Thursday, August 24, 2006

Old School Charm: The Warwick Hotel New York

My family and I spent a few days at the Warwick Hotel in New York last week. I was pleased to find it exactly as I expected based on years of selling it. It was a real classic New York hotel in a great location at the corner of 54th Street and Avenue of the Americas.

The great location and small lobby made it popular with showbiz types looking for little privacy. The Ed Sullivan Show used the Warwick for their guests, including the Beatles, who had to endure a crazy two-block trip to the Ed Sullivan Theater through throngs of fans. Cary Grant and Irving Berlin lived at the Warwick. Their photos and photos of many other notable guests are displayed around the second floor meeting rooms of the hotel. You’ve got to admire a place that attracted both Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor.

Why don’t we head upstairs on one of the great vintage elevators with the light up signs that read “THIS CAR UP.”

Our deluxe room was on the nineteenth floor and faced Avenue of the Americas with views down 54th Street, especially of the New York Hilton, which is located catty-corner from the Warwick. The room was pretty big, especially by New York standards and was attractively furnished with traditional dark wood furniture. Reproductions of antique Oriental prints softened the look. After a close inspection, I concluded that the standard of housekeeping at the Warwick was quite high. The bathroom was done in honey-toned marble and was provided with Gilchrist & Soames toiletries and adequately-sized cotton towels.

I know that some other rooms in the hotel do not have views; instead they open onto air shafts or look at adjacent buildings. I think most of these are included in the less expensive “Superior” room category. This is typical for a 1928 vintage hotel, designed before air conditioning. If you want the old school charm, sometimes you get an old school air shaft. If you’re concerned about this, you can always talk with a top-notch Travel Consultant who will get things properly arranged for you.

Other amenities in the room included plush bathrobes, ironing board and iron, safe and minibar. The minibar was unfortunately one of those that I call a Robo-bar -- equipped with electronic sensors, where if you even think about touching the contents, you get charged. You’re out of luck if you want to buy a six-pack of Diet Pepsi at Gristede’s and stick it in there; I ended up hoofing it to the ice machine on eighteen twice a day.

The bed was very comfortable, similar to the Westin Heavenly Bed. I didn’t hear any street noise – not sure if that was due to the double-glazed windows or being nineteen stories up. There were some minor things in our room that should have been repaired –a broken outlet cover and chipped paint on the door. These were the only things I saw that detracted from the overall excellent upkeep.

At the Warwick, the excellent staff was a really high point of the experience. Check-in was effortless and smooth and each employee was wonderful – every housekeeper, bellman and room service waiter we encountered greeted us as if they were truly happy to do so. I can’t tell you how many so-called deluxe hotels fail to observe this form of courtesy.

Overall, it was a very nice stay. We even lucked into the free Friday night at the Museum of Modern Art, located across the street. We did not eat at the restaurants or try the room service, so I can’t give you my opinion. I can say that Murals on 54, the restaurant featuring historic murals by Dean Cornwell, is well-regarded.

In future updates, I’ll try to address aspects of other hotels I critiqued on this trip: The Essex House, St. Regis, Hilton, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf=Astoria.

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