The green roof belonging to The Sherry-Netherland Hotel is visible from across Central Park and Fifth Avenue. But if one walks past it along Fifth Avenue, one could easily miss its entrance. Even though the hotel does not feature a grand entrance, its lobby is one of the most spectacular interior spaces in the city. Inspired and derived from Vatican Library by Raphael, it was executed by Joseph Aruta in 1927.
The beautiful lobby was painted over and covered with white plaster after being ruined by water damage sometime in the 1960s. It stayed that way for the next 40 years until some old photographs surfaced, showing how it was supposed to look. Luckily, the paintings were restored to their original glory, and the Raphael-inspired lobby can be admired again. That is if you don’t miss the entrance…
The hotel was built by Luis Sherry — an ice cream magnate, confectioner, restaurateur, and hotelier. Having started his business during the Gilded Age, he catered to the wealthiest clientele of the bygone era. The Sherry-Netherland was Sherry’s last hotel and, probably, his best.
But how come one of the grand Fifth Avenue hotels has such a modest entrance and a rather intimate, even if remarkable, lobby? The answer to this has to do with its timing. The hotel was built in 1927 during Prohibition – a time when selling alcohol was prohibited by law, rendering bars illegal. This fact deprived hotel lobbies of their traditional functions: places of gathering, mingling, and imbibing. Without a need for a bar, there was no need for a big lobby…
The Sherry-Netherland, an exclusive boutique hotel, has 165 apartments and only 50 hotel suites. The list of the hotel’s guests is as dizzying as the views from its penthouse. Its residents include Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, George Burns, and Jack Warner. Audrey Hubburn stayed in the hotel while filming “Breakfast in Tiffany’s”, Henry Fonda had a wedding there, Francis Coppola kept an apartment, and Coco Chanel and Elizabeth Taylor were the hotel’s regulars.
One more detail: the hotel’s roofline is adorned by gargoyles — whimsical water spouts used for protecting buildings from water damage since medieval times.
A Renaissance Lobby in a Jazz Age Hotel adorned with medieval gargoyles. Only in New York? Only in New York.
Architects: Schultze & Weaver