Last month, New York City lost a legend. Grand Central Terminal’s Campbell Apartment, a mahogany gem box of a bar inside the famed train station, closed after losing its lease. It had only been a bar since 1999, but in the last 17 years, The Campbell Apartment became a Midtown mainstay and a city icon. Here, we take a look back at the historic bar, and relive the glory of the Campbell Apartment.
Why We’ll Miss The Campbell Apartment
The back story
Only recently a bar, The Campbell Apartment started as the private offices for John W. Campbell, a financier and railroad executive. He leased the room from 1923 until his death in 1957, entertaining his clients in style with a grand piano and pipe organ. An enormous handmade Persian carpet, worth millions in today’s dollars, covered the floor. After his death, the space languished. Water damage and broken wiring left the space unrecognizable, when Mark Grossich signed a lease and renovated the room in 1999, bringing it back to its gilded past.
The dress code
The Campbell Apartment was one of few bars in New York to successfully maintain a dress code—and enforce it. A New York Times journalist was once escorted out, because his Tod’s shoes resembled sneakers a little too closely, and any sort of athletic shoes were a strict no-no. Some people (said journalist included) considered the code byzantine, but we appreciated it for its refusal to allow for times with lower standards.
The wait staff
Servers, too, dressed the part. Men wore white dinner jackets with black ties; women wore black cocktail dresses and pearl necklaces. The contrasting looks paired perfectly together, especially as the waitstaff walked past each other in the crowded, intimate space.
The Campbell Apartment’s regulars were a lofty set. There were Midtown execs and visiting CEOs of course, but also Bill Clinton and celebrities like George Clooney and Stephen Colbert. No other bar had the same “we all know we’re all important” vibe.
Specialty cocktails like the Robber Baron (vodka, muddled mint, lime juice and Midori) and Flapper’s Delight (champagne, papaya juice and Amaretto) were always popular, but it was the house punch that could really liven up an evening. The rum, champagne and fruit-juice concoction was sinfully delicious. Above all, The Campbell Apartment was the only place in town that served a martini good enough to rival the original, served right here at The Knickerbocker.
Join us in sending a fond farewell to the Campbell Apartment. It will be missed!