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My favorite hotels are those that capture the imagination.
We've all seen the opposite-drab, dreary, unimaginative cookie-cutter temples that serve a basic purpose but provide no sustenance for the inquisitive mind. While those types of hotels are perfectly adequate, there are some adventures and some locales that require accommodation with more charisma.
Manhattan's NoMad (North of Madison Square) was one of the city's primary entertainment districts during the early part of the 20th century and was a draw for pleasure seekers of the age.
This included Stanford White, famed architect of the second Madison Square Garden, where he kept an apartment. Harry Thaw, jealous over White's involvement with his wife, Evelyn Nesbitt, famously murdered White at the Garden's rooftop restaurant.
The resulting media coverage was the young century's first "Trial of the Century."
Today, NoMad is an area devoted to less energetic pursuits: My Saturday afternoon visit to Madison Square Park was accompanied by a diverse cross section of New Yorkers jogging, doing yoga, walking dogs and having al fresco lunches from Wagamama and Eataly takeout bags.
In the old days, however, amidst all the excitement, a Beaux Arts style building was constructed on 34th Street between Park and Madison. Opened in 1905 and reimagined last year as the HGU New York Hotel, the hotel's 90 rooms offer a plush comfort-with Frette linens, hand-woven Turkish rugs, faux fur throws and a neutral color palette.
The feel is pleasantly residential.
High ceilings, pre-war baths and parlor-style accommodations make one feel almost as though they could again be in the 1900s or 1910s (until they're blinked back into the present by the fine lineup of digital amenities like FLI Charge stations and complimentary Flow Water packaged in sustainable cardboard containers).
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Other modern amenities include the newly opened rooftop, which features a selection of small plates and wickedly delicious cocktails, like the rum-and-cantaloupe concoction that was the very taste of summer.
Guests can also indulge in turn-of-the century escapism at the hotel's 1905 Lounge, painstakingly designed in a complex combination of Beaux Arts stolidity and modern whimsy. Or, there's New American fare at Rose Hill, the hotel's restaurant.
While quite close to the bigger tourism center of Midtown and the commercial draws in the Financial District, visitors are nevertheless more likely to encounter passersby in the form of the city's residents about their business than hordes of suited business folks or busloads of camera-flashing tourists.
It's a good place to hole up and be an honorary New Yorker for the length of your stay.
The staff works hard to make said stays pleasant, from whisking away luggage to hiking up one of the avenues to hail a cab. In the evenings, the crowd is cosmopolitan and high energy. Upper floor guest room windows provide good sound proofing when the rooftop crowd gets to be on the wild side.
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Residential, homey and sumptuously outfitted, HGU New York Hotel is as good a choice as any for lodging in Manhattan's NoMad District for a modern experience with a strong flavor of New York's Knickerbocker past.
I've seen rooms from $158 in the trough season (January/February) and work upwards from there.
Guest rooms are impeccable and attractive; the 1905 Lounge and rooftop are also photogenic.
Good To Know
As of this writing, the hotel's name doesn't come up in map searches. Enter the address 34 E 32nd St. instead.
Scott is a freelance travel writer who has logged a million-and-a-half miles onboard flights around the world in search of...
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CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC
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