By Terry Trucco
The coolest thing about the Wythe Hotel – a place that prides itself on cool – is its sense of place.
Winking at Brooklyn’s manufacturing past, the hotel occupies a red brick building that began life in 1901 as a cooperage making barrels and casks. The boards sported by guest room ceilings and platform beds were harvested from the building. And the front door to each of the 72 rooms boasts a plaque that says Manhattan or Brooklyn – a verbal preview of the only-in-Brooklyn view.
Such touches all but scream Williamsburg, the hipster neighborhood where the Wythe occupies a prime piece of waterside turf.
If The Carlyle channels the Upper East Side and The Standard personifies the Meatpacking District, the Wythe is neo-Williamsburg unfiltered. If all this seems precious, rest assured it is. But if you’re amused by the above, read on. The Wythe is one of a kind. And it does what it does very well, at least on a first look.
Long-time residents of the neighborhood like to complain about how crowded and noisy it’s
become. But to an Upper West Sider like me the place is downright somnolent. There’s not much traffic (foot or vehicular). And though coffee shops and boutiques have sprouted up next to warehouses and townhouses, they’re not wall-to-wall as in the Lower East Side or glitzy as in SoHo.
The one ominous sound is that of construction. You see (and hear) a lot of caught-in-the-act gentrification. But the new buildings for the most part are squat; they’re not erecting high rises just yet.
On a lazy summer day the hotel was quiet and friendly in a laid-back way. The front door opens on to loft-like lobby lined with huge-paned windows, exposed brick walls and a handsome wood floor where the check-in desk is the main event. You can perch on a wood bench (good looking but not very comfortable). But keep walking. A sitting room awaits with the requisite leather sofa, wing chairs, updated Windsor chairs . . . and a spectacular library, each jam-packed shelf protected by a pull-up window.
The books are a treasure trove of time travel and yard sales – a tooled-leather encyclopedia, a complete set of the Hardy Boys and vintage editions of classics like Daddy Long Legs and Tom Sawyer punctuated by a small bust of George Washington here, a sleek ruby glass vase there.
The look wafts upstairs, where hallways are wide with concrete floors beneath and those wood-beamed ceilings overhead – 13 feet to be precise. The first room I saw faced Brooklyn (wall-to-wall buildings, no water). But the skyline is low, the window, framed by white sheers, is big, and with its exposed brick walls, the room felt like an old-new mash-up in all the right places. You could imagine yourself in a black-and-white movie but also feel totally 21st century.
A long hallway led to the sleeping area with a stop for the big, white-tiled bathroom (soaking tub and stall shower). The queen-size platform bed perched on turned legs — rope is woven through those harvested boards – commanded all the attention (and most of the space). A marble-topped table and two bentwood chairs stood near the window. It was wildly romantic
all round if concrete, marble and exposed brick pump your pulse.
A king-bed room facing Manhattan was bigger with a pair of leather club chairs near the immense paned window and a wood-topped forged metal desk opposite the wood-plank bed. Light streamed through window – and serenity. You know you’re in Brooklyn and Manhattan, for now, is at bay.
The roof bar wraps around the top floor, affording views wherever you look. But during the day the action is in Reynards, the ground-floor restaurant and bar. Like everything about the
Wythe, it flaunts artfully recycled elements, huge windows, exposed brick in spades and plenty of forethought. The daytime menu is limited – eggs, salads, burgers – but offerings are locally sourced and, yes, a little precious. My $14 hamburger planted on a thick bed of caramelized onions and paired with fries came with homemade mayonnaise (no ketchup). It was scrumptious.
You can grab a cab (if you can find one) or take the L train subway line to Manhattan. But the best way leave the hotel, and Brooklyn, is to walk over to the chipper blue-and-white New York Waterways East River Ferry, which zips across the waves, depositing riders at East 34th Street or Wall Street.
It’s an atmospheric mode of transportation – wind in the hair, sea breezes, skylines – and totally in sync with the Wythe.