Monday, November 17, 2008

Hotel Roger Williams

131 Madison Ave • 212-448-7000

In the low-key Murray Hill neighborhood, this hotel offers stylish, well-proportioned rooms at a modest price. Newly renovated in 2005, the hotel’s public areas enjoy a sleek modern look that is cozy, not cold. Honey-tone maple paneled walls and plank floors, subtle modern art and chrome accents create an inviting look in the light-filled double height lobby. The small lounge beside reception takes in the prime Madison Avenue views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Dining is up on the mezzanine overlooking the lobby. The breakfast here is a delicatessen-like affair, with selections from some of the city’s best grocers and bakeries.

The guest rooms boast eye-popping primary colors. Quilts top the beds, and modernist table and floor lamps add interest. The rooms are arranged with platform beds, desks, dual-line phones with voice mail and data ports, flat-screen TVs with DVD and CD players, mini-bars and coffee makers. High-speed Internet access is standard. The small baths have translucent glass walls and stainless-steel sinks with exposed plumbing. The smallest Classic rooms are 200 sq ft, but for a nominal up-tick in rates, the larger Superior rooms are a better bet. In warm months, book one of the limited number of Garden Terrace rooms, which are more spacious units appended with furnished terraces with city views. The small but helpful staff offers attentive service. Hip thirty-somethings comprise the lion's share of the clientele. Over sixteen floors, the 196 rooms are housed in a 1928 building. Tip: check out the rest room near the lobby level elevator; you'll have an entirely new concept of orange.

Trivia: Formerly an apartment house (Roger Williams Apartments) the property takes its name from the founder of Rhode Island, who was a champion of religious liberty, an interesting association, since the Madison Avenue Baptist Church is next door. Author Henry Miller stayed here when he was living in New York in 1935, pursuing Anais Nin; he finished his novel Black Spring while in residence. Across the street, at No. 120, is the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, founded in 1884 as the Lyceum Theatre School of Acting. The school later moved to this fine 1907 Stanford White designed edifice, originally built for the Colony Club, a private organization for women from old-school high society. Academy alumni include Cecil B. DeMille, Edward G. Robinson, Spencer Tracy, Rosalind Russell, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Grace Kelly, Anne Bancroft, Robert Redford, Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes.

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