Historic Hotels of New York City

082708--EmpireState--flickr.jpgEven while hip downtown spots rise and fall, and the newest “it” neighborhood rotates around the boroughs, one thing will never change: New York is home to the classiest, most luxurious hotels in the nation. Whether you stop in for afternoon tea or stay for a whole week, these grande dames are excellent reminders that classic New York is still alive and well.

The Carlyle.

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Can a hotel long to be a fashion brand? On the well-heeled corner of Madison Avenue and 75th Street, you enter this hotel’s fusion of venerable elegance and Manhattan swank as you might enter a Chanel boutique: chin high, wallet out, ready to be impressed. As you might expect, everything about this Upper East Side landmark suggests refinement: rooms decorated with fine antique furniture, artfully framed Audubons and botanicals, custom Limoges ashtrays, vast Central Park views, white-gloved operators working the elevators 24 hours a day. Newly renovated suites, including one by Thierry Despont, offer the latest word in designer luxury. The range of the hotel’s dining and entertainment options impresses. Cabaret luminaries take turns holding court at the newly refurbished Café Carlyle (and yes, Woody Allen still visits once a week). Bemelmans Bar may never lose its title as greatest in New York. The polished black key slots behind the reception desk are the old guest key deposits. Now they’re a fashionable reminder of the hotel’s storied history as host to presidents and celebrities. Pros: perhaps NYC’s best Central Park views; refined service; delightful array of dining and bar options. Cons: removed from tourist Manhattan; the formal hotel may be inappropriate for families. 35 E. 76th St., between Madison and Park Aves., Upper East Side 10021. 212/744-1600. wwww.thecarlyle.com. 122 rooms, 57 suites. In-room: safe, kitchen, refrigerator, DVD, dial-up. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, gym, spa, laundry service, parking (fee), concierge, no-smoking rooms, some pets allowed. AE, DC, MC, V Subway: 6 to 77th St.
Advice from the Forums: “If you plan to visit the Metropolitan and/or Whitney museum, this is an easy side trip [to take in the hotel and have a drink at the bar].” –nstevey (more)

Inn at Irving Place.

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Fantasies of old New York—Manhattan straight from the pages of Edith Wharton and Henry James, an era of genteel brick townhouses and Tiffany lamps—spring to life at this discreet 20-room inn, the city’s most romantic. There is no sign outside the 1830 town house, a hint of the somehow small-town qualities of Irving Place, a lightly trafficked street on the south side of Gramercy Park. One of the city’s most famous tea salons, Lady Mendyl’s, is run on the lobby level. Rooms have ornamental fireplaces, four-poster beds with embroidered linens, wood shutters, and glossy cherrywood floors. The room named after Madame Olenska (the lovelorn Wharton character) has a bay window with sitting nook—this is one of the most memorable spots in New York; reserve it for anniversaries. Pros: romantic; quaint; big rooms; excellent breakfast and tea service; Mario Batali’s Casa Mono is downstairs; martini bar. Cons: dainty; rooms aren’t flawless, with imperfections like older grouting. 56 Irving Pl., between E. 17th and E. 18th Sts., Gramercy Park 10003. 212/533-4600 or 800/685-1447. www.innatirving.com. 5 rooms, 6 suites. In-room: refrigerator, VCR. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, laundry service, no kids under 8. AE, D, DC, MC, V. CP. Subway: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, W to 14th St./Union Sq.
Advice from the Forums: “I have not stayed in the rooms, but have eaten and had tea there and have always thought it was charming and luxurious at the same time.” –cicerone (more)

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Waldorf-Astoria.

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The lobby of this landmark 1931 art-deco masterpiece, full of murals, mosaics, and elaborate plaster ornamentation, features a grand piano once owned by Cole Porter and still played daily. Astoria-level rooms have the added advantages of great views, fax machines, and access to the Astoria lounge, where a lovely, free afternoon tea is served. The Bull and Bear Bar is a 1940s throwback complete with miniature soda bottles and no-nonsense barkeeps. The ultra-exclusive Waldorf Towers (28th floor and above) has a separate entrance and management. The Waldorf is famous for its famous former residents; besides Porter, these have included Herbert Hoover and Nikola Tesla. Pros: historic art-deco building filled with NYC’s aristocratic, gangster, and jazz histories; best Waldorf salad in town; knowledgeable doormen. Cons: rooms not contemporary. 301 Park Ave., between E. 49th and E. 50th Sts., Midtown East 10022. 212/355-3000 or 800/925-3673. www.waldorfastoria.com. 1,176 rooms, 276 suites. In-room: safe, Ethernet. In-hotel: 4 restaurants, room service, bars, gym, laundry service, concierge, executive floor, parking (fee), public Wi-Fi, public Internet, some pets allowed, no smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Subway: 6 to 51st St./Lexington Ave.;
E, V to Lexington-3rd Aves./53rd St.

The St. Regis.

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World-class from head to toe, the St. Regis comes as close to flawless as any hotel in New York. Even without the hive of activity in its unparalleled public spaces, this 5th Avenue beaux arts landmark would rank near the top of any best-of list. But there’s more: you can dine in two dining rooms—including a new Alain Ducasse restaurant—as well as the legendary King Cole Bar, a dimly lighted institution with its famously playful Maxfield Parrish murals. Guest rooms feature the best technology in the city, including easy-to-use bedside consoles (developed by an in-house R&D team) that control lighting, audio, and climate; and huge flat-screen TVs that rise via remote control from the foot of your bed. Each floor is serviced by its own butler, a touch no other hotel here can match. Rooms have high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, silk wall coverings, Louis XVI antiques, and world-class amenities such as Tiffany silver services. If you require the best, the St. Regis delivers. Pros: rooms combine true luxury with helpful technology; easy-access butler service; superb in-house dining; prestigious location. Cons: expensive; too serious for families seeking fun. 2 E. 55th St., at 5th Ave., Midtown East 10022. 212/753-4500 or 877/787-3447 www.stregis.com. 164 rooms, 65 suites In-room:
safe, refrigerator, DVD, Ethernet. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, gym, laundry service, concierge, parking (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Subway: E, V to 5th Ave.

Taken from our just-released New York City 2009, published for the first time in full color.

Photo Credit: Bob Jagendorf on Flickr