fbpx vie magazine subscribe button

High Society

By Sallie Lewis Longoria | Photography courtesy of Rosewood Hotels

On a dreary April day in New York City, I walked into The Carlyle at Seventy-Sixth Street and Madison Avenue. Inside, marigold-colored sofas and large pots filled with flowering branches reflected off the polished marble floors. Walking past the Gallery, where afternoon tea service was under way, I entered Bemelmans Bar and met the hotel’s Texas-born director of communications, Jennifer Cooke.

“I love this hotel,” she says. “It’s magical; you never know what’s going to happen.” Over the years, much has transpired in the world, but The Carlyle remains a paragon of old-world grace and timeless sophistication.

Its story began in 1930 when banker and real estate developer Moses Ginsberg opened a residential hotel in New York City. The property, designed by Bien and Prince, was named by Ginsberg’s daughter, Diana, for Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle. With the lingering impact of the stock market crash, Ginsberg sold the property to the Lyleson Corporation; over the decades, the hotel changed hands a few more times before Rosewood Hotels and Resorts acquired it in 2001.

Within the thirty-five-story landmarked building, design legends such as Dorothy Draper, Thierry Despont, Mark Hampton, and Renzo Mongiardino have layered their lasting influences. With its ninetieth anniversary coming up in 2020, The Carlyle is getting a refresh, thanks to esteemed New York–based designer Tony Chi. Chi and his team are spearheading the renovation of 155 of the hotel’s 187 rooms, which are anticipated for completion next year.

Many artists have also contributed to The Carlyle’s hallowed fabric. Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the beloved Madeline children’s book series, painted the famous, whimsical walls at Bemelmans Bar. Commissioned in 1947, the legendary murals—the artist’s only surviving commission open to the public—depict a playful snapshot of Central Park in all four seasons.

Neighboring Bemelmans is Café Carlyle, a classic and cozy cabaret-style club with murals of its own. Painted by Oscar-winning French artist Marcel Vertès, the pale blue and canary backdrop is animated with dancing figures, musicians with stringed instruments, and painters en plein air. In this room, Woody Allen has played the clarinet with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band nearly every Monday since 1996. Countless others, including Bobby Short, Alan Cumming, Isaac Mizrahi, and Judy Collins, have performed there since its inception in 1955.

While these famous places have wooed patrons for more than half a century, it’s the people behind them that make The Carlyle the favored hotel of high society.

“We are like family,” says Cooke of the four-hundred-person staff. Together, The Carlyle family is committed to providing genuine, personalized service unmatched in today’s hospitality industry. So committed are The Carlyle’s staff members that they rarely leave.

Together, The Carlyle family is committed to providing genuine, personalized service unmatched in today’s hospitality industry.

Take, for example, Hector Ruiz, the hotel ambassador whose gracious manners and intuitive care have fostered many loyal relationships over his three-decade career. Then there’s the bellman, Danny Harnett, who at the age of eighteen began working in the package room back when President Kennedy stayed at the hotel; this year marks Harnett’s fifty-sixth anniversary at The Carlyle. Hector Patino, a fifteen-year veteran, is the painter on staff. Among his many jobs, he maintains Bemelmans’s murals. Patino, along with Cooke, Harnett, Ruiz, and the numerous elevator operators, receptionists, doormen, front-desk agents, cooks, bartenders, servers, housekeepers, and more, are the beating heart and living soul of The Carlyle.

“The hotel is really more like a private club,” says Cooke. “When you’re coming here as a guest, the staff gets to know you in a much more personal way.” Personalized touches appear in myriad forms, from guests’ favorite flowers arranged on arrival to customized linens. Couples married at the hotel and guests who have stayed more than twenty-five times receive monogrammed pillowcases, which the hotel holds on-site for future stays. The Carlyle’s housekeeping department embroiders golden initials on more than 1,200 pillowcases every year—a telling testament to the property’s high percentage of repeat clientele.

Today, The Carlyle continues to serve in part as a residential hotel, nearly nine decades after it opened as one. In addition to the 187 guest rooms, there are just under forty privately owned apartments here, making it one of the most coveted addresses in New York City. Discretion is a top priority here, and the owners of this prime real estate know that it is a precious commodity not easily come by.

The Carlyle, a timeless landmark hotel in New York City’s Upper East Side, celebrates its ninetieth anniversary in 2020
The Carlyle, a timeless landmark hotel in New York City’s Upper East Side, celebrates its ninetieth anniversary in 2020. | Photo by Andrew Moore

“It’s all about privacy,” says Cooke, who also shares that confidentiality agreements are mandatory for the hotel staff. This steadfast commitment to protecting guests’ privacy has made The Carlyle a safe, secure home and hideaway for the rich and famous.

The late Hubert de Givenchy called Apartment 1706 his own, and the space is now part of the guest-room inventory. Princess Diana stayed in Room 2209—also known as the Royal Suite—a sprawling, regal room with grand double-height ceilings. Movie stars, musicians, royals, politicians, business tycoons, and every American president since Truman have come here, as depicted in Always at The Carlyle, the 2018 documentary film that Cooke helped produce. Every night, as the moon rises over the Upper East Side, stars shine down on The Carlyle Hotel while other stars sleep soundly within it.

Back at Bemelmans, I bade adieu to Jennifer Cooke and ordered a glass of chilled French wine. The pianist, Robert Mosci, began his evening set as patrons clustered around lamp-lit, black-glass tables. Beneath the room’s twenty-four-karat gold leaf ceiling, the scene was aglow with shared conversations and secret histories. As I took in my muraled surroundings, I felt like a child again, biking in Central Park, jumping in the snow, skating on rinks of ice, and riding in horse-drawn carriages.

In my reverie, I traveled back through time, dreaming of the glamour of New York City in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, The Carlyle balances this soulful nostalgia with every comfort for the modern consumer. Perhaps that’s why it draws such a wide-ranging clientele, both local New Yorkers and tourists from far-flung places. While trends and fleeting popularity may flicker at other hotels, The Carlyle’s flame burns steady and bright, lighting the path for the ninety years to come.

— V —


Sallie Lewis Longoria is a Texas-based freelance writer. She has a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University and is currently at work on her first novel.

Read Responsibly

December 2023, Holiday Issue, Christmas, VIE Magazine, Lisa Burwell, Cover, Gift Guide, Holidays
Marisol Gullo, Not Too Shabby, Home, Decor, Interior Design, Santa Rosa Beach, Churchill Oaks
VIE Magazine September 2023 Jay Mercado
VIE Magazine - The Art & Design Issue November 2021
VIE Magazine January 2021 Special Commemorative Edition
VIE Magazine September 2020 Wanderlust Issue, Fancy Camps, The Idea Boutique
VIE Magazine August 2020 Art & Culture Issue, Nathan Alan Yoakum Art
VIE Magazine - Architecture & Design Issue - July 2020
VIE Magazine - Decor and Home Issue - June 2020
VIE Magazine May 2020 Entertainment Issue, Leslie Odom Jr
VIE Magazine - April 2020 Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine March 2020 The Fashion Edit, VONDOM, Alys Beach Fl, Digital Graffiti, Tres Chic, isidro dunbar Modern Interiors, Digital Graffiti Festival
VIE Magazine February 2020 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Travel Issue - January 2020 - Tanzania Safari Cover
VIE Magazine - Women's Issue - December 2019 - Tina Brown Cover
VIE NOV19 Goodness Issue
VIE Magazine, September 2019 Art & Culture Issue, Paul Hanninen
VIE Magazine - August 2019 - The Architecture and Design Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2019 - The Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - June 2019 - Fashion Edit
VIE Magazine - May 2019 - Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine - April 2019 - The Health & Wellness Issue
VIE Magazine - Special Entertainment Edition - March 2019
VIE Magazine February 2019 Luxury Homes & Technology Issue with Robbie Antonio of Revolution Precrafted
VIE Magazine - January 2019 - Southern Sophisticate Issue Cover
VIE Magazine - Special Anniversary Travel Edition - December 2018
VIE Magazine - The Goodness Issue - November 2018
VIE Magazine - The Art & Culture Issue - October 2018
VIE Magazine - Home & Garden Issue - September 2018
VIE Magazine - August 2018 Animal Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2018 Architecture & Design Issue - Subscribe to the magazine!
VIE Magazine - June 2018 Travel & Tech Issue
VIE Magazine - May 2018 Couture Issue
VIE Magazine - The Culinary Issue - April 2018 Cover - Chef James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
VIE Magazine - The Entertainers Issue - March 2018
VIE Magazine - February 2018 Destination Travel Issue
VIE Magazine - January 2018 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine, The Sophisticate Issue, December 2017
VIE Magazine - November 2017 Art & Culture Issue
VIE Magazine - October 2017 Home & Garden Issue
VIE Magazine | September 2017 | The Stories and Storytellers Issue
VIE Magazine - The Adventure Issue - August 2017
VIE Magazine - July 2017 - Art & Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - The Voyager Issue - June 2017
VIE magazine 2017 March-April Cover South Walton Fashion Week
VIE Magazine - January/February 2017 - The Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Nov/Dec 2016 The Sophisticate Issue
christian siriano vie magazine september october 2016 vie magazine
the modern minimalist issue
the culinary and couture issue march april 2016 vie magazine
the voyager issue alys beach vie magazine january february 2016
cultural issue vie magazine november december 2015
home and garden issue vie magazine september october 2015
the art and style issue vie magazine july august 2015
the wedding issue 2015 May June vie magazine
the food and fashion issue vie magazine march april 2015
the travel issue vie magazine january february 2015
the music issue vie magazine 2014 november december
The Animal Issue vie magazine september october 2014
the home and garden issue vie magazine july august 2014
the wedding issue vie magazine may june 2014
emeril lagasse food and fashion vie magazine
the men's issue january february 2014
the music issue november december 2013 vie magazine
the home and garden issue 2013 october september
the wedding issue vie magazine july august 2013
the artist issue may june 2013 vie magazine
the food and fashion issue march april 2013
the men's issue january february 2013 vie magazine
The Holiday Issue
the love issue july august 2012
the all american summer may june 2012
the entertainment issue march april 2012
the fashion issue vie magazine winter 2011
the home and garden issue vie magazine fall 2011
the anniversary edition vie magazine summer 2011
the wedding issue vie magazine spring 2011
vie magazine the holiday issue 2010 Dec
vintage swimsuits vie magazine 2010 Fall
judith march designer vie magazine summer 2010
wedding giveaway vie magazine spring 2010
holiday gift guide vie magazine winter 2009
emarketing explosion vie magazine fall 2009
tribute to mother's day vie magazine summer 2009
james and robert redford vie magazine spring 2009
zz top vie magazine fall winter 2008
project dreams vie magazine new york fashion week
Sign-up for VIEmail

Sign up for VIEmail