Authenticity dictates a certain kind of behaviour. If one is cosying into a leather stool in the finest remaining vestige of New York’s Golden Era, then it is almost mandatory to sip on a cocktail from the late nineteenth century – especially when not just protocol is involved, but history as well. In the newly opened Beekman Hotel in downtown Manhattan the ghost of Hamlet joins the romance of Edgar Allen Poe to offer credentials to a place where the play and the poet both performed an early role. But in 1881 it was an Irishman who gifted the city with both Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and a gem for the future. When he replaced the bard’s boards with a soaring atrium-peaked tower, he created the first multi-business establishment in the city, and unbeknownst to him, an extraordinary luxury hotel.
The Kelly building has survived 136 years in a tough competitive landscape, where it was shuttered and even abandoned for a time. But that’s the joy of it. The pressed tin ceilings, the dragon structural brackets, cast iron windows, and the staircase – the staircase! – are all completely original. This Queen Anne treasure is heritage on the outside, and may soon be listed on the inside as well. Such is the care of the craftspeople who are still working to complete the upper floors. When they finish, the suites will sell at $7,500 a night, and the likes of Hugh Jackman and Adam Sandler may be seen more often, chipping in for the $600m renovation.
In the meanwhile, the restaurants and bars downstairs are open for business. The leather couches, chessboard tables and bookshelves create an atmosphere of educated style most of us would like to see survive modern America. But for a moment the past surrounds us, the flush of the antique lamps compliments a similar glow lingering from my libation – a Pink Lady no less….