08 February 2009

Inside the New York Yacht Club

I wrote in my recent survey of Midtown East that the 40s between Grand Central and Sixth are replete with grand private clubs. Most have evaded me, since I just don't know that many Harvard and Yale grads, and am not chummy with many captains of industry. However, last week I did manage to crack the New York Yacht Club, the Beaux Arts beauty which I consider the most beautiful of the clubs.

I'm guessing that there are still plenty of yachtsmen in the New York area, because this club is in tip-top shape. No inch-thick layers of dust, no closed off rooms, no missing pieces of plaster on the ceiling.

New York Yacht Club is not just a neat name that some rich guys gave to their private treehouse. This place is really about boats and sailing. There are intricate model boats everywhere, and rich oil paintings of the great amateur seamen of yesteryear, wearing their muttonchops and mustaches with pride.

Just to the left of the lobby is the Model Room, which boasts the proportions of a Viking Hall. The ceiling soars up 50 feet of more. An enormous, Citizen Kane-like fireplace dominates the room. An oval painting of a sea scene lies at the center of the fireplace. Hundreds of models of the flagships of owners past and present ornament the walls, a plaque underneath identifying each one. It makes for very interesting wallpaper.

At the front of the room are three huge galleon-style windows which push out the sidewalk. It's always been a wish of mine to be on the club side of these windows just once. Many people must enjoy sitting there, because each bay is equipped with a red leather banquette and to chairs. My full fantasy is to sit there with a glass of port and a cigar, but since there were no attendants on hand offering libations and smokes, I made do with just staring out on W. 44th.

A plaque at the entrance of the Model Room lets us know that the club was only able to build on this land due to the generosity of the richest man in American at the time, J.P. Morgan.

Far at the back of the first floor, you'll find a bar room with a long bar, the barman behind it constantly wiping down the surface. (Here's where my port was!) To the immediate left of the lobby is the Grill Room, a cozy wooden lunch hall with an arched ceiling. Only members and their guest can dine here. Everyone seated down to lunch looked hale and robust and from a good family.

At the hostess' stand their was a dish of complimentary chocolates, each wrapped in gold foil. Since I had no chance of eating in the Grill Room, I helped myself to one of these consolation prizes. They must be specially made for the restaurant. Each chocolate is marked with the shape of a yacht.


Anonymous said...

How did you get in there? Inquiring minds want to know!

Walter Dufresne said...

For high-resolution photographs of the Club's interior, see http://warrenandwetmore.org