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The High Line Hotel
180 10th Ave., New York, thehighlinehotel.com. 60 rooms from $275 (U.S.).
If you did a Venn diagram of Portland, Ore., and Oxbridge (a portmanteau of both Oxford and Cambridge sensibilities) the intersection might well be the High Line Hotel.
Guests approach this atmospheric, 19th-century red-brick building through a courtyard where the first thing you’ll see is a food truck serving Intelligentsia coffee surrounded by locals tapping on their laptops. Inside the small, dimly lit lobby you’ll find velvet furniture, industrial brick walls and Edwardian tiles. The contrast is striking.
Located in Chelsea, the High Line is tucked into a Theological Seminary complex. While part of the building is used and owned by the Episcopal Church, the rest is now a 60-room hotel that looks like it was furnished by an ecclesiastic with an eye for cool vintage finds.
In lieu of a reception desk, staff are stationed around a small pulpit in the middle of the room. It was hard to tell the black-clad staff from the equally monochromatic guests as they mingled and chatted with each other. While the lack of standard reception/guest divide made check-in a little awkward, I did enjoy the bar at the back of the lobby, despite baristas sporting the studied (superior?) look of those who slow-pour. At least one took the time to recommend a favourite pastry prepared by “our Persian pâtissier.”
The hotel is right in the heart of Chelsea’s indie galleries and great restaurants. Arguably, it’s the best place in New York right now for more monied hipsters. And the High Line, the elevated freight rail line that was transformed into a public park and is a masterpiece of urban planning, is right across the street.
Gothic funky. Design firm Roman and Williams scoured antiques markets along the East Coast. My room had a working 1920s rotary phone at my bedside (staff said some younger clients have asked what it is) and, like the rest of the hotel, was furnished with a mix of Oriental rugs and Edwardian sofas, Arts & Crafts wallpaper, stained-glass windows and many serious hardcovers on the bookshelves. The window of my room looked onto the cloistered garden. The books and decorative fireplace were so welcoming, I toyed with the idea of spending my entire New York visit in the room, reading and writing metaphysical letters home. There was even an antique embosser on my desk!
The quiet, expansive courtyard and its lovely café. It’s a spacious hideaway in the heart of New York where you’ll find retro bikes to borrow and a 1960s Citroen coffee truck (Intelligentsia’s first East Coast outpost).
Eat in or eat out?
Out. There are great restaurants all up and down nearby 10th Avenue. A champagne bar in the courtyard of the hotel (not open during my visit) now offers small plates for a late supper or drink. For breakfast, I wandered over to Murray’s Bagels on 8th Avenue and enjoyed a tourist-free, New York morning watching residents walking their dogs along brownstone-lined streets, and gallery staff unloading art for new shows.
Whom you’ll meet
Almost to a person, the Chelsea art crowd. The local fashion media like to hold parties in the seminary Gothic refectory and you’ll likely overhear just-arrived guests talking about the newest show at the Gagosian Gallery.
If I could change one thing
My mindset: I had to keep reminding myself that this hotel was more funky than frilly. My bed was kind of soft and the cotton sheets were nice, but the walls were not soundproof. I could hear doors opening and closing in the hallway and the somewhat noisy air conditioner didn’t muffle the sound. And yet, the location and unique atmosphere make it worth the creaky inconveniences.
The writer received a reduced rate from the hotel.