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The Melrose Hotel
140 E. 63d St. at Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10021
Phone: 212-838-5700 or 800-223-1020
Fax: 212-888-4721

Affordable Luxury

This Upper East Side discreet address was, until recently, one of the best-kept secrets of the Manhattan hotel scene. Although The Melrose Hotel had everything going for it—beginning with a great location next to Bloomingdales and bustling Lexington Avenue—not many people knew it could offer an array of choices. But the news is that this house with a long history has been revamped, and can stand at par with the best hotels in its category. Moreover, it is an attractive alternative for the conscientious traveler because it offers luxury at an affordable price.

At the top on the 22nd floor, with their unobstructed views of the city and stylish décor, the Tower Suites are among the most luxurious accommodations in town. The other levels offer a variety of guest rooms for a variety of budgets: junior suites with balconies and views, superior rooms or standard. Sizes may vary (some basic rooms are smallish) but not the services and amenities, such as a two-line speaker phone, voice mail, hairdryer, magnifying mirrors, safe, mini-bar, 24-hour room service, turn-down service, cable TV, CD player, to name a few.

Many of the rooms have been refurbished or rebuilt to new standards, or are in the process of being redone, securing a contemporary level of comfort throughout the premises. This new ambience percolates throughout the entire property. In the center of a jazzed-up lobby, a huge bouquet sets the tone. This welcoming tone is an invitation to stay in style, or to sit and relax in the mid-sized lobby, or maybe to take the time for a drink at The Library bar. With its 306 guest rooms and suites, The Melrose Hotel does not fit into the boutique hotel definition but it has the feel of it. Hustle-bustle in the lobby and heavy traffic in and out at all times of the day are unlikely due to the medium size of the place.

At lunch or dinnertime The Library bar serves a few dishes which present, quality- and price-wise, an interesting (quieter and faster) alternative to the many eateries of the neighborhood. A major attraction for health- and sport-conscious guests is the Equinox Fitness Club and Spa, which occupies four floors of the hotel. It has a swimming pool, state-of-the-art workout equipment, massage and spa treatments, as well as all the contemporary sport paraphernalia, free for most hotels guests.

Although this hotel has made a great transition from its former life, it has undoubtedly retained a personality of its own, inherited from its unique history. Opened in 1927, for 50 years The Melrose Hotel (formerly The Barbizon) accommodated well-heeled, young women coming to the Big Apple to study in nearby women's colleges or schools. Strictly supervised by housemothers, they lived in individual rooms and could only entertain men in the recital room. This luxurious feminine campus featured a swimming pool, a library, a roof garden, and a tearoom. These relics have been converted for enjoyment of both sexes today, but the charming nostalgia of this era still lingers with the unforgettable charm of some of its past inhabitants: Grace Kelly, Ali McGraw, Joan Crawford, Candice Bergen and Liza Minelli.

Barbizon is the name of a village near Paris where a few famous artists, including Corot and Millet, gathered in the middle of the 19th century, finding there inspiration for their paintings of rural landscapes. Perhaps you will find inspiration in this modern-day setting.

(Updated: 06/23/08 HC)

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