Off Manhattan’s 44th Street, a few steps from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, is The Chatwal Hotel. A few years ago this amazing property got a new lease on life. From what used to be the exclusive haunt of The Lambs Club, Midtown hangout for the theatrical set, The Chatwal Hotel now brings the Lambs’ vibe to all comers in need of a meal, a drink, and a room.
The prestigious Lambs was America’s first professional theatrical club. It originated in London before making its way to this side of the Atlantic. John Barrymore, Red Barber, George Michael Cohan, John Wayne, Douglas Fairbanks, and Fred Astaire were just a few of the impressive list of over 6000 Lambs members.
In 1905, the club hired celebrity architect Stanford White to design their club in Midtown. For the Lambs Club, White’s work reflected the spirit of the age — a turn of the century period of confidence and optimism in the United States that inspired the feeling that America might be the embodiment of no less than Greek Democracy, Roman Law, and Renaissance Humanism. The architecture of the day reflected this, notable examples being the homes of the Vanderbilts, the Washington Square arch, and the original Madison Square Garden, where White used to live in a grand apartment on the second floor.
“Now occupying White’s Lambs Club building, The Chatwal Hotel has opened a new chapter of this iconic building’s history.”
The extroverted White, who had a penchant for glamour and beautiful young women, was known for hosting frisky parties where the entertainment was rumored to feature a red velvet swing occupied by scandalously clad women. One of the performers, Evelyn Nesbit, became White’s downfall as her millionaire husband, Harry Kendall Thaw, shot White one night in a jealous rage. Thaw was found not guilty by reason of “temporary insanity”, a landmark case in American jurisprudence because of the novel plea.
Now occupying White’s Lambs Club building, The Chatwal Hotel has opened a new chapter of this iconic building’s history. Under the direction of Master Architect and Designer Thierry Despont, the circa-1905 building has been meticulously restored and modernized as a 76-room hotel of traditional glamour and contemporary luxury. And with a nod to one of the famous American personalities that roamed its halls, Drew Barrymore lent her name to the penthouse suite, paying homage to her legendary grandfather, a Lambs member.
One of our visits was during a steamy New York summer, when The Chatwal Hotel provided a cool, serene getaway to relax from the madness of the Big Apple, just a few steps away. Between sights we scheduled a few cool-down minutes in the lobby to sit, sip a drink, and catch up on the news before heading back into the hubbub.
In contrast, we made another visit just before the Christmas holiday season and were amazed at how the place had transformed into a cozy winter wonderland. What was cool and quiet in the summer was now warm and festive, seemingly the perfect place for a New York stay during any season, especially for Broadway fans where all on offer is at your doorstep.
You might think that biking in Midtown would be a challenge, but it is actually an easy way to get around. Once on one of The Chatwal’s custom bikes, you realize that the crowded feeling you get while navigating Manhattan is mostly about the sidewalk. Once freed from its confines you can glide through Manhattan’s canyons with ease.
The bikes come with a handy map to help you find your way, and a classy Chatwal Hotel helmet to keep you safe. We took a quick spin up to Central Park which took no time at all, and spent a few hours exploring the park. Nothing like spending a hot day in New York with a cool breeze blowing on your face.
If you time it right, another fun thing to do during the summer months is to take in a free classic movie in Bryant Park. It’s a quintesential New York thing to do on a balmy summer night, less than a five minute walk from The Chatwal Hotel. And on a Chatwal bike, it takes only a minute!
Experiencing New York is very much about searching out the latest, the newest, things that can’t be found anywhere else. But what makes it unique is that all that new stuff is in a setting of tradition and history. The Chatwal Hotel is a great place to enjoy all the Big Apple still has to offer while experiencing a piece of old New York glamour.