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Touring the Big Apple's Franklin HotelOctober 16, 2008 By: Mackenzie Allison
What: The Franklin Hotel
Where: Manhattan’s Upper East Side
On a Map: 164 East 87th Street (between Lexington and Third Ave.)
The Neighborhood: I recently took a tour of The Franklin Hotel in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I went straight from our Midtown offices clad in a black dress and very worn Western boots, and, subsequently, spent the whole 40-block train ride mentally preparing myself for stares—considering I did not think I was dressed the part of a chic New Yorker about to step into the UES world made popular by shows such as Gossip Girl and Sex and the City.
Now, whatever you think about the Upper East Side is probably true. Assuming those thoughts are positive, it is a ritzy area with cute cafes and the world-renowned Museum Mile. That said, put those thoughts on the backburner for a sec. When I got out of the subway at 86th street and Lexington, I found the typical aspects of New York they don’t advertise in guide books: people mall-walking their way through the crowds in sweatpants and jeans; inquisitive, and somewhat abrasive, kids with their despondent nannies in tow; and neon signs for stores such as Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. However, when I turned the corner onto 87th street, the crowds dispersed, replaced by a few individuals leisurely walking dogs and chatting. Once we sifted through the organized chaos, we were finally in a tranquil, tree-lined setting—and that’s where we found The Franklin.
First Impressions: Most of the hotels I visit in New York basically take up a city block. The general vibe might vary from place to place, but, for the most part, you can always find the lines of cabs and the even longer lines of guests with piles of luggage. The Franklin is very unassuming in comparison. On a mainly residential street, the neon Franklin Hotel sign is the only real indication that you are not about to step into an Old-New-York-style apartment complex.
The Front Parlor of the Franklin Hotel
Past the wrought iron door, I walked up a few steps, which were draped in a crimson carpet, into the small lobby with a homey feel. It almost reminded me of walking into the parlor of a refined bed-and- breakfast; there was an old door elevator in the back, which dates back to when the hotel was built in the 1930s, and a rotary phone to the side of the reception desk. The staff was friendly and instantly acknowledged my presence.
Due to the size of the room, I got the impression that this was mainly a place to check in and out—not a real socializing area, although it is probably not discouraged. The hotel’s “lounge” looks like a living room that serves as a comfortable gathering place for a family of four. The room is a mix of textures, colors and fabrics near the lobby (think zebra-print throw pillows and metallic-colored wallpaper). Coldplay’s “Clocks” emanated from the background. This would have been a perfect scene if not for the blaring Financial Services sign on the storefront across the street, but I won’t hold that against them.
A Room With a View?: I was able to look at a few rooms in the hotel. If you are one of those people who understand that the size of the apartments on Friends was a cruel joke and are curious as to how Manhattanites really live, the size of these rooms might shed some light on the subject.
A guest room at the Franklin Hotel
The Bar/Restaurant Scene: There isn’t one. The Franklin doesn’t have a bar or a restaurant. Don’t expect to go hungry though—the hotel’s room service is provided by Bella Cucina restaurant down the street. I know—the thought of takeout brings to mind lukewarm food in various plastic containers. However, I was informed that the restaurant provides their own dishware and eating utensils. Guests can get lunch and dinner from noon to 9:30 p.m.
Remember how I said there isn’t a bar? Well, the hotel also has that covered. For a $40 fee, guests can partake in the hotel’s private bottle service. Guests can also have a few glasses of wine during the hotel’s complimentary wine and Artisanal cheese reception from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. I took a tour of the hotel during that time. There is a room set up near the lobby with dim lighting where I spotted people on laptops drinking wine. The room also has a cappuccino machine.
To start the day, the hotel has a complimentary continental breakfast. The idea of a continental breakfast might scare some folks, but I was told that this offering goes beyond the standard cup of coffee and baked goods (think cheese, jam and prosciutto).
Is It Worth It?: Although the hotel is somewhat tucked away and small, it is still close to several stores on Lexington and Third Avenues. Besides the places earlier mentioned, 86th street has several retail shops and there is a movie theater on Third Ave. If you want to really be part of the hustle and bustle, then I would say opt for somewhere else. However, if the thought of retreating from Midtown to a low-key hotel on a side street is appealing, go for The Franklin. I think General Manager Tomas Montalvo describes it best: “We aren’t trying to be flashy and big, we’re just trying to be The Franklin.” I say, check it out.