By Terry Trucco
At a glance: The Iroquois New York, a historic small hotel with 114 rooms, is quiet, comfortable and unpretentious — ideal if you like being near Broadway theaters without constant reminders of how noisy, glitzy and touristy Times Square is. It should be even more appealing when a gut renovation of the lobby is completed.
With the demise in 2018 of the hotel’s long-time restaurant, the once-tiny lobby is expanding. The charming, pocket-size, wool-paneled library is also gaining space. Not to be outdone, Lantern’s Keep, the hotel’s charming speakeasy bar, will also get a chic new appearance. All look good if the framed renderings on view throughout the hotel are apt indicators. (Check them out on our newly revised slideshow.)
In the meantime, the areas under construction are walled off, leaving a small but functional makeshift lobby with niceties like complimentary lemon water and seating that’s ample enough if a tour bus doesn’t alight. Missing is the hotel’s signature grandfather clock — and its classic style.
Fortunately, rooms are nicely appointed, as is the smart little fitness room. A one-time budget hotel that welcomed residential guests — actor James Dean lived here before he hit it big in Hollywood — the Iroquois received a radical redo in 1997 that elevated it, and its prices, from budget to plush. This latest redo is much needed — the lobby was stylish but too small — and should bump up the luxury quotient another notch or two. We look forward to the finished product. In the meantime, be prepared for that makeshift lobby — and the promise of something better down the road.
Rooms: Not large but attractive; rooms were refurbished top to toe in 2018, and boast Frette bed linens and Anichini towels. Think traditional in the best sense — comfortable and well appointed with framed fashion photos shot in Manhattan. Beds, mostly kings, are surmounted by dark, rolled leather headboards. Contemporary dark wood Venetian blinds add a moody noir feel.
Bathrooms, clad in black and white marble, have large showers fronted by clear glass doors. Suites are spacious enough to hold a small business meeting.
Amenities: WiFi, shoe shine, Le Belge chocolates at bedtime, ice tea or cider upon arrival and morning coffee from a big silver urn in the lobby – all comp. The gym, carved from two former guest rooms, includes a pocket-size sauna and a bathroom with a shower so you can clean up before catching the plane.
Food and drink: Triomphe, the hotel’s romantic but pricey Nouvelle French restaurant has closed. But the area is jam-packed with places to eat including DB Bistro Moderne at the City Club Hotel next door as well as the restaurants at the Royalton, Sofitel and Algonquin on the same block. There’s also an agreeably priced Red Flame diner, a Greek classic, that’s steps away.
Surroundings: We love this block. Almost high-rise free, it contains six stylish hotels, clubs galore (Harvard, Penn, Mariners) and some appealing architecture straight out of a black-and-white movie or a Wee Gee photograph. Times Square and the Theater District, Grand Central Station, Bryant Park and the New York Public library are nearby. Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue shopping and Macy’s are slightly further afield but not far. Subways are several blocks away; bus stops are steps away.
Back story: The Algonquin had Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle, but the Iroquois had cool, ie: James Dean, who lived here from 1951 to ‘52, before the Frette sheets – and Rebel without a Cause. In less palmy days, the hotel restaurant was the memorabilia-filled James Dean bar.
Following the 1997 renovation, the photos, playbills and autographs landed in the James Dean Suite (room 803), now just a memory following this latest refurbishment. If you’re a fan, console yourself at www.jamesdeangallery.com.
Keep in mind: Closet space is minimal. Back rooms sometimes hear the hum of the generator next door at the Sofitel.