It’s true what they say about Downtown: the lights are brighter there. While the eponymous Petula Clark song had Midtown Manhattan in mind, actual downtown – New York’s Financial District – is newly abuzz. No longer just a place to work, it has everything you come to NYC for. And thanks to The Beekman, that now includes a cinematically stylish boutique hotel.
Thompson Hotels’ newly restored property is a sanctuary nestled in among the buzz. It’s a cosy, bohemian picture of a much older, warmer Gotham, and it’s the perfect place to wind down after a busy day or night in the city.
The building dates back to the end of the 19th century – it’s officially a landmark, a turreted, red-brick example of the Queen Anne style. Once upon a time, it was a library, its reading rooms frequented by Edgar Allan Poe. It feels of that time, too, benefiting from all of the luxury and ambition that characterised that joyous period in New York history. Thanks to design studio Martin Brudnizki, responsible for the interiors of hot London venues including The Ivy, Dean Street Townhouse, J Sheekey and Sexy Fish, that history is still in place, but spruced up with the slick looks you’d expect from a luxury NY hotel.
From the moment you step into the lobby with its vintage rugs draped over the reception desk, it’s clear what kind of place this is: grand but far from haughty, with well-informed staff eager to help and chat. Across the tiled floor is the main part of the hotel, revolving around a central, pyramidal atrium. At the bottom, with the New York sky in view, is a sumptuously styled restaurant. Meticulously restored, it gives a feel of how the building must have been when it first opened.
The 287 bedrooms also revolve around the atrium: corridors on each floor have grand arches and wrought iron balustrades looking down into the space below. Inside the rooms, without the same sense of attentive restoration, there are some things that feel a little out of place: the mismatched furniture and art in the rooms is nice, but there are missteps like the strange family portrait in my room that felt better suited to the set of a horror film.
The bathroom settles any feelings of dread, though: spacious and all white, it’s the perfect place to wash off the muck of the New York day, before you settle down. And whatever you think of the jumble of vintage decor, the supremely comfortable bed will have you rested and ready to head back out among the city slickers in the morning.
There’s also a smart restaurant from TV chef Tom Colicchio, and another from Downtown restaurateur Keith McNally.
Around The Beekman, you’re very much in the heart of things – though possibly not the things that first brought you to New York. The hotel’s in the middle of the financial, legal and political heart of the city, meaning that it has some of the same moneyed blandness that blights places like London’s Canary Wharf and Paris’s La Défense.
It’s also quite literally in the shadow of the World Trade Center, which is just a few minutes' walk away. As well as the building itself, and its jaw-dropping views from the One World Observatory, there you’ll also find the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Santiago Calatrava’s dinosaur-like Oculus building, inside which is a train station and a shopping centre.
If that’s all a little too new, City Hall and St Paul’s Chapel – both beautiful, historic buildings – are moments from the hotel.
The area is looking less financial and much more trendy these days, with lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. Not that there’s any need to stay in the “New Downtown”, because one virtue of The Beekman’s location is how easy it is to get anywhere else. It’s surrounded by subway stops, all heading in various directions to the rest of New York City, while the Brooklyn Bridge is just a moment’s walk away.
The Beekman, 123 Nassau St, New York, NY 10038, USA (001 212 233 2300; thompsonhotels.com).
Double rooms start at $423, excluding breakfast.
Access: 14 wheelchair-adapted rooms