New York’s Lexington Hotel makes the most of its connections to pop icons from Marilyn Monroe to Ella Fitzgerald to market itself through themed celebrity suites.
NEW YORK—“George Washington slept here” is a pretty good boast shared by multiple (if frequently dubious) lodgings, but “Marilyn Monroe lived here with Joe DiMaggio” is probably unique to the Lexington Hotel, Autograph Collection, in Manhattan’s busy east Midtown area.
Recognizing the distinctiveness of that legacy and others, the 725-room Lexington, which opened in 1929, has created five specialty suites designed to offer guests a feel for its history. The Norma Jeane Suite (trademarks do not allow for using the Marilyn Monroe name) may be the most iconic, being the home of Monroe and New York Yankee DiMaggio during their brief (nine-month) marriage.
The Lexington, which is owned by Diamond Rock Hospitality and managed by Highgate, also offers The Lady Ella Suite, recognizing singer Ella Fitzgerald’s importance during the Golden Age of jazz when the hotel was built; The Arthur Godfrey Suite, commemorating the early TV and radio star’s broadcasts from the hotel in the 1950s; The Hawaiian Room, harking back to an entertainment venue at the hotel from 1937 to 1966 (from which Godfrey operated); The Hemingway Suite (a bit of a stretch since Hemingway did not really have New York roots but he presumably would have liked this room); and The Conservatory, original to the hotel and highlighted by many botanical touches.
Until recently, the rooms, though named, had not been decorated to reflect any particular themes. An interior decorating firm has redone them with numerous design touches—whimsical, historical and humorous—to bring to life their respective motifs. Some examples: artwork and photos featuring Monroe and a baseball bat in an umbrella stand in The Norma Jeane Suite; Ella Fitzgerald album cover art in that suite; Godfrey recordings and an “on air” sign in that room; vintage barware such as tiki glasses and cocktail umbrellas in The Hawaiian Room; manual typewriters and a Cuban cigar box in The Hemingway room; and flowers pressed in glass and a tree trunk lamp in The Conservatory.
The units are priced from about $700 for The Conservatory to $1,500 for The Lady Ella, the largest of the five, depending on demand and seasonality.
The goal, according Rebecca Perry, director of marketing, was to “create an experience through small details that tell stories.” She said that with so many boutique hotels in the city, “we needed to have a distinguishing factor.”
Kaizad Charna, area managing director, said the redesign of the suites emerges from a desire to pay homage to the hotel’s past and the iconic personalities who have been guests. As for being a marketing tool, Charna said it’s still too early to say. However, he added, the idea was to attract a mix of guests who are interested in sports, music, film and entertainment, and who would appreciate that personalities like Monroe stayed or lived at the property.
Being part of Autograph offers flexibility unavailable to branded hotels, such as the themed suites that “enable us to tell our own unique story,” Charna said.
The Marriott connection also helps the hotel generate a healthy mix of corporate and leisure business, he said. A majority of weekday guests are business transient while most weekend stays are leisure, he said, adding that the overall mix is 70/30 business/leisure.
Being part of the loyalty program Marriott Rewards also “is definitely an added value,” he said.
Looking ahead, Charna said there will be “notable enhancements” to the lobby, incorporating new artwork and an elevator modernization project. The hotel also has big plans for 2019 “that we can’t wait to unveil,” he said.