New York City is known as the home of all things new and forward-thinking, but behind the city’s sparkling skyline sit several centuries of rich history. The New York Palace is no exception – the luxury hotel blends modern living spaces with historically elegant architecture to stand as one of the centerpieces of Midtown Manhattan.
The Villard Mansion, a historical landmark that currently operates as The New York Palace’s main entrance, is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. The building, originally erected by railroad baron Henry Villard in 1882 as one of his six regal Villard Houses, stands out as one of the first true American architectural masterpieces for its elegant Renaissance architecture and calming courtyard.
“What we’re seeing is 130 years of continuity,” said Mosette Broderick, author of The Villard Houses and Director of Urban Design and Architecture Studies at New York University. “This is the 130th anniversary of the creation of this wonderful group of six row houses that are so well-known you can’t pick up a book on American architecture without seeing the Villard Houses mentioned.”
After spending its first century as a private residence, Archdiocese offices, and headquarters of private corporations, the Villard Mansion became part of the new Helmsley Palace Hotel. In 1993, the hotel underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation to become The New York Palace. Marrying the sleek modernity of a 55-story tower with the grace and detail of the Villard Mansion, The Palace stands as the premier luxury hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Today, the Villard Mansion houses several of The Palace’s most notable features, including the GILT Bar – in what was Villard’s Music Room – and GILT restaurant, which features decorative features such as artful nail heads and inscribed mottos in German, English and Latin. The building’s original Triple Parlor has transformed into The Madison Room, and the original Library and Drawing Room still stand today. The most unique feature of the Mansion – and The Palace – might be its Madison Avenue Courtyard, which provides some much needed space to relax and enjoy some space in the heart of New York City.
A Taste of Old New York
The city’s rich legacy reaches to the corner of each of its five boroughs, but many of New York’s most treasured historic sights are clustered throughout Midtown Manhattan. It’s easy to spend an afternoon, full day, or weekend exploring the architecture, parks and shops that have lasted through the years to define New York City.
The City’s Oldest…
Theater – The Lyceum Theatre – 149 W 45th Street (Theater District)
Elegantly detailed Beaux-Arts columns and a dramatic undulating marquee welcome guests to the Lyceum Theatre, New York’s oldest continuously operating theatre. Opened in 1903, the Lyceum has played host to a range of notable productions, including The Importance of Being Earnest, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Steel Magnolias and Macbeth. The theater, granted landmark status in 1974, is one of the smallest on Broadway, seating just 950 guests.
Clothing Store – Brooks Brothers – 346 Madison Avenue (Midtown East)
With an established reputation as the go-to store for all items preppy and refined, Brooks Brothers also has deep roots in one of Manhattan’s most luxurious areas. The clothier’s Madison Avenue location – opened in 1915 – doesn’t date all the way back to the company’s founding in the early 1800s, but it does rank as New York City’s oldest clothing retail location.
Jewelry Store – Tiffany & Co. – 727 Fifth Avenue (Midtown East)
Just south of Central Park, in the shadow of Bergdorf Goodman and Louis Vuitton, sits Tiffany & Co., New York’s longest-standing and most prestigious jewelry store. The company, originally founded in New York City in the 1830s, moved to its current location at 727 Fifth Avenue in 1940. The stately space boasts high ceilings, elegant design touches, and of course, display cases filled with shimmering watches, bracelets, rings and earrings.
Orchestra – New York Philharmonic – 10 Lincoln Center Plaza (Upper West Side)
The oldest orchestra in New York and the entire nation, the New York Philharmonic has been performing timeless classical works since 1842. The NY Philharmonic, which just played its 15,000th concert in 2010, is currently based in Avery Fisher Hall, an easy-to-reach venue located in Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side. The group also puts on well-attended free performances in city parks during the warm months.
Restaurant – Fraunces Tavern – 54 Pearl Street (Financial District)
The neighborhood now known for its high-powered stock traders and glimmering skyscrapers was once the stomping grounds of American legends such as the Sons of Liberty and George Washington. Fraunces Tavern, a part-museum, part-restaurant in a building that dates back to the early 1800s, hearkens back to the days when New York was America’s capital. The restaurant was founded in 1762, and you can still grab a bite and a beer there today.
Synagogue – Anshe Slonim Synagogue – 172 Norfolk Street (Lower East Side)
Although the five boroughs’ oldest house of worship is located in Queens, the city’s oldest surviving synagogue building is located on the southeast end of Manhattan. Erected in 1849, the building was the largest synagogue in the U.S. at the time of its construction, and is currently the fourth oldest in the nation. The house of worship was built using Gothic Revival style, lending the building a distinctly historic feel, even as the city around it changes rapidly.