Historic hotels are like a tonic for the imagination. It’s invigorating to relax in a hotel room that’s decades old, wondering what’s changed over the years. Were private bathrooms carved out of spaces that weren’t included in plans from an era where they weren’t standard? Were suites converted to public spaces, and then back again? Did the spaces that past guests occupied ultimately inspire their contributions to the continuum of human existence?
At The Lexington Hotel in Manhattan, we know the answer for one space, and for one famous guest whose face remains one of the world’s most recognized, even today, more than a half-century after her death.
Following their wedding in January of 1954, Marilyn Monroe and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio moved into suite 1806 at The Lexington and were in residence there that fall when Monroe filmed the iconic skirt-blowing scene from The Seven Year Itch just a few blocks away. The spectacle (the shoot was staged mostly as a promotional stunt, although some shots were used in the finished film) enraged DiMaggio and the resulting argument is said to have led to Monroe filing for divorce just weeks later.
Guests can book The Norma Jean Suite today, along with a number of other specialty suites throughout the hotel themed for the places and people that color the storied past of the hotel and its Midtown East provenance. The nearby Lady Ella Suite is an homage to Ella Fitzgerald, who was noted to be a regular performer in the surrounding jazz clubs. The Hawaiian Room Suite is an homage to the longtime tiki bar of the same name that delighted New Yorkers from the Depression on through the Johnson administration.
Each of those suites has what is perhaps the pinnacle amenity among Manhattan digs: a private terrace. The Lady Ella Suite has one that opens to both the master bedroom and living room and is marked by potted plants and plus seating. It doesn’t take too much imagination to step out on that balcony and envision Marilyn stepping out on the adjacent one, surveying the city below, her mind perhaps sizing up the fateful direction of her young marriage during that summer of 1954.
Another unique suite is dedicated to the history of the hotel itself. The Conservatory Suite has design touches particular to the era of the hotel’s 1929 opening and Schultze & Weaver, the team behind the design of not only The Lexington, but a host of other grand hotels of the age, including what is now the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles as well as several Manhattan legends: The Waldorf-Astoria, The Pierre and The Sherry-Netherland. The room has plenty of “garden” design touches, and the crown jewel is undoubtedly the glass-walled terrace where guests take in wraparound skyline views protected from the elements.
Guests not wishing to splurge for one of the six specialty suites will find a selection of standard rooms and suites to meet their needs during their stay. Plush bedding, marble baths and certain jazz-age touches are woven into every guest accommodation, wholly appropriate with The Autograph Collection’s brand promise “exactly like nothing else.”
The lobby is almost Gatsby-esque in its adherence to the design elements of Jazz Age excesses, although modern touches, like the projection screens behind the front desk showing films from famous guests, add a pleasant distraction. I certainly found it hard to listen to all the information my front desk agent was sharing while giggling to the scene from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where Marilyn Monroe’s Lorelei Lee finds herself stuck in a porthole onboard the Ile de France.
When it’s time to imbibe, The Stayton Room, just off the lobby, is a haven for fans of a well-poured cocktail and live jazz. Riffs on favorites like the Reverse Vesper (Cocchi Americano Bianco subs in for Lillet Blanc in this classic martini) and new concoctions based on the hotel’s past (like the bourbon-based Godfrey, named after the radio caster who also has a themed specialty suite) make for high-style happy hours or nightcaps. Champagne fans can purchase a token from the bartender to use in the Moet & Chandon vending machine in the lobby, which also dispenses champagne flutes.
Breakfast buffets in the Stayton Room are lavish, although the furnishings are much better designed for intimate cocktails than a morning buffet spread. Nevertheless, it’s bountiful and gives guests yet another opportunity to enjoy the lovely space.
Full to the brim with historic themes playfully imbued in old-is-new-again design and thoughtful amenities, The Lexington easily fulfills The Autograph’s brand promise—the historic color of the neighborhood is so dyed into the brickwork that guests won’t find a hotel like this anywhere else.
I’ve seen rooms from $99 per night plus tax during the low season; rates vary by season and availability.
The hotel levies an NYC Destination Fee of $25 per night plus tax, which includes a $20 daily beverage credit for use in The Stayton Room, a $30 Daily laundry credit, unlimited still and sparkling water from the Viveo Water Bar, coffee and tea in the lobby 24 hours, WiFi, unlimited local, long-distance, and international phone calls, 2 Citi Bike passes per day and 500 bonus points per night for Bonvoy Gold or Platinum members.
The lobby, Stayton Room, front desk video displays, champagne vending machine, and suite terraces all make for good social engagement.
Good to Know
The hotel has dedicated dog-friendly rooms for guests arriving with dogs under 85 pounds. A $150 per-stay cleaning fee applies.
Valet is the only parking option, starting at $65 plus tax per day.
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