NEW YORK — When I heard the Algonquin Hotel was closing for a long-overdue renovation, I was apprehensive.
Having stayed at the venerable Midtown Manhattan hotel for much of the last decade during twice-yearly travels to fashion week, I had come to love the spirit of the place where Dorothy Parker and the famous Round Table held court in the 1920s.
After my most recent stay, I am happy to report that the Algonquin still feels like an old friend — with a really good facelift.
The lobby, with overstuffed sofas, dark wood columns and burnished bronze fixtures, was nearly always filled with tourists who stopped by for a drink and to soak in the hotel's illustrious history. I found the rooms small but certainly adequate and the staff the friendliest and most knowledgeable of any hotel I have ever stayed.
And the cat, Matlida, who often lounged on the dark wood check-in counter, gave the hotel the feel of an eccentric old aunt's home.
After closing for several months for the extensive re-do, the Algonquin reopened about a year ago, and after my most recent stay, I am happy to report that it still feels like an old friend — with a really good facelift.
I'm sorry that the wallpaper with famous New Yorker cartoons that lined the hallways of each floor is gone, replaced by generic boutique-hotel cream walls. And a lot of New Yorkers are lamenting the demise of the Oak Room, a small cabaret on the lobby floor that regularly featured beloved cabaret singers like Andrea Marcovicci and Karen Akers.
But everything else about the hotel seems the same — only better.
All 181 hotel rooms have been updated with such features as blackout curtains, slick new light fixtures, larger TVs, easy-to-find desk and table outlets and updated bathrooms with new Italian-tile flooring. Above the bed in each room, a headboard with a backlit black-and-white Irving Underhill photograph of 1920s New York provides a link to the city's past.
Thankfully, the same staff is still at the hotel, too, as well as Matilda, who lounges in her regular spot.
About the only thing really different is the clientele. Since the Algonquin joined the Marriott's Autograph Collection, guests are a lot more likely to be business travelers who are staying at the hotel more for the Marriott points than the hotel's charm and are likely to grouse that the bathrooms are too small.
But I bet, before long, a bit of the Algonquin's magic history will rub off on them.
At least I hope so.