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Recommended Reading 1
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Black Tie International - Recommended Reading
The Barclay Hotel
 


 
 

The Barclay Hotel:

A Haven for Cognoscenti
With Cachet

 

Review by Beatrice Williams-Rude

 

Attention! Connoisseurs of luxe living, those who wish they were, history aficionados and name droppers: Here is a book for you.

“The Barclay Hotel,”  is another fascinating story about a hotel by Ward Morehouse III, this time with a co-author, social and cultural  historian Cindy Gueli.


 

   This is no mere description of the hotel’s amenities, but rather an account of the role it played in social history, which reflected the fortunes of New York City.
 

   The authors present the Barclay in the context of the other lavish hostelries in its neighborhood and of the events that
shaped it.
 

   In the age of opulence it chose graciousness over glitter, privacy over public preening.


   The 14-story residential hotel opened in 1926, the last of the four “terminal hotels,” which connected to Grand Central Station. The others were the Commodore, the Roosevelt and the Biltmore—all reflecting the great age of railroads.
 

  When building Fifth Ave. marble palaces became  passé, a badge of status became living in a hotel, something with which author Ward Morehouse III is well aware, having grown up in such accommodations.

 
The list of “names” who resided at the Barclay is a virtual Who’s Who of the last
90 years. The book takes note of the other railway hotels as well as Barclay neighbors— Katharine Hepburn, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz among them.

 
 The book is chock full of anecdotes that make for fascinating dinner conversation. Who knew that Jack Dempsey was a devotee of The New York Times? Or that Perle Mesta had wanted to be an opera singer and came to be the hostess with the mostess to Metropolitan Opera stars from Rosa Ponselle to Ezio Pinza!


  
Earnest Hemingway’s work and carousing are hilariously reported. At the other end of the social spectrum are Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.  and a legion of Vanderbilts.
 (A genealogy chart would be helpful.)

  There’s a particularly interesting section on Caswell-Massey, much more than “chemists to the stars.” The apothecary opened in 1752 and claimed George Washington as a  customer. Its space in the Barclay included a soda fountain where at various time could be found Judy Garland, Helen Hayes, Anita Loos, Lawrence Olivier, and legendary aviatrix Amelia Earhart. 
 

  A regular Caswell-Massey customer
was Greta Garbo, who kept buying tortoise-shell combs.
 

  The Barclay Hotel provided tasteful elegance, a classic oasis away from the madding crowds. The Cornell Club occupied the third floor for decades and was  provided a separate entrance away from the main doors.
 

  A Barclay ad from the 1970’s says:
“New York is breakfast with your banker, dinner with your lawyers and trying to keep a hundred securities analysts from having you for lunch.”
 

The Barclay was sold and resold, at one point becoming the flagship for the InterContinental chain, but as of 2001 was again named the Barclay. Although surrounded by glittering skyscrapers, the Barclay remained true to its roots offering Old World elegance and warmth.

 

The reviewer, Beatrice Williams-Rude, is the author of “Misadventures of a Would-Be Muse,” a mostly mirthful memoir of her days in the theater.

 

joyce brooks, gerard mckeon.  photo by:  rose billings

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