A wedding at the Marriott Essex House gave us an opportunity to check out this classic hotel…
Weddings are joyous occasions but they’re always a tinge more exciting when they’re held in Manhattan. We recently attended a family wedding at the five-star JW Marriott Essex House New York City that was nothing short of spectacular.
An overnight stay at the hotel (to avoid a late drive home after the party) gave us a whirlwind opportunity to check out the property at a somewhat reduced group rate and to experience some of its public spaces that often elude travelers. (In case you are wondering, yes, it’s virtually impossible for travel writers to stay at hotels without thinking about or writing reviews.)
The Essex House has been a New York institution since it was built in 1931, in the midst of the Depression no less. The hotel was renamed and rebranded by Marriott about three years ago.
Remarkably, the hotel still retains much of the glamour and patina of the Art Deco period throughout—from its exterior façade to the brass elevator doors and interior design details.
As far as location goes, it doesn’t get much better than this. Imagine having Central Park as your front yard. The hotel sits on Central Park South just across from the park, only steps away from Columbus Circle, the Time-Warner Center with it shops, Fifth Avenue and Lincoln Center. It’s a short walk to the Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller Center and the flagship Apple store in New York City. Rooms at the front of the hotel face the park, with picture postcard views that change with the seasons.
If something can go wrong…
We arrived at the hotel at around 4PM on a Saturday afternoon, eager to relax after a one-hour drive from our home. A parking valet efficiently whisked away our car and a bellman grabbed our suitcase, packed with “black tie” attire for the 7PM wedding, carrying it to the check-in counter. Soon after, our expectations took a nosedive.
After waiting to check-in at one of the lines at the reception desk that was three-people deep, we were told our room wouldn’t be ready for at least a half hour or perhaps, an hour. The official check-in time was supposed to be 3PM.
To assuage our disappointment, the reception clerk offered us vouchers for free drinks in the Southgate Lounge off the lobby while we waited for an “expedited cleanup.”
Okay, we’ll fess up. We were easily plied and began to relax. Sipping flutes of $18 a glass Prosecco from a premier window seat on Central Park South at the hotel bar, we watched the parade of pedestrians, vehicles, and horse-drawn carriages jockeying for space on the busy street.
We even caught a glimpse of the wedding party closing down the street for photographs before the event. (Perhaps, that’s why there is so much traffic in NYC.)
At 4:45PM, our room was ready. (That was 45 minutes after we arrived and an hour and 45 minutes after check-in time.) But again, the hotel went the extra mile and made Herculean efforts to heal the wounds.
Settling into room 363
Because of the delay we presume, our standard rate, double-bedded room had morphed into a suite with a living room with pullout queen sofa; bedroom with two double beds, a desk and two closets; and two bathrooms.
Things always go wrong in the hotel industry. But guests have short memories when management makes diligent efforts to make them right.
Our room was clean, gracious and up-to-date. It had been tastefully refurbished and updated with a wide-screen TV and multiple device outlets. However, its design and décor still unmistakably evoked the Art Deco feel of the period when it was first built. The ceilings were lower than is common today and the woods much lighter in tone. Shadow box lighting provided accents over the beds, complemented by geometric artwork on the walls.
We couldn’t help but be dazzled by the rose-colored glass sinks in the bathrooms, one of them sitting above a black marble bathroom floor. Having slept at many hotels around the world, these sinks were a first.
The room turned out to be extremely comfortable, quiet and well-appointed.
The lavish wedding was held in the Beaux Arts Grand Salon on the lobby level. The wall and ceiling murals of this nearly 4000-square-foot gilded venue were magnificent, complimented by beautiful carpeting and a celestial chandelier.
After the ceremony, our group moved to the adjacent Petit Salon for hors d’oeuvres while the larger room was set up for a seated dinner and dancing. To be a guest at an event in a palatial room like this one is a rarified experience; to be a bride is to fulfill a romantic fantasy.
The next morning we attended a post-wedding brunch reception in the hotel’s ornate, marble-columned Art Deco Salon that fronts on 58th street (parallel to Central Park South)—also a throwback to the 30s. The intimate room once housed the restaurant of French celebrity chef Alain Ducasse. The dining room manager pointed to a painting on the wall that was painted by German actress Elke Sommer, whose husband once managed the hotel.
We loved the ambiance of this classic hotel, especially its incredible location. Staff were uniformly friendly and accommodating. And except for the short-lived blip upon our arrival, the property seemed well managed. We would highly recommend it as a comfortable base for travelers visiting New York. We may even revisit the hotel for a drink when Christmas decorations go up next week.
IF YOU GO
JW Marriott Essex House New York – Hotel website
160 Central Park South, New York 10019
- Internet service is free to Marriott Reward members; if you aren’t already a member, you can join when you register.
- Although we didn’t have time to use them, the hotel has a club lounge, full-service spa and fitness center.
- The hotel is only a short-walk to the 7th Avenue Subway station at Columbus Circle.
- It’s best to avoid having a car in the city. Another reason not to; valet parking at the hotel is priced at $70 for 24-hours.
- What might be minor annoyances for the over-50 traveler: Our room lighting was dim and there was no stall shower. The tub did have a grab bar.