A bohemian alternative to the Meatpacking District scene, The High Line Hotel is a dog-friendly, locals-approved gathering spot with a unique history.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Katie Barton Contributing writer
Artists sometimes refer to creating space for tension in their work—tension between color, form, and content gives us exciting compositions and, on an intellectual level, often raises intriguing questions. Harmony is nice, but tension asks us to look closer, to dig deeper, to expand our perceptions.
How do you go about creating this artistic tension on a human scale? How about taking an old seminary building and putting a hotel in it—specifically a hotel decorated with furnishings and artwork from the estate of a world-renowned psychic. Sounds good? Read on.
The High Line Hotel is a 60-room boutique hotel in West Chelsea housed in, yes, an old dormitory building for The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. Though the hotel itself has no religious affiliation, the stained glass windows and grand architecture in the public spaces speak to its past; a portrait of Desmond Tutu, a past deacon, hangs in the ballroom.
The High Line Hotel opened in 2013, following a careful restoration that left the footprint of the original building almost completely intact. Ubiquitous interior and architecture firm Roman & Williams was hired for the renovations, and imprinted the space with their signature style, quite literally—each guest room comes with an embossing stamp affixed to the desk, with patterns drawn from original designs uncovered during construction.
Regarding decor: bathrooms flaunt classic Roman & Williams tile work, while guest rooms retain the original wood floors, spruced up with a coat of paint and layered under vintage oriental rugs. Each rug reportedly bears a known provenance, and rumor has it that one used to belong to Bernie Madoff, speaking of points of tension. The stories behind the spaces are the heartbeat of the High Line Hotel; those seeking comfort in the shiny and new will not find it here. Everything, from custom armoires modeled after vintage ice chests to the wallpapered accent walls behind the beds, has a history. Curated antiques and textiles give the impression of bohemian insouciance and old-fashioned hospitality. It’s your eccentric uncle’s well-appointed country home, improbably located a few blocks from the Hudson River.
To add to this effect, art, furniture, and records spun in the public spaces of the High Line Hotel do in fact come from the estate of a real-life well-known eccentric: that of Ingo Swann, the extrasensory pioneer who inspired the film The Men Who Stare At Goats. Through the 1970s & 80s, Swann was a member of the downtown arts scene in New York while working with the US Government on Project Stargate, a clandestine initiative relying on psychic abilities to aid in spying on foreign governments.
Some of Swann’s paintings adorn the walls of the lobby, where the cocktail menu offers a “Cosmic” drink list riffing on the out-of-body remote viewing experience. Have a couple Interstellars, a hybrid Old Fashioned made with Casamigos Mezcal, Simple Syrup, Orange, and Chocolate Bitters, and you’ll definitely leave your body for a few hours. The High Line lobby bar itself is something of a neighborhood secret, serving coffee during the day and transitioning to a full drinks menu at 5 PM. Less of a secret but still delightful is the front patio and garden, open seasonally for small plates and bar service, weather pending.
The hotel is 100% dog-friendly with no surcharge for bringing your four-legged friend along to stay, inclusive of all sizes and breeds. The hospitality extends to events hosted here: Halloween pumpkin carving, Easter Egg hunts, yoga classes and evenings with an illusionist are all open to guests and the community, free of charge. Hotel guests also get complimentary access to the Chelsea Piers fitness center, a fleet of Shinola bikes to cruise around the city, and the alleged “fastest WiFi in New York.”
If this review seems somewhat meandering, it’s due to the fact that it is almost impossible to neatly sum up the High Line Hotel. Like the perennial Chelsea arts community surrounding it, the High Line is a celebration of individuality and style, attracting locals as well as business travelers and tourists looking for something with a bit more soul than you find elsewhere. Look closer, you might be inspired.
Looking to host? The public spaces have been used for Vogue dinners, fashion week shows, and all manner of private events
Roughly 2/3 of the guest rooms feature original (non-working) fireplaces—book early and request one
The High Line Hotel is just steps from—you guessed it—the High Line park. Get up early and have coffee there before the crowds show up
The lobby bar also offers an exclusive Bourbon Flight: $50 for a tasting of five Pinhook Kentucky Bourbons and Ryes.