In 1901, the Hatfield House was founded as a gentleman's place for boarding. In the ‘40s, it became the Hotel Deauville, and now welcomes guests from every corner of the globe. The structure comes with more than just an old story: the elevator in use is still the original piece of machinery; a beautifully crafted box with a copper motif on the walls, it is operated by a crank that only lines up flush with the floors in the hands of a skilled conductor. There are treasures to be found in even the most unassuming buildings.
Originally constructed in 1905, this building became the home of the beloved Gershwin Hotel in 1992. In 2014, Triumph Hotels took over the space and invested a good deal in renovations, renaming it The Evelyn. As an homage to building’s artful and musical past, the guest rooms feature music note-tiled bathrooms, trombone-shaped chandeliers, and decorations inspired by the Art Nouveau style of the 1900s.
In the Ace Hotel, the lobby reigns king. Comfortable chairs and stone tile work make for a comfy spot to work in the daytime, particularly over a cup of adjacent Stumptown coffee. At night, the scene heats up and soft drinks are replaced with harder ones, and the furniture is sometimes cleared out to host live bands. Grand columns squat like sequoias in the middle of the floor. At the hotel desk, a record collection curated by Other Music is kept for retail. And if this is not enough to entice a traveler to make reservations, The Breslin, a trendy restaurant awaits.
Opened in 1903 as a place for only women to reside, this hotel on 29th Street has continually operated under many different names and owners (most recently, it has been known as the King and Grove and the Martha Washington). At the start, it attracted primarily those in business, but also had several noteworthy female guests who were actresses, writers and poets. It was not until the late 1990s that men were allowed to book rooms. Today, it has been completely renovated and updated, and invites people from around the globe to stay. The lobby is attractive and the rooms are small, but perfectly outfitted for traveler's needs.
Elaborate carpet of pink and teal lines the entrance to The Hotel Wolcott, leading to evermore elegance. The ceiling of glass chandeliers lighting the way to the majestic staircase capture the scene of midtown in New York at the time of the hotel’s opening in 1904. Designed by John H. Duncan, the celebrated architect of Grant’s Tomb, The Wolcott received much attention for its aesthetic audacity. Articles appeared, dubbing Duncan’s creation a fusion of neo-Classical and Beaux-Arts style. Over the years, The Wolcott has hosted many notable guests and residents such as Isadora Duncan, Buddy Holly, Edith Wharton, Henry Miller and Mark Twain. If not to be a guest at the Wolcott, then at least make an effort to stop in and admire the restored, extravagantly decorated lobby. And take note of the grandfather clock, a personal favorite of mine.
When I stepped into the lobby of Hotel Giraffe, decorated in warm beiges and oranges like the animal for which it is named, I immediately understood why Trip Advisor selected it as one of the top ten hotels in New York. With a bar stocked with muffins, lemon water, and coffee for guests and a surprisingly calm, quiet atmosphere despite the hustle and bustle outside, the hotel already felt to me like a home away from home.Ashley Van Goehring, the director of sales and marketing, met me as I admired the piano at the center of the lofty space. She explained that every day from 5pm to 8pm, wine and cheese is provided to guests and that live piano music is played during that time on weekdays. Knowing that, I was impressed before seeing any of the rooms.While riding up in the elevator, Ashley told me about the hotel’s origins. Unlike the other Library Hotel Collection properties, Henry Kallan, the owner, wanted to build Hotel Giraffe from scratch. He teamed up with an architect and started to design an Art Deco building with a modern interior. He chose to have a third of the rooms be suites so that there would be more spacious options for families, including larger bathrooms, not often found in New York hotels. Henry Kallan, being fond of giraffes, chose to christen his newest venture “Hotel Giraffe.” “It was kismet,” Ashley said with a smile.As I walked down one of the many hallways with Ashley, she pointed out that every floor has thematic modern photography. Although not obvious - “This is not a safari hotel,” Ashley affirmed - every floor hints at the giraffe, including printed number plates on the doors. Ashley invited me into an impressively large suite and immediately escorted me onto a “tiny Juliet balcony” that provided a view of Madison Square Park. She then excitedly beckoned me back inside and shut the door. Shockingly, the sound of the busy street below was instantly muted. Ashley explained that the doors are double-paned and sound-proofed. “We understand it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep in New York,” she admitted before mentioning the complimentary eye mask and earplugs that are offered to each guest. "We even provide the option to deliver Sleepytime tea to our guests," she added.As I explored the room, complete with a pull-out sofa, roomy bedroom, and large windows, my attention was drawn to the bookshelf. As someone who owned a bookstore, I was excited to learn that the Library Hotel Collection works with The Strand to curate all the books in the guest rooms. Ashley let me know that while each room's literary sampling is different, a copy of Tall Blondes – a book about giraffes – can be found on every shelf.As we continued to explore the hotel, it became very clear that though every amenity had been carefully thought out, the real treasure of Hotel Giraffe is the staff. Ashley informed me that there is not a lot of turnover with employees and that the Library Hotel Collection tends to promote from within, meaning that not only is the staff very well trained, but guests can be assured of some consistency in management. I learned that the doorman, Jose, has been at the hotel since it opened in December of 1999. The company is also close-knit, and so employees are able to cycle through the properties. “I have the other hotels on speed dial,” Ashley admitted to me. “We are all unique, and a little bit quirky.”As we were saying our good byes, I mentioned my original shock at how quiet and calm the hotel seemed. Ashley nodded and said, “This is the perfect place in New York for an urban safari.” Guests can set out on expeditions throughout Manhattan’s varied neighborhoods and then return at the end of the day to a place that “will always feel like home.”
Approaching almost fifty years, the American Bartender's School has been teaching mixologists the ‘ology of mixing. Having moved in the ‘80s from their original location on Madison Avenue, the school offers forty-hour courses, with students leaving as certified bartenders with a license issued by the New York State Board of Education. Combining lectures and a “lab” portion, we witnessed students attentively toiling over drinks for phantom customers in a room designed to look like one giant bar. The difference, however, is that unlike a culinary school where one might sample their own creations, students do not imbibe here. In fact, there is no alcohol to be found at this bar. Everything is in the correct bottles and the colors all match their potent potable equivalent. What was explained to us is that everything is about measurements. Students are given a recipe to follow, and provided they do it correctly, they can rest assured that it will taste exactly right in the real world. We left wondering whether phantom customers are good tippers.
There is a lot of space to have fun and be funny at Pioneer's, formerly named Comedy Bar. Well that makes sense, as it is owned by Ali Farahnakian, the man behind the PIT (People's Improv Theater) on 24th Street, which opened a new location just down the street in 2015. We found this place to have a little bit of everything. A fan of pinball? There are several machines; Love playing Jenga with giant size blocks? They have them; Want to dance? The music is playing and there are others who will join in; Like comedy? There are open mic nights; Want to simply drink? The selection is fine, with a variety of beers on tap... and the bartenders are ready to chat; Hungry? There is a menu to choose from and lots of popcorn to go around.
This tiny shop tucked away in Kips Bay has been the go-to spot for any and all of one’s footwear-related troubles since it opened in 2014. Manuel Muicela, the owner, came to New York from Nicaragua in 1987 and quickly joined the trade of shoe repair, enduring grueling six-day workweeks. After gaining thirty years of experience in the field, he was finally able to open his own business. “I learned how to repair shoes, and now I work for me,” he remarked proudly. In this residential area, most of his regulars live in the neighborhood. On the loyalty of his customers, Manuel noted, “If you do a good job, people come back.” A few things about Manuel’s shop set him apart from the rest. One of the first things that grabs the eye upon entering is the set of old-fashioned shoeshine chairs, where one can get a shoeshine for $5, cash only. He also has a unique machine in the back of the shop that stitches both the inside and the outside of the shoe. With a chuckle, Manuel warned our team, “You can stitch your finger if you’re not careful.” This machine is so rare that many other shoe repair shop owners throughout the city come to Manuel to use it.
An oasis in a concrete cityscape, this little church doubles as a place of worship and a serene garden in which to rest. The Episcopalian church was founded in 1848 by George Houghton to welcome any and all of the tired masses, in the spirit of inclusivity. Today, the church maintains that inclusive spirit by keeping its gates open all day to parishioners and non-parishioners alike. On any given day, one can find anyone from actors to businessmen seated among the bushes and fountains, chatting, eating or simply sitting in peace. “A lot of people just come in and meditate or chill,” parish administrator Bill Nave shared with us. “It is one of the most welcoming churches I have ever been to.” What a charming discovery in the midst of bustling Manhattan.