RIP Campbell Apartment. The history and the quiet, elegant, atmosphere of the Campbell Apartment bar inside Grand Central Terminal is history. It closed forever last night, to be converted into a trendy destination for the selfie crowd.
What the new version of the Campbell Apartment will look like, nobody knows, or isn’t saying.
- See recently-closed NYC restaurants and bars we’ll miss, including Four Seasons and Hogs and Heifers
There’s no word on whether the new owner will gut the place and tear out its famous walk-in-size fireplace, burnished carved woodwork, stained glass and the Old World charm that made the Campbell Apartment a not-so-secret NYC favorite destination. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
Now-former-lease-owner Mark Grossich lost a bitter six-month legal battle recently to renew his lease, after the MTA, which now runs GCT, began kicking out longtime tenants in favor of more “upscale” ones and brands which could pay higher rents, like Apple. In addition to Campbell Apartment, the MTA also has kicked out Junior’s and Two Boots, along with a Starbucks.
A few weeks ago, Grossich threw in the towel. New lease-owner Gerber Group also operates trendy (and loud) spots bars in trendy hotels W Union Square and Indigo on the Lower East Side. That compares with such upscale destinations as The Carnegie Club and Bookmarks also operated by Hospitality Holdings.
Although the historic marker will remain, there’s no word on whether the new place will still be called Campbell Apartment, what a new name mightl be, or even how long before the new place – gutted or just “refreshed” – reopens.
But the new owner Scott Gerber has said he would allow people to enter wearing t-shirts or sneakers, which was absolutely not been allowed during the 17-year-ownership of Mr. Grossich, and is definitely not “upscale”.
Campbell Apartment was the type of place George Clooney and President Bill Clinton could visit – and did – without fear of being mobbed by the selfie crowd, who simply did not come here. They will now, but likely not selfie-bait celebrities.
Add me to the list of New Yorkers who finds this an appalling loss. It’s the same stupidity – greedy landlords, the idea that change is good no matter what – that cost NYC the magical and legendary Tavern on the Green. That was gutted, too, and “updated” with a modern decor and menu that is – simply – eh, okay.
Campbell Apartment History – Originally, this was the private office of John W. 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 cost Grossich more than two years and $2 Million to renovate the space in 1999, after it has been abandoned and unused for years after Campbell’s death.
Photos courtesy Museum of the City of New York, Hospitality Holdings, Yelp