After the pandemic delayed the Paspaley family’s ambitious hospitality plans, their first hotel property in New York opens on Wall Street this month. Tilly Macalister-Smith takes a tour.
The Paspaley family’s first hotel property in New York opens on Wall Street this month.
At the southernmost tip of Manhattan stands the site of a new hotel that is promising much more than a place to lay one’s hat. The perception of Wall Street as a blur of pinstripe besuited bankers barking into mobile phones has been shifting in recent times, and the Wall Street Hotel hopes to cement this cultural transformation of New York’s financial district.
The historic building, once known as the Tontine Coffee House, was coined the first official home of the New York Stock Exchange at the end of the 18th century, and over the years evolved into various guises, becoming the social centre of the then financial district and, by the 1930s, the HQ of a furniture trading company, which by coincidence had become the world’s biggest importer of mother-ofpearl, bringing Australian oysters into the New York bay.
The pearling coincidence is a serendipitous one for its current owners the Paspaleys: the three-generations old Western Australian family who have been trading pearls for over a century. The family boldly snapped up the property in its entirety (including two neighbouring buildings dated from 1902 and 1905) a couple of years after the global financial crash of 1987, when many thought the area had seen its heyday.
The omnipresence of pinstripe has been on the wane in the 10005 zip code; first the internet, then the pandemic, has driven more bankers online, opening up famous skyscraping addresses like the Woolworth Building, One Wall Street and 70 Pine to become more residential and host restaurants, such as Crown Shy. Saga followed last August, along with the Casa Cipriani with its 47 rooms and a private members club in the Beaux-Arts style Battery Maritime Building. The result is a wealth of new visitors and tourists.
The Paspaley family onboarded some of the best talent in the business to bring to life their first hotel: architects Stonehill Taylor managed the unwieldy task of ‘marrying’ the two neighbouring buildings. Although planning started in 2018, citywide lockdowns and global supply chain issues meant progress was slow for a while. Fortuitously, the opening chimes with the arrival of spring in America. “Now is the perfect time to join the cultural revival of New York’s FiDi district,” says James Paspaley. “It’s exciting to be opening our hotel just as the world celebrates what has been out of reach for so long.”
The family called on interior designer Liubasha Rose of Rose Ink Workshop to create a home away from home that was equal parts
welcoming and impressive. Known for her rich, textured approach, she layered sumptuous brocades with fabric covered walls, and marble furniture on deep pile carpets with sweeping drapes to create an atmosphere that is decidedly expressive. “I started with the word ‘cinematic’, and went from there,” she says, of the inspiration for the main lounge with its triple-height ceilings, which is also open to non-guests wanting to enjoy an afterwork cocktail at the bar or to dine at the restaurant.
Although cavernous, the space is cleverly articulated into cosy corners, each with its own distinct furniture, spanning wrought iron-framed chairs upholstered in ikat weave to velvet club chairs and coffee tables replete with interior design books. A grand marble fireplace bought at auction previously stood in the Ambassador’s suite at the Waldorf Astoria. In fact, much of the furniture and light fittings are antique or salvaged.
“We were very much inspired by the aesthetics of the pearl, its shell, and the soft pastel colours,” continues Rose, addressing the serene aquatic colour palette in the 180 rooms spanning intimate kings to luxurious suites. “We wanted to create the perfect piedà-terre in downtown New York, which felt like it could be the Park Avenue apartment you always dreamed of having,” she says.
Specially commissioned contemporary First Nations artworks by artists including Matjangka Norris, Betty Muffler, Peter Mungkuri and Tjangili George are proudly displayed in every suite, with unique screen prints in the rest of the guest rooms. “We went to great lengths to be sure that we had real art in the rooms and hanging throughout the hotel,” Paspaley adds.
Entertaining wise, future brides will be excited to learn of the vast 195-square-metre ballroom on the 15th floor, with its views of the river from its wraparound balcony, equipped with two outdoor bars and comfy outside furniture.
Outside the hotel, guests are encouraged to explore the area by hotel bike or even helicopter (the hotel concierge has already partnered with a local heliport in anticipation of the demand). It’s all a clear indication of the upswing felt downtown. “Now is the time to celebrate the transformation of downtown into something new,” affirms Paspaley. “We’re embracing the vibrancy, culture and chic sensibility that today’s financial district represents.”