If you wish to commune with the ghosts of literary wits from the “roaring” 20’s, there’s no better place than at the newly renovated Algonquin Hotel Times Square, Autograph Collection, in midtown Manhattan. First opened in 1902, The Algonquin is the oldest continuously operating hotel in New York City.
With a new interior design by architectural firm, Stonehill Taylor, the Algonquin has earned raves for updating its style while still paying homage to the feisty characters who first put this place on the map a hundred years ago. As a result, the Algonquin is ideal for couples looking for a swanky, sexy, old-world-meets-new romantic boutique hotel near Times Square.
The Algonquin is also of the 8 Great Romantic Hotels in NYC That Are Sexy As Hell
History of the Algonquin, The Quintessential New York Hotel
The Algonquin Round Table
By the early 1920’s The Algonquin Hotel New York City, close to Broadway on the corner of West 44th street and 6th Ave., was a magnet for the lively, snarky, bantering writers and actors collectively known as the “Vicious Circle” – aka, the Algonquin Round Table.
Frank Case, manager, and eventually the owner of the Algonquin New York, had a passion for the arts. He hobnobbed with journalists and artists – enticing them to frequent his hotel.
Throughout the 1920’s, movers and shakers of the literary and acting world met for lunch daily at a circular table in the back of the Algonquin’s restaurant. They traded barbs, played pranks, drank each other under the table, and then reported their antics in national publications.
At a time when women were second-class citizens, the Algonquin Roundtable welcomed savvy, seductive, and oft-times naughty, women to the mix. Tallulah Bankhead, Blyth Daly, Edna Ferber, and, of course, Dorothy Parker, proved that women could be as badass and filthy-mouthed as men.
The provocative Parker, who pulled from a hat the word “horticulture” to use in a sentence, quipped, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”
Other original Table regulars included Harold Ross, (who went on to establish The New Yorker Magazine), Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, and more literary luminaries of the day.
A young Al Hirschfeld got his start drawing caricatures of celebrity visitors to the see-and-be-seen hotel. One of Hirschfeld’s most famous renderings –of the Algonquin Round Table – is on view in the hotel.
Hamlet the Cat
While many top hotels around the world may have canine greeters, the Algonquin Hotel is probably the only one with a lobby cat.
In 1922, the renowned stage actor, John Barrymore, (Drew’s Grandpa), was starring in Hamlet down the street. After the show, he strode into the Algonquin and came face to face with the resident feline, Rusty.
“What kind of wussy name is that for male cat?,” Barrymore was purported to have said. “He looks more like a Hamlet to me.” The name stuck throughout generations of hotel kitties. Today’s version is Hamlet VIII.
In later years, Lerner and Lowe wrote the score to My Fair Lady in an Algonquin Hotel suite equipped with a piano (purportedly working 24 hours a day). And whenever she came to town, Maya Angelou stayed here.
The Algonquin Hotel Today as Autograph Collection
First Impressions of the Renovated Algonquin Hotel NY
Outside, The Algonquin overhang sign hasn’t changed in decades: possibly since the hotel was built in 1902. For some reason, seeing it sent me into a fit of nostalgia – a feeling that no matter how modified inside, the Algonquin’s link to its literary past has been preserved. And, that’s a good thing.
The Algonquin staff, from doorman to reception, are not only friendly and warm – they also show immense pride in this historic place. Most can answer questions about the history, the art, and even Hamlet’s whereabouts.
Guests who haven’t been here in years might be surprised by the brightness, and utter whiteness of the lobby interior (save for the furniture). Some bemoan the change from the low-lit, dark oak paneled room where the Vicious Circle gathered.
But I felt that the soaring whitewashed interior was fresh and clean, without having sacrificed the integrity of the architectural elements (e.g. sculptured molding and Rococo-esque columns), which are still very much intact underneath the paint.
Check out the art on the wall behind the small, curved metallic reception desk. In keeping with the hotel’s literary past – a series of sculptures made from pages of books left behind by guests.
Right across from check-in is a cool windowed library: with artfully arranged shelves stocked with plants, typewriters, knickknacks, first edition books written by illustrious guests, and possibly, Hamlet the cat. It’s one of his favorite spots to hang out.
There are reminders of the Algonquin’s early days interspersed throughout the hotel. These include photos of the Vicious Circle, 1920’s covers of the New Yorker, and paintings and drawings of the Algonquin Roundtable at its liveliest.
The Blue Bar Restaurant and Lounge
The Algonquin’s stunning bar, glowing Avatar-blue, is the centerpiece of the newly renovated lobby. You could also call it the revamped Algonquin Round Table Restaurant.
Although purportedly haunted by past guests, the only spirits I saw at the Algonquin were the ones that poured forth from bottles in the lobby’s Blue Bar.
Drink in the ambiance by ordering the “Dorothy Parker” – a cocktail of gin, St. Germaine, fresh lemon juice, honey, and basil leaves. Enough of those, or others like it, and you might just see the ghost of Parker hovering around.
The Oak Room
Once famous as a cabaret venue, the Algonquin’s Oak Room, still cloaked in dark wood, is now used as a private event space.
Second Floor Fitness Room and Photos
The 2nd floor has been completely renovated. The fitness room, aka the Gym, is larger than expected for a small boutique hotel. It’s got several elliptical machines, treadmills, gym equipment, weights, and balls in sizeable space.
There’s also a wall of photos from the 1920’s, a quiet reading area, and the ice machine room.
Algonquin Hotel Times Square New York, Autograph Collection Renovated Rooms 2022-2023
Never resting on its laurels, the Algonquin Hotel Times Square New York, Autograph Collection updates its rooms every ten years, with a new renovation that began in 2022 into 2023.
Although not all rooms are redone yet, they are all lovely and pristine. Many have new, updated bathrooms. All have flat screen tvs.
Just the Facts
Rooms from $389, suites from $589 includes resort fees and taxes. Valet parking $90 per day.