Welcome back, Campbell Apartment. We missed you since you closed last year in a dispute over the lease, and delighted the new owners have cleaned and restored your ornate, elegant features and grown-up ambiance. You even changed your name and had two kids while you were gone.
Let me explain:
The new name is simply Campbell Bar. One of the new “kids” is a smaller bar area just outside the entrance, decorated with palm trees and named Campbell Palm Court. The other “kid” is in the spot where the taxi stand used to be, in the port cochcere on Vanderbilt Ave., called Campbell Terrace.
There are other changes, too.
New owners Gerber Group have dropped the dress code, although tacky t-shirts and flip-flops are discouraged.
In addition to after-work cocktails and light bites, Campbell Bar now opens at noon for lunch, with a menu of sandwiches, salads and soups.
The landmarked main space sparkles with new lighting, so you can really appreciate the Florentine décor, stained glass windows, burnished carfed woodwork, and a walk-in fireplace.
What’s not changed, according to the New York Times, is the continued emphasis on old-fashioned cocktails, like Negroni, the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned, and variations on those drinks. Also, the new owners have re-hired longtime and beloved bartender Paris DuRante.
Originally, this was the private office of John Williams Campbell, a millionaire who served on the board of the New York Central railroad, owned by his buddy, William Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built the railroad now known as MetroNorth.
Campbell decorated his digs with a grand piano, a pipe organ, a faux stone fireplace with his Scottish family’s coat of arms, a 30-foot ceiling with faux-wood plaster beams, and a hand-knotted Persian carpet that was one of the largest in the world and would cost around $3.5 million in today’s dollars. Perhaps his decorating was to compete with one of the Vanderbilt mansions – The Breakers in Newport, or William’s country house in Hyde Park.
It took two years and $2 million renovate the space in 1999, after it has been abandoned and unused for years after Campbell’s death. That was by the original bar owner, Mark Grossich, who waged a bitter legal battle with the MTA, which operates Grand Central Terminal, to keep his lease.
photo credits Museum of the City of New York, Hospitality Holdiings