Chapel Bar, New York City’s newest hidden bar is located at one of our favorite more recently opened museums, Fotografiska New York. The bar is located inside a 19th-century chapel and schoolhouse, one of the highlights our Untapped New York Insiders were treated to in a behind-the-scenes tour when the museum was under construction.
The schoolhouse was designed in 1867 by James Renwick Jr., architect behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the now-abandoned smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island, and many more New York City landmarks. It was part of Calvary Church, where Edith Wharton and her family were congregants along with other New York City bluebloods like the Astors, Roosevelts and the Vanderbilts. Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt married William K. Vanderbilt in Calvary Church. Edith Wharton, who grew up in a brownstone townhouse nearby, drew upon her life for her Pulitzer-prize winning book The Age of Innocence by modeling a character after the rector and using the church as one of the settings. The daughter of the rector at Calvary Church actually introduced Wharton to Goethe, “who was to become her favorite writer,” as reported in the landmark designation report for the Gramercy Park Historic District.
The designation report also notes that Calvary Church was notable for being built of brownstone and “is one of the fine, small Gothic Revival churches in the City.” The schoolhouse was originally built as a theater, but was converted shortly after construction into a Sunday School, and was known as the “Renwick Gem” schoolhouse.
The chapel-to-bar conversion into Chapel Bar was led by CetraRuddy with interior design by the studio Roman and Williams. Inside, there is a photography installation currently by Miles Aldridge, in tandem with his Fotografiska exhibition Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1999 – 2020. There is also a VIP “Confessional” room serving experiential cocktail service.
Chapel Bar is however, members only, open to Fotografiska Patron members of members of NeueHouse, the membership club. It’s being billed as an intimate “destination for communion, cocktails and culture.” Josh Wyatt, CEO of Fotografiska and NeueHouse says, “The concept for Chapel Bar was to build a sanctuary for culture — a place to worship art, photography, fashion and music in a chic setting, surrounded by creative and curious individuals. We’re bringing together a kindred member base who are passionate about pushing culture forward in their personal and professional lives, and we welcome the magic moments and passionate energy that will come from this gathering of minds and spirits.”
The historical connection of the building infuses the beverage menu, with guests invited to “drink at the altar of spirits created by monks, priests, and influential figures – both historic and folkloric – from around the globe. The offering of carefully curated cocktails and spirits includes a selection of chartreuses, champagnes, gins and beyond, taking guests on a journey of some of the most compelling concoctions invented throughout the ages.”
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Gramercy Park.