On my way to NYC there was one landmark I wanted to visit above all else. The Hotel Elysee. The reason for this is simple, the place was home to my all-time literary hero, Tennessee Williams, for fifteen years. I am impossibly glad that I chose to stay in the Elysee, as it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip so far. Tucked away inconspicuously just off Fifth Avenue the Hotel represents a wonderful part of the city’s cultural heritage and history.
The Elysee harks back to the days of old New York. Built in the prosperity of the roaring 20s in the European style the hotel quickly became a home away from home for some of America’s most prominent families. In later years it served as a residence for stars like Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Joe Dimaggio, Maria Callas, Marilyn Monroe and most notably Tennessee Williams, author of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and other plays.
And no review would be complete without mention of the infamous ‘Monkey Bar’, opened in the depths of the great depression to quench the thirst of artists, thinkers and the city’s cognoscenti. Famously, Johnny Andrews played the piano at cocktail hour for over 50 years. So walking through the corridors of the property there’s a warm spirit of nostalgia.
The location of the hotel is second to none, just off fifth avenue yet totally serene once you walk through the revolving doors. The staff are kind and attentive; there was a bottle of wine and Leonidas chocolates awaiting us in our suite. The reception staff called us immediately to ask if we liked our room and whether there was anything at all they could do to make our stay more comfortable; of course they couldn’t, we were already mighty comfortable! If you’re feeling peckish there are refreshments available throughout the day as well as complimentary breakfast.
We stayed in the piano suite. It was more like a self contained one bedroom apartment and included kitchen, massive living room, grand piano, outdoor terrace and huge dining table. I’m pretty used to staying in nice places, but when I walked through the door my jaw just dropped.
The suite was sumptuously decorated in the classical European style popular in the homes of the aristocracy of the 1920s. The wallpapers were silk, plush carpets and beautiful ebony furniture, antique oil-paintings adorning the walls and fresh violet orchids. To be honest, the moment I walked in I didn’t want to leave and whiled away a whole afternoon drinking tea and listening to my mother (an accomplished pianist) play classic after classic on the piano. All very refined; until my savage burger-dash.
Today there’s something undeniably beautiful in staying somewhere that hasn’t changed over the decades. With hotels this can be a risky formula, as trends and modernity are often as the forefront of the luxury leisure industry. However, The Elysee maintains its historic spirit with pride. As I sat at the window typing this review I could almost hear the ‘click-clack’ of Tennessee’s battered type writer as he wrote ‘The Night of the Iguana’ and ‘The Mutilated’. However, beyond such night-time flights of fancy I was totally captivated by the irresistible lure of the Elysee’s antiquity and charm. If you, like me, have a riotous bordering on unmanageable imagination this place and its legendary spirit should be a ‘must’ on your New York City itinerary.