The St. Nicholas Hotel opened its doors on January 6th, 1853 at its location on Broadway between Broome and Spring. The hotel was known for its lavish design and embellishments, and set the new standard for luxury in New York City. The furniture inside the hotel cost approximately $125,000 and the hotel itself cost $1 million to construct. Perhaps the most extravagant item in the hotel was its piano, made by T. Gilbert & Co. of Boston, which replaced the typical ivory keys with pearl ones. Beyond the lavish trimmings, the hotel was technologically advanced for its time, with each hotel room being supplied with hot and cold water, as well as central heating.
Wm. E. Wilson was manager of the St. Nicholas Hotel on lower Broadway until 1855. Previously he was a partner in the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, one of the grandest in the country, until it was destroyed by fire in 1851.