One of my favorite things to do when I go to New York City is to try to discover places the tourists don’t go. It’s pretty tough to do because I am a tourist, don’t live in the Big Apple and my time there is regretfully limited.
Recently though I found a stunning fancy pants cocktail bar in the most unlikely location and clearly not on the sneaker set route. It was stuffed with New Yorkers and Connecticut commuters who looked to me like hedge fund moguls.
What is it? The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station. Yep, that’s right. Grand Central Station.
I read about this amazing and lavish space in a charming book called “New York’s Unique and Unexpected Places” by Judith Stonehill and Alexandra Stonehill. It’s chock o block full of spots in an amazing city to explore.
The Campbell Apartment, was designed to look like a grand hall of a thirteenth century Florentine Palace. It succeeds beautifully. It’s open to the public for cocktails from mid afternoon until late evening.
According to authors Stonehill and Stonehill, John W. Campbell rented the space in 1923 for his office. He installed a Florentine desk, rare books, a pipe organ and an enormous Persian Rug. He is a man who is reputed to have lived “very large.”
He created the Palazzo environment by adding large scale leaded windows and a huge stone fireplace. The ceiling was hand painted. Campbell was chairman of his family’s firm—Credit Clearing House, which merged with Dun & Bradstreet—and served on the board of the New York Central Railroad. Not only did he use this fancy and elegant space for an office, but he and is wife entertained in this space as well. I can only imagine how glamorous and decadent these parties must have been.
The room, reachable from the Vanderbilt Avenue side of Grand Central Terminal, was abandoned when he died in 1957 but restored in 1999. It’s an amazing place, such a contrast to the bustle and confusion of the city outside and adjacent train station.