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, a convenient Midtown location, and free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and all-day coffee at least partly excuse the lackluster scene and few hotel features (there is no full restaurant or spa, and the bar doesn't serve food and is closed on the weekends). The price is high for a place with relatively little character. For an east-side boutique with more of a pulse, try Gramercy Park Hotel.
Boutique business-oriented hotel with minimalist design and facilities
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 the Delano and Mondrian. Though Morgans' heyday as the hot flagship of the Morgans Hotel Group has passed, the 114-room boutique hotel lives on as a temple of minimalism (features, design, and, according to some guests, service) and discretion (no exterior signage, hushed vibe).
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 small elevators, as if they're just heading home for the night. To the extent anyone does hang out, it's mostly in the living-room-like lounge area off of the lobby, where free coffee and hot water are available throughout the day. 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. Though Morgans is a great pick for travelers who don't demand a slew of amenities or a spirited hotel scene, the fact remains that this quiet hotel has been far outpaced by younger, more glamorous options.
Madison Avenue and 37th Street, where sleepy, residential Murray Hill meets business-oriented Midtown East
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 many of the areas restaurants and bars are populated by young professionals. Grand Central Terminal, one of the city's primary transportation hubs -- and also the site of several solid dining options -- is just a few blocks away.
One-minute walk to Morgan Library & Museum
Six-minute walk to Empire State Building
Seven-minute walk to Grand Central Terminal
Eight-minute walk to New York Public Library and Bryant Park
Andree Putman, who designed the original hotel in 1984, also led the hotel's renovations in 2008. (All rooms were updated again in early 2015.) For the most part, she stuck to her minimalist guns, using lots of whites, grays, and beiges and mood lighting, plus a signature black-and-white checkerboard motif for the blankets and bathrooms -- her nod to New York City taxicabs.
Aside from the visually appealing black-and-white-tiled bathrooms, the rooms are borderline bland in their minimalism (their limited natural light and lamp lighting -- there are no overheads -- do little to perk up the space). They range from 200-square-foot Standard rooms to the 1,500-square-foot Penthouse (available for special events and meetings), but 70 percent of them are 220-square-foot Superior rooms. All rooms have flat-screen HDTVs with on-demand channels, work desks and extra seating, minibars, and small closets with irons and ironing boards, robes, umbrellas, safes, and even outlet converters -- great for the largely international clientele. Soundproofed windows look out over the street or courtyard.
The Morgans Hotel Group has its own proprietary branded mattresses, so beds are very comfortable, with pillow-top mattress covers, Egyptian cotton sheets, down comforters, down pillows, and wool blankets. Bathrooms, many with their graphic black-and-white tile walls, are attractive, but quite small. They have walk-in showers, stainless-steel sinks, and full-size Malin + Goetz bath products. Upgraded rooms have balconies with French doors, dining room tables, and wet bars. There are no coffeemakers or kettles, but free coffee and tea are available throughout the day in the lounge near the lobby. There aren't iPod docking stations in the rooms either, but Wi-Fi is free (covered by the hotel's daily facility fee). Cribs are free; rollaways cost a nightly fee.
A lounge area with coffee and tea, small fitness center, plus free continental breakfast
The hotel's sense of minimalism extends to its limited facilities, but a notable feature is the lounge area, where coffee, tea, and hot water are available throughout the day. In the mornings, the free continental breakfast is served here. It offers coffee, tea, juice, yogurt, fruit, pastries, bagels, toasts, jams, and cereals -- in short, a much more extensive spread than most New York hotels provide. At night, the living room transforms into Reserve Lounge, a bar that focuses on bourbon, whiskey, and Scotch. Reserve Lounge only operates during the work week and does not have a food menu. Reserve Lounge can be booked for special events or meetings. as can the Penthouse, a 1,500-square-foot suite spread across two floors. There is a small 24-hour gym on the fourth floor. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel.