Matilda Meets the Marriott: The Algonquin Gets a New Partner

You’d never know it to look at them, but the Marriott Marquis, a brute, 1980s John  Portman behemoth, and the Algonquin, a demure, history-drenched Edwardian, share something besides easy proximity to Times Square.

This week the Algonquin became a Marriott hotel — sort of.

The unlikely bond comes courtesy of the Algonquin’s new affiliation with Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a new subset of Marriott International comprised of one-of-a-kind hotels that prize personality. The Algonquin, in business since 1902, has personality in spades. Long-gone literary lights like Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Alexander Woolcott hung out here. Matilda, the hotel’s prize-winning cat, still does and is often underfoot in the lobby.

Autograph Collection hotels don’t flaunt the Marriott name. So why bother with an affiliation? The collection fills a niche, it appears. In a recent blog, CEO Bill Marriott wrote that guests can now stay at “one of the city’s most unique and famous hotels” and earn Marriott Rewards points.

Indeed, the Algonquin’s sleek new Marriott-inflected web site touts 2,500 bonus points

if you stay any time through November 27. Too bad rates start at – yikes! — $499 a night (some rooms are teeny).

Marriott wields a big footprint, so we stopped by the Algonquin to see if I could spot anything that’s different. The hotel, typical of any century-plus survivor, has had its ups and downs. So I was impressed by the lobby’s clean, fresh appearance.

The wait staff, still dressed in classic gold-inflected black suits, seemed unchanged as did the jauntily stiped upholstery, last replaced in 2008. My turkey club sandwich was okay but not spectacular, as usual, and at $18, as pricey as ever. Same, too, the assortment of pre-theater guests, some in suits, some in tourist mufti, sipping drinks and blithely chatting. (I did see a first – a blue-suited business man who frowned and all but kicked Matilda as she sauntered by.)

Also new was the big bowl of mini Milky Ways, Snickers and Three Musketeers near the elevator. Was that all?

I asked a porter if he could point out any changes. He thought a minute then nodded toward a potted palm near the entrance and a pair of large white tureens on a table. Homey touches, if home is an Edwardian manse. Valet parking was also new, he said.

So long-time Algonquinites can relax — as long as that Matilda-hating businessman isn’t a Marriott executive.




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