I don't recommend staying in Midtown if you visit New York City the weekend before Christmas. Wall-to-wall tourists make for slow-going (and a serious lack of personal space) on the streets, especially if you're making the trek from the Bryant Park Holiday Fair to Rockefeller Center. That being said, I CAN recommend a wonderful mid-town hotel that will quickly make the hubbub a distant memory; there's also a story behind my admiration of the place.
Usually, I do my share of the research involved in selecting a hotel, restaurant, or travel destination. This time, my husband was the one who booked our trip, while I busily prepared for the holiday. "We're staying at The Refinery Hotel," he announced. "It's pretty new." When we arrived there a few weeks later, I still didn't know what we'd stumbled upon.
We walked through a beautiful arched entry, and up to the front desk, behind which hung an interesting wall sculpture. The modern decor was serene and inviting. Once in our room, we found a flyer, laid out like an old newspaper page, describing the property.
The Refinery Hotel, it said, was built on the site of the old Colony Arcade Millinery Factory. Wow, I thought. My grandmother had worked in a millinery factory in the 1920's when she first arrived in New York from Sicily. I noticed the writing desk in the room had a cast iron sewing machine base.
I decided to visit the front desk to find out more about the Colony Arcade Building. Surely there had been more than one millinery factory in Manhattan. "This was the only one in New York, Ma'am," the staff associate said.
It was only then that I began to see the subtle touches the designers had specified to pay homage to the building's history. Along with the sewing machine bases, I realized the medallion in the center of the runner in the lobby had a beautiful custom design.
And the staff associates were wearing these wonderful pins....
As for that wall sculpture behind the check-in area? When I got closer, I saw that it was an artful arrangement of individual tools, which I later found were used to make flowers for the ornate hats that were once created in this place.
It was right about at this time that I got a little teary, thinking of my beloved Nonni and how she spent a great deal of her youth in this very building. She died in 2004 at age 104, and I still have her old Singer in my studio.
In fact, she's probably the reason why I love to do what I do.
Here's hoping everyone is finding his or her own oasis, and staying warm!