One of my favorite bars in all of New York is called the Campbell Apartment and it is located right inside the most famous train depot of them all, Grand Central Station. I discovered the bar thanks to a guide book I was reading during my first trip to New York, back in December of 2005.
The Campbell Apartment was never actually an apartment at all, but rather the business office of millionaire railroad tycoon John William Campbell. In 1920, after retiring from his position as chairman of Credit Clearing House, Campbell became a member of the board of the New York Public Railroad and decided to find a suitable office for himself close to Grand Central Station. In 1923, Campbell found his perfect office – a 3,500 square foot single room located right inside Grand Central Station. The room measured 35 feet wide, 60 feet long, and had 25 foot high ceilings. Campbell hired New York architect Augustus N. Allen to renovate the large room into his dream Florentine-style office – and no expense was spared in doing so. The office became a sort of museum, housing a million dollar art collection which consisted of vases, statues, rare books, and antique rugs. One of those rugs covered the entire floor of the large room and was worth a reported $300,000. The office featured gorgeous leaded windows, dark wood-paneled walls, a large marble fireplace, 13th Century Italian furnishings, a huge steel safe, a grand piano and a pipe organ. Besides conducting his business affairs there, Campbell and his wife would often entertain in his office, as well, hosting large groups of friends for dinner, dancing, and cocktails.
Those parties perhaps served as the inspiration for Mark Grossich, current owner of the Campbell Apartment. Mark purchased the space in 1999, 42 years after John Campbell’s death. In the interim between Campbell’s death and Grossich’s purchase, the once grand space fell into serious disarray, at different times serving as a warehouse, a storage room, and even a jail! Mark had the foresite to restore the beautiful space to its former glory, hoping that Grand Central commuters of today would step into the grand office of yesterday to sip “cocktails from another era”. And indeed they did. Ten years later they are still coming – in droves. As I learned on my first visit to the Campbell Apartment, most nights it’s standing room only.
On that first visit back in 2005, I pulled what my boyfriend likes to call my “Sex and the City coup”. In the Season One episode of SATC entitled “The Power of Female Sex”, Carrie and the girls are repeatedly denied entrance to hot new New York eatery Balzac. After their final failed attempt to dine at the eatery, Carrie makes a pit stop at Balzac’s restroom. While there she runs into the hostess who denied them entry only moments before and who is currently in need of a tampon. Carrie provides it, and after her good deed, never again has trouble getting a table at Balzac. 🙂 Well, on our first trip to the Campbell Apartment, we put our names in with the hostess and were told it was going to be at least an hour wait. It was at that point that I noticed the hostess’ sparkling, two carat, princess cut, diamond engagement ring and proceeded to drool all over it. Ever since I was old enough to know what an engagement ring was, I have known that I want a princess cut one. I don’t care how big it is, or what “clarity” or “color”, but my boyfriend knows that if he wants me to say yes, he had better be proposing with a princess cut. 🙂 Well, the hostess LOVED that I loved her ring and even let me try the huge rock on. I was dying, it was so beautiful . . . and big! Well, not five minutes later we were seated at one of the best spots in the bar. 🙂 As my mom always says, the quickest way to a girl’s heart is to compliment her engagement ring. 🙂
I am actually very surprised that Campbell Apartment was not featured in an episode of Sex and the City – it seems like just the place Carrie and the girls would kick back a few cosmos. But the Campbell Apartment was featured in the pilot episode of the ever-popular teen soap Gossip Girl as the location of Serena and Nate’s illicit affair (pictured above). The bartender told us that the bar was also used in one of this season’s GG episodes, but he was unsure of which one. I guess he’s not a big Gossip Girl fan. 🙂 The bar has also been host to many movie wrap parties and industry get-togethers.
I can’t recommend stalking the Campbell Apartment enough! It is an absolutely fabulous place to grab a drink. Stepping through the doors is like stepping back in time to a more glamorous and fabulous era – the era of Old New York.
Until next time, Happy Stalking! 🙂
Stalk It: The Campbell Apartment is located at 15 Vanderbilt Avenue, inside Grand Central Station, in New York. Baseball caps and tennis shoes are not permitted, so dress appropriately. You can visit the Campbell Apartment website here.