History of the Hotel

The Statler Hotel launched a new era of hospitality education and industry leadership at Cornell University when it opened its doors in March 1989. Like its predecessor, the Statler Inn—“the jewel box,” as the newly transformed hotel was fondly dubbed by managing director Hans P. Weishaupt ’64—quickly gained international renown as one of the world’s best “teaching hotels” and a living laboratory for hospitality innovation.

But with its upscale decor, cutting-edge technology, world-class service, industry-leading innovation, and an impressive blend of guest amenities, the Statler Hotel also amassed industry accolades. Today the Statler Hotel is the area’s finest—and greenest—hotel. The 153-room full-service luxury hotel is Ithaca’s only AAA Four Diamond property and a recognized industry leader in sustainability. In 2014 it was named the greenest hotel in New York State with the Good EarthKeeping Award.

The idea of a “teaching hotel” had always appealed to hospitality leaders, who placed a high value on real-world learning to complement classroom education. In 1923, the American Hotel Association proposed a 200-room hotel be built adjacent to the campus to serve as a “practice hotel” for Cornell’s newly established hotel program.

Due largely to the Great Depression and WWII, in 1950 a scaled-down Statler Inn was completed in conjunction with Statler Hall, which was to serve as the home for Cornell’s newly-named School of Hotel Administration. Located close to the Statler Hall classrooms, the Inn provided students a convenient opportunity to gain practical experience in restaurant management, food preparation, and inn keeping.

Despite its small size, the 36-room Statler Inn did not lack in amenities. It featured three restaurants—the Main Dining Room, Cafe Rhea, and the Ratheskeller—as well as a ballroom, several banquet rooms, and the university’s faculty club. 

As the sophistication of the school’s programs and the scale of the industry grew, the Inn had to make way for a larger, more accommodating property with the capacity to keep up with the rapid pace of industry change. With 153 rooms, three restaurants, banquet rooms, and a conference center, the new hotel would not only meet the growing needs of the university and school, but also be financially sustainable. This focus on financial viability is a testament to the importance of the Statler Hotel to industry leaders, many of whom received valuable training within its walls and have continued to contribute to its success.

At its grand opening, the most prominent feature of the Statler Hotel’s lobby was the “Wall of Honor,” a showcase display of twelve-inch lead crystal plates, each engraved with the names of those who had donated $1 million or more to fund the renovation of the school and construction of the hotel. Perhaps nothing else illustrates more the value hospitality professionals placed—and continue to place—on the School of Hotel Administration’s role in educating and developing the future leaders of the industry.

The Statler Hotel is committed to maintaining the highest level of service and excellence in the industry. It underwent a major renovation in 2010, updating every guest room with modern decor and first-class amenities. In 2015, the second phase of the renovation—which included public corridors and guest bathrooms—was completed.