Posts Tagged ‘Edith Wharton’s New York’

The most beautiful ballroom in New York City

August 6, 2012

Today, the former Prince George Hotel, at 14 East 28th Street, is part of the nonprofit housing group Common Ground, providing low-income housing for about 400 once-homeless adults.

But when the hotel opened in 1904 (another building was added in 1912), it was a Beaux-Arts jewel reminiscent of Edith Wharton’s New York.

The luxurious rooms on each of its 14 floors came with private baths, and the ground floor featured several restaurant and lounge areas.

One of those lounges is now the Prince George Ballroom, a 4,800-foot space with ornately carved classical columns and ceiling murals inspired by the Renaissance.

Restored to its original beauty in the 1990s, it can be rented for parties and events.

Judging by how gorgeous it is now, it’s hard to imagine what it looked like in the 1980s.

That’s when the Prince George fell on hard times and became one of the city’s most crime-ridden welfare hotels, home to 1,600 people.

Like the rest of the building, the ballroom was a rundown eyesore, painted white and used as a dining hall, social service office, even a basketball court.

I wish I could find a photo of it during its welfare-hotel days. Until then, the one above, as it looks today, and this one below, from 1915, will have to suffice.

Photos: Common Ground

The wildly ornate lobby inside a budget hotel

December 6, 2010

From the outside, the Hotel Wolcott, at 4 East 31st Street, isn’t anything extraordinary.

Sure, this discount hotel has a lovely Beaux-Arts exterior, mostly obscured by scaffolding these days. But so do many other buildings nearby.

Still, if you head past the no-frills entrance and look up at the lobby ceiling . . . wow!

It’s a Louis XVI–style time machine, with an ornate high ceiling, mirrored panels, stained glass, marble pillars, and incredible chandeliers.

All this ornamentation reflects the Hotel Wolcott’s early days as a luxurious residence for the rich in Gilded Age New York.

Built in 1904, guests included Edith Wharton, and the hotel is frequently mentioned in society columns of the era.

It’s not everyone’s style, but the ceiling is incredibly preserved. A copy of the hotel’s brochure from 1904 is available on its website.