May 10, 2019

Rooftop Bars: Take in the Glamour of Old Manhattan at Ophelia Lounge

View of the grand terrace and bar of Ophelia Lounge. Photography courtesy of Ophelia. 

Whether you’re a longtime New York City-dweller or more of an occasional visitor, consider stopping in at Ophelia Lounge next time you find yourself in Midtown East—perhaps in between the markets and events of NYCxDesign (May 10-22). Situated on the 26th floor of the historic Beekman Tower, Ophelia has an Art Deco-inspired interior in jewel tones that nods to its rich, storied past. 

Beekman Tower dates to 1928, when it was built by architect John Mead Howells and developer Emily Hepburn under the name of Panhellenic Tower. In those days, it was a private hotel with a 26th-floor social club for the women of Greek-letter sororities. In 1934, the property was renamed Beekman Tower and opened to the public. The former social club reopened as a rooftop lounge called Top of the Tower and in the 1940s became a favorite of notable New Yorkers such as Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, and Frank Zappa.

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Ophelia’s outer terrace, which wraps around the grand terrace and bar. Photography courtesy of Ophelia. 

The lounge closed for about a decade before Merchants Hospitality and Public Agenda reopened the space as Ophelia in February of 2018. Berlin-based interior designer Amy Wenden oversaw both the interior design and the custom furnishings that fit in the wraparound greenhouse terrace orbiting the bar. Patrons can admire sweeping views of the water and Roosevelt Island on the lounge’s east side, and the city skyline on the west. New York-based upholsterer Rollhaus worked with Wenden’s team to accent the custom seating in a lush red velvet by Alessandro Bini.

The details in Ophelia’s decor pay respects to the quirks of its heyday; “curiosities” affixed throughout were chosen by Chicago-based curator James Wheeler to harken back to the early-to-mid 20th century’s fascination with science and the natural world. Eclectic pieces, such as a deck of French Tarot cards, a quartz crystal ball, antique butterfly slides, and a porcelain palmistry hand, are as likely to catch your attention as the vintage sorority ephemera from the families of the women who first lived in the tower. 

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Curiosities displayed throughout Ophelia nod to the eclecticism of the 1940s. Photography courtesy of Ophelia. 

Lighting design by BOLD illuminates everything from the curiosities to the 24-foot-long pewter bar and the seating along the perimeter of the terrace. Speaking of the bar, what’s old is made new again on the cocktail menu crafted by mixologist Amir Babayoff. He puts new twists on classic drinks—take the Caribbean Old Fashioned, which omits whiskey in favor of rum and is warmed by the addition of winter spices. The bites menu is the work of executive chef Victor Miranda. Miranda fuses locally-sourced ingredients with offerings from international artisans to create a elevated and refined culinary experience. 

The drinks, decor, and exquisite menu are all top notch—with views to match. 

The view, overlooking Midtown East, Roosevelt Island, and Long Island City. Photography courtesy of Ophelia. 

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