Of the 1000s of people that pass through Grand Central Station each day, only a few know about its most magnificent secret… an incredible Jazz-Age cocktail bar hidden in the once private office of a New York railroad millionaire. Here’s how to find it. Head towards those enormous gold light fixtures that hang from the high ceiling in the south-west wing of the station to an old-fashioned guilded lift. Press the button, step inside and head down to the basement.
To the left of the lift, head up the small set of stairs into the pink light…
At the top, you’ll find what just could be one of the most beautiful sights in the city – a Jazz Age-style cocktail bar known as The Campbell Apartment. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear Billie Holiday and Count Basie playing softly in the background, cocktails being shaken up and stirred, New York’s finest artists and writers of days gone by chatting and laughing…
To fully appreciate the Campbell Apartment, it helps to know a bit about its history. After making a fortune in steamships and buying up the railways, Mr Vanderbuilt – once one of the wealthiest men in America – decided to rebuild Grand Central to reflect his wealth, at the same time letting his friend, tycoon John W Campbell, set up a private office inside the station in 1923. At once, Campbell furnished it with oriental rugs, 13th-century Italian furniture, priceless porcelain vases, a huge leaded glass window and a stone fireplace.
He used the office until 1940 after which time it was used as a holding ell for the police, CBS’s executive offices, before being left empty and abandoned until it reopened as a public cocktail bar in 1999. You an even see Campbell’s original safe, his name engraved on it, under the fireplace.
To reflect this beautiful history, the cocktail menu harks back to the Jazz Age, with new takes on classics, like the amazing Prohibition Punch – a fish-bowl-sized serving of passion fruit juices, Appleton Rum and Gran Gala, topped with Moet & Chandon! One is all you’ll need!
Update: Since I visited, the bar has been renovated and reopened as the Campbell Bar, according to this New York Times article.
Find The Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central Station, 15 Vanderbilt Avenue.