I must have walked past the south east corner of Grand Central Station hundreds of times, always with a rush of people and city noise around me, and completely unaware of another world existing only a few steps away. That busy entrance takes you directly to the trains and subway, but if you venture just around the Vanderbilt corner, you will find a very unassuming marker with an arrow directing you through double doors to the Campbell Apartment. How subtle – who would suspect this was anything but a private entrance? Well, it was just that nearly 100 years ago, when a local banker decided he needed a substantial office in which he could also entertain, and found this to be the biggest ground-floor room in New York. Mr Campbell transformed the bare space into a magnificent cultural enclave with Florentine art, hand-painted ceilings and Persian carpets. I tell you all this, because as you pass through the looking glass from the craziness of 42nd street to the civility and peace of the room, you can almost hear the man begging the weary painters….”When will it be finished…?!”
Fortunately it was finished and fabulous when we joined the genteel crowd for a cocktail last weekend. The one carpet covering the huge 30 X 60 foot floor was still there, as was Mr Campbell’s ( locked ) safe, and comfortable chairs. Some people had just come from a show, others were having a martini before moving on for dinner. But you could feel the history and sense the joy of celebrations past. It was almost like a private party, with servers in jackets, an elegant hostess and that special feeling of being invited to a secret place. Maybe not so secret now!