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Serene New York havens stir memories of a gilded age

Maramara Park Avenue, New York

Amy Hughes

Just off Fifth Avenue at the corner of 32nd Street, sits a newcomer to Manhattan’s posse of luxury hotels. Smooth white stone, and light wood paneling create a serene atmosphere in the lobby of the Marmara Park Avenue. In this city of sleek, steel skyscrapers, it’s unusual to find elements of nature integrated into the furniture, with fire and water as features.

The latest outpost of this Turkish hotel group, known for it’s boutique brand in Istanbul, has been open just a few months, and is still implementing some of its amenities and services. In true Turkish style, there’s a hammam in the wellness center with small sandpaper-like washcloths for a good scrub. One of the standouts, an indoor swimming pool, is due to open shortly, but check with the hotel directly to confirm before booking if this is a priority. Rooms are equipped with extra’s to make guests feel more at home, like kitchenettes and fridges stocked with complimentary water and sodas. But, the real warmth and hospitality comes from the staff, like Carlos, who take a personal interest in ensuring a guest’s stay goes smoothly.

The modern comfort of the Marmara New York City
The modern comfort of the Marmara Park Avenue.

Just a few blocks away, on Madison, the private library of John Pierpont Morgan offers a small, but fascinating glimpse of what life was like for one of New York’s founding financiers as well as rare exhibits of art and important literature. The intimate rooms make a stark contrast with the vast galleries of other public museums, like MoMa and the Met. The Morgan holds multiple attractions. The first, its raison d’être – Morgan’s library. His study and vault allows visitors to step into the private world of a titan of business. Morgan had a passion for books, art and philanthropy and began acquiring a collection of illuminated, historical and literary manuscripts, as well as printed books, old master drawings and prints in the late 19th century.

Old world charm and the smell of rich mahogany.
Old world charm and the smell of rich mahogany.

The library was built adjacent to Morgan’s New York home and is, itself, a work of art, designed as an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo. Made up of three rooms, the antique stained and beveled glass windows are typical of the American Age of Elegance. This is where, one imagines, the characters of so many F. Scott Fitzgerald novels would have felt at home.

Visitors can peek into the manuscript vault at the far end of Morgan’s study and take in the breathtaking architecture of the two-storey library.

The Morgan continues to purchase other rare literary materials and is unique for it’s themed exhibits of manuscripts and literature as well as American and European art. During our visit, we viewed a landmark display of Matisse’s book illustrations.

The East oom of the Morgan
The East Room of the Morgan library.

An expansion led by Renzo Piano ten years ago has seen the library increase 75,000 square feet, incorporating a café, restaurant and reading room. The space is also used for public poetry readings, musical concerts, dramatic performances, film screenings, family workshops and opportunities for adults to sketch in the gallery. Its size makes The Morgan far more manageable than most museums and the library is one of those places you enter and realise you’ve discovered something rather special.

Marmara Park Avenue – http://park.marmaranyc.com/

The Morgan – http://www.themorgan.org/

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