With the onset of true summer weather and the mugginess of Spring finally lifting it’s the perfect time for a staycation in NYC. One of our favorite haunts is from the esteemed Library Hotel Collection, the ever iconic Hotel Elysée. As the famed American author Robert Ruark said, “At the Hotel Elysée, the house rules and the living are easy. It’s a snug harbor for the great and near great of Broadway, a hangout for the uninhibited, a safe bastion for bachelors.”
A safe bastion, indeed. Built in the 1920’s, the Hotel Elysée is named for one of the finest French Restaurants of that era. Once the playground for the rich and famous, it’s been home to movie stars, artists, writers and intellectuals. Super luxe but without a ‘cookie cutter’ chain feel, it’s able to stay cozy and intimate. Located on East 54th Street between Park and Madison Avenues, it’s an oasis of luxury, elegance and calm in bustling Midtown Manhattan.
The hotel carries an air of history and mystique, hiding in its walls the secrets and transgressions of the famous artists and writers who have roamed (and are still roaming) their halls.
The Hotel Elysée is still home to the infamous Monkey Bar, a piano bar opened in the depths of the Great Depression that became known to some as the “easy lay.” For decades it served as a cozy outpost for admen in bespoke suits, after-hours politicians and media barons looking for a little fun. Today it’s still that same cozy outpost, a quiet power scene humming with discreet adrenaline paying tribute to the Jazz Age figures that once sailed through the saloon doors in its ambience and décor.
It’s a wonderful escape from the city that never sleeps, a time travel experience that lands you in the center of a classic “Old New York” stage. There’s a sense of authenticity here, from the eclectically decorated rooms to the speakeasy style Monkey Bar downstairs.
The ambiance is romantic, the service gracious and the accommodations spotless. Think private country inn circa mid-twentieth century with upgraded amenities and a fascinating history. It was a playground for the rich and eccentric and has been the permanent NYC address of many movie stars, artists, writers and intellectuals over the years…and a few still lurking around. The hotel has a storied past as the permanent address for the likes of Tennessee Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Maria Callas, and Vladimir Horowitz (who donated a Steinway, which still resides in the Piano Suite). The Royal Suite is one of the finest hotel experiences you’ll find—ornate decadent luxury crawling in every nook and cranny, a classic but not outdated décor and plushness that brings a bit of the hotel’s history to life with every turn around the corner.
Part of the allure of this hotel was its redesign following World War I, when the children of the hotel’s owner took it upon themselves to decorate every room so no two were alike. Each guestroom was assigned a name which fit the decor, such as the “Sayonara Suite,” which Marlon Brando called home. Rooms have quirky features; some have fireplaces, others have kitchens or solariums, and all are decorated in country-French furnishings. On the second floor is the Club Room, where a free continental breakfast is offered daily, along with complimentary wine and cheese weekday evenings.
Each room bears its own personality with whimsy and every moment at the Hotel Elysée feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Who knows, stay one night, you just might end up moving in like Mr. Brando.