the press that if she won an award, she will jump into The Beverly Hilton swimming pool; and when she was victorious, she dived into the Aqua Star pool while still wearing her gown designed by Randolph Duke.
- 2000 Hilton Hotels Corporation and Hilton Group plc form a joint venture company — which was operated in Brussels and owned equally by both companies — to expand Conrad Hotels on a worldwide basis.
- 2000 Hilton Grand Vacations debuts its first developed resort property in Hawaii.
- 2000 Hampton celebrates the opening of hotel property number 1,000.
- 2001 Homewood Suites by Hilton celebrates the opening of hotel property number 100.
- 2001 Hilton Garden Inn opens hotel property number 100 in Orlando at SeaWorld International Center.
- 2003 All hotel and resort properties now have complimentary high-speed internet access.
- 2003 DoubleTree expands into Canada.
- 2004 The first international Homewood Suites by Hilton property opens in Canada.
- 2004 Conrad Miami became the first hotel property of the Conrad Hotel brand in North America to be newly built and opened; and soon two more hotel properties open in Chicago and Indianapolis.
- 2005 Hilton Garden Inn opens hotel property number 250 at Times Square in New York.
- 2006 Lodging assets of Hilton International were acquired, which reunited the Hilton brand worldwide back into one company.
- 2006 The Waldorf Astoria Collection brand is launched.
- 2006 Hilton Garden Inn opens its first hotel property in Europe in Stuttgart, Germany.
- 2006 The first Embassy Suites hotel property in Latin America opens.
- 2006 Homewood Suites by Hilton launches Suite Selection, which is the first interactive, web-based room selection tool in the lodging industry.
- 2006 Six movies — including Spiderman III, Michael Clayton, and American Gangster — are filmed at Hilton New York.
- 2006 Hampton by Hilton is presented with the National Preservation Honor Award for its Save-A-Landmark program, which is the first time a hotel brand has been recognized.
- 2007 A merger agreement between Hilton Hotels Corporation and affiliates of The Blackstone Group is finalized.
- 2007 The first Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel property opens in Mexico.
- 2008 Hilton Vancouver Washington became the first hotel property to earn both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and Green Seal certification.
- 2008 The first Waldorf Astoria branded property opens in Europe.
- 2008 Hampton celebrates its 1,500th hotel opening.
- 2009 The global headquarters of Hilton relocates from Beverly Hills to McLean, Virginia; and a new logo and corporate name — Hilton Worldwide — are launched.
- 2009 Hilton launches its mobile software application program, which enabled guests to:
- Book reservations
- Check in
- Search hotel and resort properties
- View Hilton Honors account activity
- Book Hilton Honors rewards stays; and
- Order Hilton Requests Upon Arrival amenities
- 2009 Home2 Suites by Hilton — which was a new concept in the extended stay market — was officially launched as the first new brand introduced by Hilton Worldwide in 20 years; and the brand:
- Quickly cleared development milestones with 50 signed franchise applications
- Received approval to develop in Canada; and
- Broke ground on its first hotel property in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
- 2009 DoubleTree by Hilton debuts in Africa.
- 2009 Hampton by Hilton launches global expansion with the first opening of the brand in the United Kingdom.
- 2009 Hilton Garden Inn opens its first Asian hotel in New Delhi/Saket, India.
- 2009 LightStay — which is the proprietary sustainability measurement program of Hilton Worldwide — launched as a brand standard across the globe.
- 2010 Already one of the largest spa providers in the world with 123 spas in operation across its portfolio, Hilton Hotels & Resorts introduces its first global spa concept: eforea: spa at Hilton.
- 2010 Hilton introduces a new brand logo and name: Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
- 2010 Embassy Suites celebrates the opening of suite number 50,000.
- 2010 Homewood Suites by Hilton celebrates the opening of hotel property number 300.
- 2011 Hampton by Hilton becomes the first hotel brand to ever be ranked number one in the annual Franchise 500 — which is known as the first, best and most comprehensive franchise ranking in the world — of Entrepreneur Magazine.
- 2011 Home2 Suites by Hilton opens its first hotel property in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
- 2012 Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hampton Inn & Suites break ground on first dual hotel property in Huntsville, Alabama to cater to diverse market segments while offering enhanced amenities.
- 2012 DoubleTree by Hilton celebrated the opening of hotel property number 300 and the serving of chocolate chip cookie number 250,000,000 at check-in.
- 2013 Hilton returns to the New York Stock Exchange to trade under the same ticker symbol: HLT.
- 2014 Hilton launched two new brands: Curio – A Collection by Hilton, which is a collection brand; and Canopy by Hilton, which is a lifestyle brand.
- 2014 Hilton became the first hotel brand to live stream a concert on YouTube — from the Hilton Times Square hotel property.
- 2014 Digital Key technology was launched, which enables guests to use portable electronic devices as room keys
- 2014 Hilton became the first hospitality company to offer the Digital Key technology at scale.
- 2016 Hilton launched the new Tru by Hilton brand, which goes on to achieve the fastest growing pipeline in the history of the hospitality industry.
- 2016 Hilton Worldwide expanded its footprint to 100 countries and territories around the world with the opening of Hilton N’Djamena hotel property in Chad.
- 2018 Hilton announced a strategic alliance with Playa Hotels & Resorts, with plans to nearly double its all-inclusive portfolio over the next several years — including two additional all-inclusive resort properties by the end of the year.
- 2018 The Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport opened in September, which marked the first hotel property of the brand in the region and the largest hotel in the world of the brand by room count at 420 rooms.
- 2018 Hilton has the first hotel to offer a truly mobile-centric hotel room with Connected Room technology.
- 2018 The first underwater hotel suite in the world debuted at the Conrad Maldive Rangali Island resort property.
- 2018 Hilton launched Motto by Hilton, which is an urban affordable brand that combines the best elements of micro-hotels and urban lifestyle products.
- 2018 The new LXR Hotels & Resorts brand welcomed its maiden hotel property in Dubai at Habtoor Palace.
- 2018 Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas and Waldorf Astoria Bangkok were added to the Hilton portfolio — and with plans announced to bring the iconic brand to Miami.
- 2019 Hilton introduced Signia Hilton, a meetings and events-focused brand of premier hotels in highly sought-after urban and resort destinations.
Hilton New York owned the property immediately west of the Adelphi Hotel — which is where all of the classic 39 episodes of The Honeymooners television series were filmed — and held it for expansion. Audrey Meadows — who famously played the role of Alice Kramden — eventually served as an advisory director of Continental Airlines, where she was actively involved in its marketing programs for 20 years until 1981. Her role included the designs of uniforms for flight attendants and customer service agents in the 1960s and 1970s, where she insisted that every graduate of flight attendant school receive a pearl necklace to wear as part of her uniform.
An office tower with the address of 1325 Avenue of the Americas was built on the site in 1989. The building uses its Hilton Sixth Avenue address — despite being located closer to Seventh Avenue. The two buildings are connected via a walkway. The building was used for the exterior shot of the office of Elaine Benes in Seinfeld.
From that aforementioned single hotel in Cisco, Texas, Hilton has since grown to 17 brands with greater than 5,600 hotel and resort properties in 113 countries and territories.
If I recall correctly, my first stay at a Hilton hotel property was — in all places — what was known as the Oshkosh Hilton, which no longer exists. A Hilton Garden Inn hotel property is currently in that small city in Wisconsin.
Congratulations and happy anniversary to Hilton for 100 years of hospitality, which is still going strong today.
All photographs ©2016, ©2017 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.