Grand Central station has a lot of secrets – from the ‘whispering gallery’ to its little-known tennis courts. And tonight I went to another: the 1920s bar tucked above the terminal.The Campbell Apartment is gorgeous – all carved wooden ceilings, deep maroons and dapper bartenders with perfectly styled mustaches. It once belonged to John C. Campbell, a New York business tycoon who chose the spot so he could easily commute from his Park Avenue home to a place convenient for clients traveling into the city. It has been claimed that he used to sit behind his desk in his underpants so that his trousers wouldn’t get wrinkled for meetings.
After his death in 1957, the fancy furniture vanished and the space was used for a variety of much less glamorous things – from the Grand Central closet to a jail.
But in 1999, the ceilings and walls were brought back to their original glory. And a steel safe, that was originally hidden in the wall, is now in the fireplace to remind visitors of Campbell’s wealth. (When he decorated the place, he filled it with 19th-century furniture, an art collection worth $1 million and a Persian rug that was $300,000 at the time – that’s $3.5 million today.)
You’ve got to be dressed smart-ish here – there’s no space for riff raff. To be honest, at 8pm, there wasn’t much space for anyone, but Ryan and I nudged our way to the bar for a round of pricey cocktails – a sharp raspberry gin concoction for me, a Manhattan for my date. Delicious.
Trying to sip daintily from my cocktail glass was a bit of a struggle and it’s really not the sort of place I’d usually go (lots of business suits in sight), but it was a great treat. And the bar a great nod to the wealth that once graced the room.
Thanks for having us Mr Campbell!
The Campbell Apartment is open Monday-Thursday until 11pm; Friday & Saturday 12pm – 1am; Sunday 12pm – Midnight. Cocktails cost around $16 each.