There’s no remedy for a bad drink, apart of course from a better one. Inside Grand Central Terminal a whispered placard on the wall reads: “The Campbell Apartment." At this misnomer-cum-barroom-lounge you’ll pull that ambrosial spirit. But, let’s break into a little history lesson first.
Initially, the space was leased to American financier and railroad tycoon John Williams Campbell (1923). Following the lease, Campbell commissioned New York City architect Augustus N. Allen to transform the space into a quasi-13th-century Florentine office. Campbell wanted something handsome enough to manifest and weather the Campbell name. That’s exactly what he got. Soon the office was adorned with an opulent Persian carpet, a hand-painted 25-foot gypsum plaster ceiling, a rich quatrefoil mahogany balcony, and regal leaded windows. In addition there was a showy self-assertive faux-stone fireplace. Nice, right?
After office hours, Campbell reclothed his lower half (disliking even a wrinkle in his trousers) and often entertained 50-60 friends and visitors. He was inclined to what F. Scott Fitzgerald coined, the “Jazz-Age” and regularly fattened the pockets of prominent jazz musicians in New York City. Jellybeans (stylish men) and bearcats (fiery women) listened to distended-cheeked talent like Louis Armstrong, passed martinis to hooch and got their tickets punched.
Campbell seemed to acquit himself well to the times, so ensued his passing in 1957. From there, quick hands snaffled the Persian rug and other priceless items. It became a signalman’s office before destitution offered it like an Afghan jail, and then a gun storage for the Metro-North Commuter Railroad fuzz. However, restoration efforts to Grand Central Terminal in 1994-2000 brought an eye to the previous cocktail sanctum. Thankfully in 1999 it was artfully nurtured back to life by history sympathizer and prohibition savant Mark Grossich. In 2007 it underwent another grooming to give it the time-honored appearance it holds today.
The Campbell Apartment boasts an impressive list of libations. Expect fine barkeep to pour cocktails like the Tuxedo No. 2, Jack Rose or yearned Prohibition Punch. How do you get these drinks? Pearl-necklaced girls in toothsome black dresses compute your order and bring them to you. They dovetail the bar under a slight prowl and offer a look you’ll have to walk off. It’s definitely a gentlemen’s barroom.
That also means arrive well-dressed. The Campbell Apartment turns away all carelessly attired. If you’re getting pissed as a rat, at least do it in style. Give your oxfords a burnish downstairs in the Biltmore Passage at Eddie's before you take a few sips. Cheers.
The Campbell Apartment
15 Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY 10017