Old New York: Bars and Clubs

Even though there are so many modern skyscrapers and new buildings popping up everywhere around Manhattan, if you know where to look, you can find the haunts of Old New York. And who wouldn’t? There are many ways to catch a glimpse of Manhattan’s famous glamorous past, but one of my favorite ways is to visit the bars and clubs that were centers of social life during that era. Below are where time has stood still in only the best ways…


Bemelmans BarBemelmans Bar (76th and Madison at the Carlyle Hotel)
Bemelmans’ was named after Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the Madeleine books. The murals drawn by Bemelmans are his only large-scale commission still open to the public–and it is well worth a visit to see them. The bar often has jazz nights and it is so lovely to relax in one of the leather banquettes, listening to the sound of a time gone by.


King Cole BarKing Cole Bar (55th and Fifth at the St. Regis Hotel)
The King Cole Bar is also graced with an intricate mural–that of Old King Cole, naturally. To get a closer look at the mural, take a seat at the bar and consider ordering a Bloody Mary, which was invented at this bar under the original name of the “Red Snapper.”


The Campbell ApartmentThe Campbell Apartment (Grand Central Station)
The Campbell Apartment has thankfully reopened after some restoration work and is apparently better than ever. While the old dress code is now obsolete, the beautiful space demands that you look your best when you stop by for a drink or a snack. Better yet–there’s now air conditioning and you can now make a reservation for a table instead of politely jostling for a seat at the bar. The Campbell Apartment now opens at noon, so you can grab a sandwich and a Bloody Mary while waiting for your Metro North train.


Algonquin Round TableThe Blue Bar and the Round Table (44th between 5th and 6th Aves. at the Algonquin Hotel)
Who hasn’t heard of the Vicious Circle and the Algonquin Round Table? The Blue Bar and the Round Table have been New York literary institutions for almost a century. As Dorothy Parker famously quipped, “three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content, and sufficient champagne.” Having a glass or two here is a good way to start!


National Arts ClubThe National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South)
If you’re lucky enough to score an invite to the beautiful National Arts Club in Gramercy Park, take it! Not only do members have the use of a coveted key to Gramercy Park, New York’s only remaining private park, but they also have access to the beautiful bar and dining room in Samuel Tilden’s former mansion. The clubhouse also features a stunning stained glass ceiling and, as one might expect, art all around. Find more pictures of this beautiful club here. It is one of my favorite places in New York and I have fond memories of visiting with my late mother.


Image sources: Bemelmans, King Cole Bar, The Campbell Apartment, The Algonquin Round Table
Image of The National Arts Club taken by me

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