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Essex House, 160 Central Park South

Between Sixth Avenue & Seventh Avenue

Carter Horsley
Reviewed by Carter Horsley
Carter Horsley Carter B. Horsley, a former journalist for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Post. Mr. Horsley is also the editorial director of CityRealty.com.
 

This impressive, Art Deco-style tower at 160 Central Park South would be one of the most distinguished buildings along Central Park South were it not for its big rooftop sign that proclaims its name, the Essex House.

The 42-story building, which was designed by Frank Grad, was originally called the Park Tower and then the Seville Towers before becoming the Essex House Hotel.

From the sidewalk, of course, the rooftop sign is not visible but the building's handsome marquee and large Art Deco-style, gilded decorative elements along its broad base are.

The building has changed hands several times in recent decades and now operates as both a hotel and a residential condominium. It now has about 247 residential condominium apartments and about 509 hotel rooms.

In October 2012, the hotel was renamed the J.W. Marriott Essex House, reflecting the fact that it was purchased by Strategic Hotels and Resorts, a Chicago-based investment fund that contracted Marriott International to operate the hotel.

Bottom Line

The stunning vistas that J.W. Marriott Essex House has of Central Park, Fifth Avenue and Central Park West are matched by an extremely impressive and large lobby that is adjacent to a large and handsome restaurant. Residents can access all of the luxury hotel’s services. This is definitely a prime location, very close to many of Manhattan’s glories such as Carnegie Hall, Bergdorf Goodman and the Whole Foods store at the Time Warner Center.

Description

This block, between the Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue, is the most elegant on Central Park South as it boasts the great and distinctive mid-block rooftops of the Trump Parc building and the Hampshire House and the imposing Italian-Renaissance-palazzo-style New York Athletic Club.

With the elegant stores of Fifth Avenue and the boutiques of Madison Avenue nearby to the east and the varied attractions of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle just to the west and the Lincoln Center district a few blocks further away to the north, the location of J.W. Marriott Essex House is very prime.

The beige-colored brick tower has numerous setbacks on its front and side façades that give it a sense of monumentality. 

The base of the building has some attractive Art Deco-style decoration and a few windows with curved corners. The middle of the tower’s shaft, however, is unadorned. The top floor facing Central Park, however, has three, large stepped elements that, unfortunately, are a bit overwhelmed by the six-story-high, red neon sign atop the building.

The building has a very large entrance marquee and some windows with curved upper corners.

Both the hotel, formerly operated by the Westin and Jumeirah chains, and the apartments, now on the 19th through the 39th floors, share one of the most impressive and lavish lobbies in the city.

The lobby extends through to 58th Street in a narrow, but handsome corridor along which is located the elevators that have handsome Art Deco-style cab doors.

The broad lobby facing Central Park has tasteful and comfortable seating and exceedingly impressive black-marble columns of very distinctive form. The ground floor also has a very large and handsome and very expensive restaurant.

Amenities

The building has a doorman, several concierges, and a garage. It also has a spa/fitness center and a business center and bicycles are available.

Like all Central Park South buildings, this building has great vistas of Central Park and the skylines of Upper Fifth Avenue and Central Park West.

Good public transportation is nearby as well as excellent shopping and numerous restaurants.

Apartments

Room sizes at J.W. Marriott Essex House tend to be quite generous and no two apartments are the same.

A one-bedroom unit has a 28-foot-long dining room, a very large foyer and a quite large bedroom.

Two-bedroom units vary in size but most have very long foyers and large terraces.

A two-bedroom unit on the 12th floor has a 25-foot-long entrance foyer that leads to a 27-foot-long living room that opens onto a 26-foot-long dining room that opens onto a small convertible bedroom that opens onto a 39-foot terrace.  The kitchen is 22 feet long.

Another two-bedroom apartment has rather small room sizes but a 48-foot-long north terrace and a 37-foot-long west terrace and both terraces are quite wide.

A similar two-bedroom unit also has a 48-foot-long north terrace but half of its east terrace is given over to a solarium longer than 20 feet.

A two-bedroom duplex apartment has a 36-foot-long entertaining area with a 17-foot-square dining room with a large, three-sided bay window and planting terrace off an enclosed kitchen.

History

This building is on part of the block-long site of the Navarro Flats complex that was erected in 1880s and demolished in 1926, The complex, which was also known as the “Spanish Flats,” consisted of eight 13-story buildings that were originally called the Central Park Apartments.  Hubert & Pirsson was the architect.

Before it opened, the tower was originally called Park Tower and then Seville Towers and construction on it began in October 30, 1929 and it opened October 1, 1931 as the Essex House. In 1932, the six-story-high sign was erected “to identify the hotel” and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation took the property’s title and retained ownership for almost 15 years.

In the 1930s, the hotel started its “stroller’s brunch” on Sundays and from 1940 to 1945 many rooms were set aside for the military and the rooftop sign was blacked out for fear over bombing raids.

In 1946, Samuel H. Goling, chairman of the Sterling National Bank and Trust Company, purchased the hotel.

In 1969, the hotel was bought by Marriott and in 1985 it was taken over by Nikko Hotels.

In 1999, Strategic Hotel Capital bought the hotel for more than $300 million and hired Starwood Hotels & Resorts to manage it as a Westin Hotel.

A condominium conversion of part of the hotel began in 1974 and in September, 2005, the Dubai Investment Group paid $440 million to acquire the hotel portion of the building, with 606 rooms and 9 of its 149 condominium apartments and in early 2006 began a renovation program.

In a February 28, 2006 article in The New York Post, Steve Cuozzo said that Frank van der Post, a senior vice president with Jumeirah, said that "no more than 15 percent of guest rooms would be converted" to condominiums, which would bring the total of such units in the building to about 247 and the number of its hotel rooms to about 509.

In 2012, the Chicago-based real estate investment group, Strategic Hotels and Resorts, bought back the hotel from the Dubai Group for $362.3 million. Marriott International now operates the hotel.

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