The Essex House had a very difficult beginning. The original developers broke ground in 1929, just in time for the Great Depression, and the hotel opened its doors in 1931. Needless to say, times were tough for this beautiful hotel. When it was constructed, it was the tallest building on Central Park South. Today it is dwarfed by neighboring high rises. However, it still stands proudly with its original sign on the roof announcing the Essex House which can still be seen from many places as you stroll around Central Park which is across the street. The Essex House changed hands several times as it tried to find its footing and finally Marriott got involved. This hotel became famous in 1975 when it became one of the original title sponsors of the TV show Saturday Night Live. The late announcer Don Pardo would always say "Guests of Saturday Night Live stay at Marriott's Essex House on Central Park South." A picture of the hotel and its famous rooftop sign was always shown during the announcement. It was during this period that the Essex House became an American icon. Over the years the hotel has undertaken a number of renovations, but has been careful to preserve many of the rich interior details that make this property stand out.
Our king room with Central Park view was a reasonable size, nicely decorated and furnished. It had a nice seating area with a sofa, a desk and dresser, ample closet space and an updated bathroom with a walk-in shower. If you are considering staying at the Essex House I would strongly encourage you to reserve a Central Park view room. It is more expensive, but in my opinion well worth it. Waking up in the morning, opening the shades, and looking out at the sun drenched park is amazing. It both relaxes and energizes you at the same time! On the street below is a long line of horse drawn carriages that are waiting to take you for a leisurely ride through the park.
There is a very nice bar located on the main level of the hotel. In that same area is the hotel's restaurant. We had dinner there one evening and we found the food to be average. With a city full of extraordinary restaurants, you might be better off having dinner elsewhere unless you are looking for something simple. The hotel does have a Club Lounge which is located on the main level. Although the lounge is fairly large, it does get busy and crowded when the hotel is full. This is one of those times when you start to think that too many Rewards Members qualify for lounge access! The breakfast offerings are superb, and that is probably why so many decide to eat there. I would suggest getting to the lounge for breakfast between 8 - 8:30. As I said, you will not be disappointed by the offerings.
If you enjoy historic or iconic hotels you will most certainly enjoy the Essex House. The location is terrific for strolling the park, shopping on 5th Avenue or doing many of the other touristy things around NYC. You can even walk one block and stop in the Ritz Carlton for a drink or two. They have a very nice bar there, and if you are craving a burger I would suggest the Ritz burger...delicious!
The Essex House, with its iconic sign, as seen through the trees of Central Park.
The Essex House, once the tallest building on Central Park South, is now dwarfed by its neighbors. However, it will forever more enjoy its unobstructed view of Central Park.
View of Central Park from our room. It never gets old!
Horse drawn carriages await you in front of the hotel.
"Imagine" is a tribute to the late John Lennon in the "Strawberry Fields" section of Central Park. There is just so much to see and enjoy by taking a leisurely stroll through the park.
Essex House lobby with its beautiful marble floors.
Another example of the marble inlay floors in front of the elevators.
Finally, the original brass and marble elevator floors carefully preserved from 1931 with the "EH" initials in the middle.