Where To Stay: Library Hotel Collection
In chaotic Manhattan, finding a peaceful respite is like striking gold. Let’s face it: in the city that never sleeps, hotels have gotten a bad rap for their cramped quarters and sky-high rates. You can imagine our surprise when we discovered the Library Hotel Collection, a charming portfolio of hotels known for having spacious floor plans and warm hospitality. With four Manhattan properties, each with their own distinct personality, the collection has become a best-kept secret among travellers visiting New York.
The Library Hotel Collection in New York consists of the French style Hotel Elysée, the book-lovers themed Library Hotel, the elegant Hotel Giraffe and the Moroccan-inspired Casablanca Hotel. While each spot is unique, you’ll find several similarities, including complimentary wine and cheese receptions in the evening, coffee and biscuits throughout the day and impeccable customer service 24/7. Since opening one of the New York’s first boutique hotels in 1992, the Library Hotel Collection’s president and owner Henry Kallan has been on a roll. The hotelier recently opened properties in Prague and Budapest and is now gearing up to launch Hotel X, a 400-room urban resort in Toronto.
On a recent trip to New York City, we stayed at Hotel Giraffe and Hotel Elysée to get a taste of what the Library Hotel Collection is all about.
Hotel Elysée 60 E 54th St at Madison Avenue
Entering Hotel Elysée feels like you’re stepping back in time. Antique French Country furniture, hand-painted elevator doors, ornate fabrics and gilded accents pay homage to the property’s old New York history. Founded in 1926 as a European-style hotel for the carriage trade by Swiss-born Max Haering, the property fell into a few different hands before being revitalized in the 1990s by Mr. Kallan.
In the 1930s, hotel proprietor Mayer Quain purchased the building and had his children eclectically decorate every room. No two suites were alike and in lieu of numbers, the rooms were named to reflect their character, such as the "Sayonara" suite assigned to Marlon Brando. Playwright Tennessee Williams lived in the hotel for 15 years and passed away in the "Sunset" suite. When he died in 1983, New York columnist Jimmy Breslin told the story of a guest who called the front desk at 5:00 am complaining that someone next door was keeping her awake by typing all night. "They knew right away who the culprit was, but they couldn't very well ask Mr. Williams to stop playwriting, so we simply moved the guest to another room."
Just off the lobby, The Monkey Bar remains as an iconic New York landmark. What opened as a standard piano bar in the 1940s became famous for its performers and the wraparound hand-painted mural by caricaturist Charlie Vella.
If you’re going to stay on the Upper East Side, you might as well indulge in some old-world luxury. The rooms at Hotel Elysée are very large, and not just for New York standards. Some are even outfitted with kitchenettes, dining room tables, pull-out sofas and majestic fireplaces.
During our trip, we were treated to a stay in Hotel Elysée’s Presidential Suite, a luxurious abode that pays homage to Tennessee Williams. We can safely say, the suite is not haunted by the sounds of typing! Rather, it holds just the right amount of historical charm to make a trip to New York an unforgettable experience.
Hotel Giraffe 365 Park Avenue South at 26th Street
When Mr. Kallan was building Hotel Giraffe in 1999, the last piece of the puzzle was figuring out what to name the property. It was master architect Stephen B. Jacobs who suggested he name it after his favourite animal. As a result, Hotel Giraffe was born. The name just so happens to perfectly reflect the building’s tall and narrow shape, high ceilings and elegant ambiance.
“Mr. Kallan knew that he wanted the design to go with the Art Moderne and Art Deco period of architecture that’s so prevalent in this neighbourhood,” says Ashley Van Goehring, Director of Sales & Marketing at Hotel Giraffe. “I think the name totally works— not only with the design but also the feel of the hotel. We’re kind of the cool, younger sister of all the properties.”
With a picturesque rooftop garden, balconies off many of the rooms and a central location that’s steps away from the Flatiron District, Chelsea and the High Line, the hotel is suited to travellers who want to be in the centre of it all. Even so, the double-paned glass windows, blackout shades and charming décor make it easy to relax when needed.
And here’s a fun fact: the penthouse suite beside the rooftop garden was used as Mr. Big’s apartment in the Sex and the City Movie!