No matter who you are and what your politics, you will most certainly be swept up by the word ‘exclusive’. When we were invited to stay at New York’s ‘exclusive’ Gramercy Park Hotel it wasn’t the priceless paintings, or the famous former guests that intrigued; it was the key. Not your door key but the key to the ‘exclusive’ park which gave the neighbourhood its name.
Gramercy Park is one of only two private parks in New York City. The 2 acres (.08 hectares) is filled with manicured plants, towering trees and stately garden benches.
The entire neighbourhood of Gramercy Park started as a planned precinct in the 1830’s. It was an early masterstroke of property development; only residents that fronted the park had key access to its amenities. (And the key was held ‘in perpetuity’.)
It was exclusive, it was in demand and it was brilliant marketing.
The neighbourhood became a haven for New York’s creatives and theatre community, as evidenced by the statue of the preeminent thespian of the time Edwin Booth. Booth was considered the ‘greatest actor of the century’. In 1888, Booth purchased an 1847 mansion at 16 Gramercy Park, reserved an upper floor for his residence, and turned the rest into a The Players Club. Booth’s residence has remained untouched since his death and contains a portrait of his brother John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, along with the letter Edwin wrote to the public apologizing for the actions of his brother.
Once described as a ‘Victorian Gentleman who has refused to die’ this park is Manhattan landmark. There are now 383 impossible to duplicate keys equipped to unlock the four imposing wrought-iron gates that offer entry to the jewel box park.
Which leads us rather nicely to the magnificent Gramercy Park Hotel, a modern day destination that allows private park access to all its guests via an escorted visit with a hotel staff member.
Built in 1925 – it, or its restaurants and bars, have been home to the likes of Babe Ruth, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Kanye among others. Humourist S.J. Perelman lived and died here. The Kennedy Family occupied the 2nd floor for 6 months in 1928. (Someone somewhere must have photos of an 11-year-old JFK chasing squirrels in Gramercy Park.)
The Gramercy Park Hotel (a member of Design Hotels™) was purchased by Ian Schrager in 2003 and refurbished by the designer’s eye of Julian Schnabel. Ian Schrager, Andy Warhol and Studio 54 are part of history and as you wander through this bijoux of a building you can’t help but stumble upon Andy’s originals as well as priceless works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Richard Prince, Damien Hirst and Julian Schnabel himself.
There is a pervasive sense of sumptuous, designed decadence from the rooms to the wonderful Jade and Rose Bars. The grand style is comfortable, glamorous and not manufactured. The Gramercy Park Hotel does luxury with a considered style.
The rooms are romantic – inviting and giving – an old-world luxury cocoon with every modern touch. The staff? (I hate that word. Perhaps we should say ‘facilitators’) are genuinely friendly and helpful. Hotels are hotels are hotels. They can all look and sound the same. Their marketing is always about ‘understanding your every need etc etc’. A shortage of just one towel in our opulent bathroom caused our beautiful lady from housekeeping to indulge us with many bottles of the most luxurious care products available in an American hotel. (The covetable bottles were not from just one upmarket brand – but the best of New York according to New York Magazine). Names like Davines Momo, Le Labo, and Mario Badescu).
Danny Meyer’s name has meant Maialino has never been labeled a hotel restaurant. From coffee and pastries in the morning to the most elaborate celebration at night the staff always deliver the perfect experience. And for Australians: Yes, they do know all about the flat white and have been expertly serving them for years.
Few hotels have the individual eccentricity of this property – should we say European? The style, the history, the stories and that magnificent private park, just across the street. There are eight million stories in the naked city and this is just one.
Editor’s note: Gramercy Park Hotel is part of the Design Hotels™ collection – a curated selection of more than 200 independent hotels across the globe. For more: www.designhotels.com