Thursday, March 10, 2016

A HIDDEN CAMP ON A NEW YORK CITY ROOFTOP

THE LODGE AT GALLOW GREEN
Let’s just say I’m on a bit of a run divulging secrets about New York some New Yorkers might wish I would keep to myself. My latest act of letting the cat out of the bag is the Lodge at Gallow Green. Hidden on a street on the far western most reaches of Chelsea and well north of the trendy Meat Packing District in an old brick warehouse is an experience known as the McKitterick Hotel. They’ve put a little sandwich board outside the entrance on West 27th Street with “The Lodge at Gallow Green” written in chalk. Without it or knowing the exact address, 542, you wouldn’t have a clue of what awaits on the rooftop of this very nondescript brick building on the edge of the gallery district. The entrance to the Lodge is creepy at best having the feel of a service entrance where bins of garbage should have been piled. Standing in this little concrete vestibule is a young man dressed from another era when speakeasies were the fashion. There was a certain sense of inevitability mixed with fear that entraps you from the greeter’s somewhat sinister smile. When the elevator arrives you’re sucked into a time warp with an operator looking like a bellhop straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. The elevator literally creeps along for enough time to make you think twice about where you are going.
When the elevator finally jerks to a halt and the door slides open time begins its nasty tricks with your mind. Tucked into a corner and very dimly lit is a somewhat seedy hotel reception area when in reality there’s no hotel here at all.
I was only going to the Lodge but to get there you needed to walk through a corridor resembling the interior of passenger train from when traveling by rail was chic. Dining cars line up to your left as you walk the depot platform.
Even in the midst of a sunny afternoon the lighting makes you feel as if it’s a little after midnight and you’re somewhere rumbling through the Adirondacks on a rather long journey.
What you are really passing by to the right is the Heath, a restaurant that only serves dinner and jazz and nostalgia if you can get a reservation.
It’s then up a staircase to the roof and the entrance to the Lodge through an alley of evergreens and a set of wooden barn doors under a shingled roof.
There’s a scent of balsam and lavender once inside as a flannel shirted wait staff blends in to the d├ęcor.
The time warp continues to weave its charm as you pass by a niche set with bunk beds and dressed by the aesthetic of Ralph Lauren.
The concept is thematic twenties cabin in the mountains and it is charming. You immediately sense that you’ve been invited for the weekend.
You don’t need to pick a table, you’re invited to roam around opening up books, thumbing through a collection of preserved botanicals or freshening up with a little me time in your private room.
Of course the privacy holds only for as long as it takes for another guest to wander in looking at the room you thought was yours alone.
The bar is hidden in another corner next to the washbasin and under a row of enamel cookware.
There’s a small chalkboard drinks menu from which I ordered a mug of hot mulled wine.
The wine came in a red ceramic mug steaming and smelling of cinnamon and cloves. The bartender told me to be careful not to burn myself, “Let it cool for a minute, we serve it very hot”.
None of the doors are marked the way you’d expect in most bars so every time you open one you’re not really sure what you’ll find.
That’s how I discovered the door leading out onto the outside patio curtained in evergreens trying its best to disguise the city laying beyond. It was a valiant attempt.
I had to set my mug down and wind my way back out of the cabin in the sky, back by the leather club chairs
and wool blankets set out to keep you warm on a cold winter night.
I caught the Lodge just in time. It seems it’s only here when there’s the possibility of snow on the ground.
Like a dream it disappears when the temperatures begin to rise and the Lodge is replaced by a summer garden called simply Gallow Green, a stop on the train going from here to there. But don’t worry if you missed it since it’ll be gone at the end of March. You can come back and revisit it next winter when there’s a hint of frost returning to the air. They rebuild the Lodge every winter season; just remember to put it on your bucket list so you don’t forget.
The Lodge at Gallow Green, 542 West 27th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. Remember it’s our little secret, you can tell the bellhop Lee sent you.
Photos by either Lee Melahn or Erik Bardin for Interior Design
THE GALLERY
Cabin Bluff, Woodbine, GA, ca 1930
Photographer unknown

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