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Barbizon Hotel NYC Untapped Cities

During a seething summer evening in 1953, Lexington Avenue on the corner of 63rd Street received a sprinkling of clothing–an entire wardrobe really–thrown from the rooftop of the Barbizon Hotel. The intoxicated young woman, demonstrating her unhappiness during her last night in the city, was Sylvia Plath. Her summer stay at the Barbizon Hotel would later figure prominently in her famous novel,The Bell Jar

The Barbizon hotel’s story begins in 1926 when it was built as a “Club Residence for Professional Women.” It wasn’t until the 1940s that its reputation blossomed as the hotel for young single and gorgeous women. There were other hotels in New York City specifically for women, but the Barbizon stood apart, namely due to its exclusivity. A woman had to have three letters of recommendation along with impeccable manners and dress in order to be allowed a room at this dormitory style hotel.

Between 1940-1960, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Cybill Shepherd, Candice Bergen, Joan Didion, and Betsey Johnson made the Barbizon their home. Eileen Ford, who ran the Ford Modeling Agency, regularly rented rooms at the Barbizon for many of her models. In the April 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, the author Michael Callahan describes it well, “If the Barbizon had a face, it was that of Grace Kelly…The Barbizon wanted its poster girl to be Lisa Fremont, Jimmy Stewart’s sophisticated girlfriend in Rear Window, who had all of Kitty Foyle’s snap and guile, but was also swathed in filmy negligées, A-line dresses, opera gloves, and smart pillbox hats with netting.”

Barbizon Hotel condos NYC Untapped Cities

With so many beautiful and talented women in one building, it was no wonder men were always trying to find a way to sneak in. Security would not allow them above the first floor, but with enough motivation, some would try posing as a doctor or father to gain entry. The hotel officially started to admit men in 1981 as times were changing and all-women’s hotels were a thing of the past.

Nowadays, this former hotel is known as “Barbizon 63” after its conversion to condos in 2006. The insides have been gutted and refurbished and one would need a pretty penny in order to own an apartment there. Nonetheless, it will always be a city icon, symbolizing a safe retreat for career women during most of its existence. The recent landmark status it gained this past April will keep its beautiful coral brick façade from changing and its memory from becoming a pretty thing of the past.

Check out some of these vintage photos of the Barbizon:

Barbizon Hotel_Outside Untapped Cities

Barbizon Hotel_1965_May_Mademoiselle Untapped Cities

Barbizon Hotel_Lobby Untapped Cities

Barbizon Hotel_Shopping Untapped Cities

Barbizon Hotel_Room Untapped Cities

Barbizon Hotel_MCNY Untapped Cities

Vintage photos curated by Diksha B, who writes for our Vintage Photography column.

4 Comments

  1. Marilyn Raff says:

    As a young teen, living in South Orange, N.J., in about 1960 my mother sent me to The Barbizon every Saturday morning, to learn the correct way to walk, to dress and stand properly. I probably went to classes for about 6 months or 1 year. I traveled alone by bus from Irvington, New Jersey.
    I’d love to hear and share experiences, with any one else who went to The Barbizon for modeling purposes around that time period. thanks, Marilyn Raff

    • Sandi McVige says:

      Although I didn’t take any classes there, my girlfriend, Loraine and I would take the train down in 1964 and stay overnight. We were 18 and loved the city and there was no safer place to be than The Barbizon.

  2. Lenny DOwhie says:

    Years ago-in the 1990’s, I stayed at the Barbizon when I was in town for a board meeting for the American Crafts Council. I got to the hotel late, as we had meetings and dinner, and when I got to my assigned room, there were multiple strips of police tape across the door and a police lock. I went to the hall phone and called the manage and they put me on hold-Apologizing, he came back on and asked if the “Penthouse” would be an acceptable substitute. Of course I said yes and stayed in a wonderful room that had been created out of part of the old exterior-thus the room had architectural elements, windows that gave great views, and all the wonderful aspects of such a hotel.

    Loved every minute.

    Oh yeah, the other room? The guy staying/living in it committed suicide and they all forgot. Happy Holidays all.

  3. Gabrielle Tuttle says:

    My mother lived here, Tamara nee Behrens. I would love more pictures of this hotel from the 50’s when she was a secretary at NBC.

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