Story and photography by Melanie Votaw
65 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
The whispers of history are everywhere at the Warwick Hotel. Built in 1926 by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst for his love, film star Marion Davies, the property is one of the few remaining examples of old New York/Hollywood glamour. Davies and Hearst never married because his wife wouldn’t give him a divorce, but their relationship was common knowledge. He created a private residence for her in the Warwick, and the remaining rooms were primarily used to house their friends. Initially, it wasn’t open to the public, and at times, it housed the stars of films that were shooting in New York.
Despite its lofty pedigree, however, the hotel is surprisingly understated. Hearst specifically created a small lobby because he wanted it to look and feel more like a home than a grand hotel. It was meant to be discreet. It cost him $5 million to build the Warwick in 1926, and, at 36 stories, it was one of the tallest apartment buildings in the world at the time.
The Warwick has welcomed countless celebrities and dignitaries over the years, including Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. Cary Grant lived there for more than 12 years, and the Beatles were guests during their iconic first visit to the U.S.
Hearst also helped to build the original Ziegfeld theatre right across the street from the Warwick for his friend, Florenz Ziegfeld. This gave stars who were in town to perform at the Ziegfeld an easily accessible but elegant place to stay. Unfortunately, the theatre was torn down in the 1960s, and a movie theatre was later built a block away bearing Ziegfeld’s name.
Of course, the Warwick has been renovated since those early days, and Floors 12, 14, and 15 were renovated very recently. It maintains the classic décor that you would expect of a historic property, however, with neutral shades of silver, beige, and champagne, as well as antiques and walnut veneer furniture.
My lovely room had a king bed with a quilted headboard, and the curtains were sage green and white damask. The room contained a 40” HD LCD television, and there was a multimedia system for connecting a laptop, iPod, or iPhone to the television. The minibar was electronic, so there was no need to write down what I removed. It was immediately added to my bill upon checkout. As is usually the case with today’s hotels, Wifi service in the room amounted to an extra charge.
The bathroom was designed in varying shades of brown marble, and Bulgari toiletries were provided but no bathrobe. At the door were “welcome” and “goodbye” buttons to turn the electricity on or off. There was also a button on the door for a deadbolt that prevented card key usage. I had never seen this before, but it was a nice added security measure.
I found the service to be top-notch, and the desk clerks were exceptionally courteous and helpful. The area where the Warwick is located is prime in New York City. It’s just steps from Central Park, Carnegie Hall, and Rockefeller Center. It’s directly across the street from the Museum of Modern Art and within easy walking distance of Times Square, the Time Warner Center, Radio City Music Hall, and Lincoln Center.
The hotel has 359 rooms and 67 suites, some of which have private terraces. Twenty-four-hour room service is available, as well as a business center, concierge, and a small, but very nice fitness center on the third floor with what looked like new, state-of-the-art machines. There are two restaurants – Murals on 54 is a more formal Mediterranean restaurant, which features murals painted by Dean Cornwell in 1937, and Randolph’s Bar & Lounge is a more casual, contemporary restaurant and bar. Murals is open from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Randolph’s is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., although the kitchen closes at 11:00 p.m. A breakfast buffet is also available.
The Warwick is officially one of the Historic Hotels of America, and it certainly belongs on that list. The hallways display photographs of Marion Davies, some of which are old movie stills, and you will see the occasional old-fashioned black telephone. They’re no longer functioning, but they helped me to imagine what it must have been like in the ‘20s and ‘30s when the likes of Cary Grant and a young Elizabeth Taylor strolled the halls.
© August 2010 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.