Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
New York's "original boutique hotel" opened in 1984 by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell as a hangout for regulars of their infamous Studio 54 disco. The property spawned the Morgans Hotel Group, a "cool" brand specializing in sizzling scene hotels, including Miami's Delano and Mondrian. Schrager has since sold the company, although his presence in the New York hotel scene is still strong with the recent opening of Gramercy Park Hotel. But with dated, minimalist designs and a dead lobby, the 114-room Morgans has been far outpaced by its younger, more glamorous siblings.
Andree Putman, who designed the original hotel in 1984, also led the hotel's renovations in 2008. For the most part, she stuck to her minimalist guns, using lots of grays and beiges and mood lighting, plus a signature black-and-white checkerboard motif -- her nod to New York City taxicabs.
Morgans sits on the border between sleepy, residential Murray Hill and business-centric Midtown, close to the Empire State Building, and draws a mix of business travelers and foreign tourists. The lobby has no "scene" to speak of: The small space leads guests straight to the elevators, as if they're just heading home for the night. To the extent anyone does hang out, it's mostly in the fourth-floor "Living Room" lounge area. Here, toddlers crawl on the couches, guests repack suitcases after checkout, and business travelers conduct casual meetings.
Given how little character the place offers, it's hard to justify the room rates, especially compared to some of the fresher alternatives out there. For a cooler cool hotel in the area, the Ace Hotel offers much more character and scene, and it's just a few blocks south in Murray Hill. And the Morgans Group's own Royalton, though generally more expensive, has bigger rooms and a much more interesting lobby of similar vintage.
Morgans is on the northern border of Murray Hill, on Madison and East 37th Street, but the business people who seem to dominate the hotel and its surrounding area make it feel like part of nearby Midtown East. Murray Hill is mostly residential and sleepy, but younger professionals moving into the area have started populating the bars and restaurants recently. The area generally lacks tourist attractions, but the Empire State Building is a mere four blocks from the hotel, and Murray Hill is well positioned for traveling to both uptown and downtown spots.
Madison Avenue, right outside the lobby, is an easy place to catch a cab. And Grand Central Station, one of the city's primary transportation hubs -- and also the site of several solid dining options -- is just a few blocks away.
Comfortable and well-equipped rooms suffer from bland design.
They range from 200-square-foot "standard" rooms to the 1,500-square-foot penthouse, but 70 percent of them are 220-square-foot "superiors." All have essentially the same amenities: bathrooms, closets, minibars, and entertainment systems don't vary much from room to room. All rooms also have small closets containing an iron and ironing board, robes, umbrellas, a safe, and even an outlet converter -- great for the largely international clientele. They also have full-length mirrored wall units containing extra drawers for clothing, a plus for one of the most cramped cities in the world.
Standard rooms would be tight for families, and some don't have baths. But clean facilities and impressive service, plus free cribs and a selection of kid-friendly toys and books, makes this a solid choice for families who spring for a suite.
On the other hand, the suites are ample and have twin-size pull-out beds, which the hotel will make up with pillow-top mattress covers. I spoke to a woman from San Francisco who was traveling with her husband and their 10-month-old, and she said their suite was ideal and that the staff provided toys, books, and even extra food for her son. She also said she normally wouldn't feel comfortable letting her son crawl around on a hotel carpet, but she'd made an exception here because everything is so clean.
Cribs are free; rollaways cost a nightly fee.
Free continental breakfast is a nice perk.
Hip hotelier Ian Schrager's first property, the 114-room Morgans, opened in 1984 as a discreet hangout for the regulars of his infamous Studio 54 and is often considered the original "boutique" hotel. Nowadays, excellent service and a convenient Midtown location only partly excuse the lackluster scene and design. The price is high for a place with relatively little character.