NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Wednesday marked the grand opening of the new TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy Airport.
The landmark Trans World Airlines Flight Center, designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen, first opened in 1962. Now, for the first time in 20 years, it has reopened as the airport’s sole on-site hotel.
“It’s gorgeous, back to the original. It’s very exciting,” former TWA flight attendant Emily Lemer told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes.
Web Extra: Gov. Cuomo Presides Over TWA Hotel Grand Opening
It was a walk down memory lane for Lemer, who started with TWA in 1963.
“That purse and that suitcase… that was ours,” she said. “We had to wear gloves — white gloves, clean white gloves — and a girdle.”
“So many strong memories, family ties to this terminal, that you could cry. We were all so dedicated,” former flight attendant Linda Parlock added.
The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.
“You want to know where the future is going to lead, look to the state of New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during the ribbon cutting. “The best is yet to be, and this hotel is a beautiful example.”
After TWA went out of business, the flight center closed in 2001 and was nearly knocked down.
In 2014, developer Tyler Morse came up with a plan to restore it to its original glory and reopen it as a hotel.
“Look around you, look at this building. I was drawn in, as all of you today here have been. I was sucked into the magnificence on the TWA Flight Center,” he said.
Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.
“At that time, the element of the passengers that would come here — phenomenal. They were well mannered, they were educated, they were just… you don’t see that element today,” former TWA employee Peter Christopher Coyle told Grymes.
“They did such a fabulous job in bringing it back to life,” former employee Karen Kobus added.
The first guests were set to check in at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Opening night was sold out.
Peter Sprague flew in from North Carolina to be one of the first to stay over.
“I no doubt booked a hotel to be part of history,” Sprague said. “It’s absolutely amazing.”
Rooms start at $249 per night, but guests said being part of history is priceless.