Take a sneak peek at JFK’s ea­gerly awaited TWA Ho­tel

Iconic 1960s fa­cil­ity set to re­open next year

USA TODAY International Edition - - MONEY / TRAVEL - Ben Mutz­abaugh

NEW YORK – Ro­tary dial phones. Iconic mid­cen­tury-mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture. Tab so­das in the mini­bar.

If that sounds as if it could be 1962, that’s by de­sign. It’s all part of the DNA of the new TWA Ho­tel set to open next year at New York’s John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

An­chored around the land­mark TWA Flight Cen­ter that opened in 1962 as the jet age dawned, the air­port prop­erty is one of the most-an­tic­i­pated ho­tel open­ings of 2019.

The 512-room ho­tel will fea­ture two new six-story tow­ers that flank the old TWA ter­mi­nal’s “head house,” an ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece de­signed by Eero Saari­nen. The ter­mi­nal is be­ing con­verted into a 200,000-square-foot lobby the ho­tel claims will be the world’s largest.

The TWA Ho­tel will in­clude six restau­rants and eight bars. One of those, a cock­tail bar, will be housed in a re­fur­bished Lock­heed “Con­stel­la­tion” air­craft that was a sta­ple of the TWA fleet in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“Peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion these days,” says Tyler Morse, CEO of the MCR and Morse De­vel­op­ment firms that are spear­head­ing the re­de­vel­op­ment of the TWA site. “We’re kind of liv­ing in one gi­ant Wal­greens. It’s a very ho­mo­ge­neous world.”

The TWA Ho­tel, Morse says, will shake that up.

Al­ready, en­thu­si­asts — both avi­a­tion and ar­chi­tec­tural — have ea­gerly awaited each new de­tail to emerge about the iconic struc­ture’s re­birth as a ho­tel.

“Our phones are ring­ing off the hook,” Morse says.

Vet­eran travel in­dus­try an­a­lyst Henry Harteveldt is not sur­prised.

“I have not seen a new ho­tel at­tract the level of in­ter­est from trav­el­ers, avi­a­tion en­thu­si­asts — even the ho­tel in­dus­try it­self — as the TWA Ho­tel has,” says Hartevdelt, who worked for nowde­funct TWA in the 1980s.

The TWA ter­mi­nal was last used for flights in 2001 and has been empty since. The build­ing has been de­clared a New York City land­mark and was added to the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 2005.

Al­ready, vis­i­tors are in­trigued by a rooftop pool that will af­ford views of the air­field — not to men­tion the Con­stel­la­tion and the ho­tel-lobby con­ver­sion of the TWA Flight Cen­ter now in progress.

The TWA Ho­tel will for­mally un­veil the look and lay­out of its stan­dard rooms Tues­day. USA TO­DAY got a sneak peek ahead of the of­fi­cial un­veil­ing.

“We’re bring­ing back the magic of 1962,” Morse says, de­scrib­ing the prop­erty as an “ex­pe­ri­en­tial ho­tel.”

“Ev­ery­thing we’re do­ing is unique and be­spoke,” Morse adds dur­ing a pre­view of the rooms at a JFK han­gar where MCR has put to­gether a “top-se­cret” full-scale mock-up of what will be a stan­dard room at the ho­tel.

The stan­dard rooms are on the small side, av­er­ag­ing 325 square feet. Forty­four of the ho­tel’s rooms will be larger suites, with the big­gest top­ping out at around 1,200 square feet. All will in­clude aes­thet­ics that are sure to ap­peal to avi­a­tion and de­sign buffs.

They’re fronted with floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows. Most of them af­ford guests views of ei­ther flight ac­tiv­ity on the air­field or a panorama of the TWA Flight Cen­ter it­self. “You can walk right up to the win­dow and watch the planes take off and land,” Morse says.

Morse also pre­dicts the TWA Ho­tel will be one of the world’s qui­etest, thanks to win­dow sound­proof­ing he says is among the thick­est in the world. “We’re at an air­port. Peo­ple ex­pect it to be noisy, so we over­com­pen­sated.”

The dé­cor, han­dled by ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­rior de­sign firm Stone­hill Tay­lor, could be mis­taken as a mu­seum ex­hibit high­light­ing mid­cen­tury Amer­i­cana.

Guests will be able to make calls on vin­tage 1950s-era West­ern Elec­tric 500 ro­tary-dial phones, with no charges for ei­ther lo­cal or long-dis­tance num­bers.

“We’re buy­ing them on eBay,” Morse says, not­ing there aren’t many other places to track down work­ing ro­tary phones these days. “They re­place the guts of the phone,” swap­ping out the old ana­log tech­nol­ogy for a mod­ern con­nec­tion.

No word yet on whether there’ll be in­struc­tions for guests too young to have ever en­coun­tered such a phone.

Air­port ho­tels are rarely re­garded as des­ti­na­tions in them­selves. They’re left to the prov­ince of stranded trav­el­ers or those overnight­ing ahead of a 6 a.m. flight. But Morse be­lieves the TWA Ho­tel — about 15 miles from Man­hat­tan — can pull it off.

The TWA Ho­tel will be the only one on the air­port’s ac­tual grounds. But Morse says the lure of the prop­erty will go be­yond.

“Thirty per­cent of our busi­ness will be events, cel­e­bra­tions and cor­po­rate meet­ings,” he says, adding that the ho­tel an­tic­i­pates host­ing 100 wed­dings and 50 bar mitz­vahs a year.

“We don’t want to open so wildly hot and then die,” Morse says. “I don’t like cool ho­tels, be­cause — by def­i­ni­tion — cool is ephemeral. What is cool to­day is not cool to­mor­row. What we want to do is a good prod­uct and a ter­rific ex­pe­ri­ence.”

A mock ho­tel room at the TWA Ho­tel, which USA TO­DAY got a glimpse of ahead of its for­mal un­veil­ing to the pub­lic. PHO­TOS BY ROBERT DEUTSCH/USA TO­DAY

The TWA takes you back in time to the 1960s with fuzzy slip­pers and vin­tage ro­tary phones in the rooms.

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