If you’re visiting Manhattan on a weekday, you’re one of some four million people (including residents, commuters and visitors) on that 22-square-mile island. It’s the size and diversity of that population that makes America’s largest city so important as a business and entertainment hub, but sometimes one just needs to get away from the crowds. The Redbury New York, a 257-room (soon to be 259-r00m) hotel located on a quiet(er) side street in Midtown South, may be just the answer for those looking for some down time and personal service in between meetings, shopping, or NYC nightlife. That area of NYC is populated with smaller and older buildings as compared to the glass high rises found farther north and has a mix of smaller office buildings housing small businesses and residences. The Redbury New York’s address at 29 E. 29th St (with a secondary entrance at 30 E. 30th St.) is not only easy to remember, it’s on a relatively serene and narrow one-way street between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue South.
The Redbury New York is historic and homelike
The historic Redbury, designed by architect Robert Gibson in the Renaissance Revival style, itself was once a residence. The building opened in 1903 as the Martha Washington Hotel – the first hotel built in New York to provide housing for professional women, in response to the need for housing for the increasing number of independent women in American life. The number of women in the workforce increased by almost 64% between 1870 and 1902, In those years, it was difficult for women to check into a hotel when traveling alone and the available long-term residences for women were very expensive, had limited services and often enforced oppressive restrictions on women.
The Martha Washington opened with 500 permanent guest apartments and rooms for 150 transient guests. It was fully booked upon its opening and boasted such services a drug store, ladies’ tailor shop, millinery store, manicurist, chiropodist, ladies’ shoe polishing parlor, and a newspaper stand. No men were allowed above the ground floor – not even priests or doctors. Some of the famous women who were guests there included Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sara Teasdale, the Duchess of Marlborough, the actress Louise Brooks, editor Louise E. Dew, and film actress Veronica Lake. No men stayed in it until 1998. Since then it has been operated as a traditional hotel under several names including Hotel Thirty Thirty, Hotel Lola, and King & Grove New York. It was designated a historical landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for its architectural and historical significance in 2012 It was renovated in 2014 and briefly renamed the Martha Washington Hotel. New owners bought the hotel in 2015 and in 2016 it was dubbed The Redbury New York. It is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.
Sandwiched as it is between other buildings on two narrow streets (the building runs from 29th to 30th streets), there’s not much natural light in the building, but instead a feeling of warmth and coziness. Earth tones dominate, with dark reddish-brown wood and burgundy-colored paint dominating the décor. The lobby and front desk are small but inviting. The front desk staff, in this reviewer’s experience, were both professional and welcoming (as was the person in the reservations office who showed concern and problem-solving ability for a question prior to this guest’s arrival). Then, a room service bellman came to the welcoming King Suite, to make sure the mini-bar was adequately stocked and to see if we had any questions.
A King Suite to hole up in
The King Suite would be a lovely home for an extended stay or even a shorter stay that required an above-average time in the hotel. It has a small living room complete with wide-screen TV, and between the living room and bedroom, a separate work area/office with a desk and free wi-fi. Business travelers with work to do in between meetings or leisure travelers wanting to keep up with people back home will find this mini-office a great space in which to focus – and keep work space separate from sleeping or leisure space.
The bedroom has a huge, comfortable King bed with ample pillows and another wide screen TV just beyond the foot of the bed. The printed channel lineup for the TV didn’t match up with the actual lineup – and the TV channel navigation itself was a little difficult to navigate. With patience, though, one could find what one was looking for. The phone did not seem to work, which was a problem in arranging for a wake-up call, but that appeared to be a temporary and fixable problem.
There’s a good-sized closet in the bedroom, offering plenty of room for baggage, hanging clothes, shopping purchase or other supplies. Above the bed are vintage photos and posters that celebrate the history of the building and of New York City. Artwork includes things like a vintage TWA Airline ad promoting travel to New York, copies of letters written by historical figures and photos of the wall-tiled identification of the nearby subway station on 28th St, as well as city landmarks like the Chrysler Building and the Brooklyn Bridge.
In the bathroom, one will find completely new fixtures, giving a contemporary design to this vintage room. It’s stocked with all the traditional amenities like shampoo, hair conditioner and more. Plumbing and fixtures are new and worked perfectly.
Standard rooms have the same color schemes and décor as do the King suites, but without all the extra King-sized space. Guest room floors are warmly lit, with backlit historical posters near the elevators. The hotel is comfortably quiet – neither deserted, not crowded – and with just 256 guest rooms it’s unlikely the atmosphere ever tends toward the chaotic.
Undoubtedly, the liveliest area of The Redbury New York is the restaurant Marta (presumably named in honor of the original namesake Martha Washington). Marta features gourmet pizzas as well as antipasti and desserts. The pizzas are pricy- no Little Caesar’s $5 take and go specials here. Most are in the $20-$30 range, but there’s the Tartufo Nero – a $60 pizza with mozzarella, Fontina, Cremini Mushrooms and Perigord Black Truffles. The Marta seems to be busy as early as 6 PM and as late as midnight.
The Redbury New York boasts two other Italian-themed eating and drinking places. Vini e Fritti is a Roman-style apertivi bar, offering wines, cocktails and small plates like fritto misto, housemade straciatella, and marinated vegetables. Caffe Marchia, inspired by the neighborhood coffee bars of Rome, serves a selection of proprietary coffees along with baked goods and sandwiches from morning through early evening.
The Redbury New York neighborhood
The Redbury New York is in a section of Midtown South called “NoMad,” for “north of Madison Square Park.” The main attraction of this immediate area is the selection of restaurants – small, mid-sized and larger – that cater to local businesspeople and residents. While there aren’t a substantial number of sights to see in the immediate area, the distinctive Flatiron Building is just across the street from Madison Square Park and the United Nations Building is just a mile away.
Nothing in Manhattan is too far from anything else in Manhattan, though and The Redbury is in between a lot of enticing areas. It’s just about one mile southwest of Times Square and Broadway theaters, one mile north of Union Square’s shops, restaurants and NYU vibe, not much farther than that from Greenwich Village, and about a mile from a Water Taxi terminal that can take you across the East River to the hipster enclave of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It’s also easily accessible to La Guardia Airport and less than a mile from Grand Central Terminal.
Whatever the reason for a trip to NYC, travelers will be close to their business or pleasure venues at The Redbury. And while they will find respite from the buzz of the city, thanks to The Redbury’s comfortable, stylish décor, semi-secluded location and personal, attentive staff. , they will be connected to the history and traditions of America’s largest city.
Top and bottom slider photos provided by Redbury New York. Middle slider photos by John Olson.
Read reviews and previews of Broadway in New York plays in walking distance from Redbury Hotel here.
About the Author:
John Olson is an arts carnivore who is particularly a love of music, theatre and film. He studied piano, trombone and string bass into his college years, performing in bands and orchestras in high school and college, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While working as an advertising agency account manager, he began a second career as an arts journalist and is now principal of John Olson Communications, a marketing and public relations business serving arts and entertainment clients.
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