fit for a president

With panoramic views of San Diego’s surrounding cityscape and bay, the spacious Penthouse Presidential Suite at The US Grant is a rooftop aerie worthy of a President’s Day seal of approval. Built by Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. in honor of his father, the Civil War hero and 18th President of the United States, the hotel is one of the most historically significant locations in southern California. Added onto the hotel in 1939, the penthouse was originally built as a radio station, making its historical mark as the site from which President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast the first ‘fireside chat’ outside of the nation’s capital. Boasting a dining room, a separate salon, and an executive desk tailor-made for issuing edicts with a flourish, its presidential bona fides gets a further boost from having hosted 13 of this country’s Commanders-in-Chief.


playing the palace

As part of a larger story and long-term book project I am working on, I have from time to time over the past few months been  privileged to stay in some of New York City’s more interesting hotel rooms.  Recently I spent the night at the former Helmsley flagship, The New York Palace, in one of their four signature penthouse Triplex Suites.  It’s now a part of the fashionable Dorchester Collection of hotels and let me tell you this:  it doesn’t suck.

With a vertical design reflecting the nautical essence and stylized architecture of 1920’s  and 30’s Art Deco glamor – think SS Normandie – these suites spread out across 5,000 square-feet and three levels, sporting panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline from every angle.  Beyond the marble foyer is an expansive double-height living room with floor to ceiling windows and plush Deco furnishings and design accents.  Adjacent is a formal dining room and fully equipped-kitchen – just in case your entourage includes staff.

Up the circular staircase – or hop in the private in-suite elevator, natch – the second floor holds the Master Suite and guest bedroom.   For scale purposes I asked the bellboy and a pair of housekeepers to disrobe and curl up in the king-sized bed.  Adjoining the sleeping quarters, a sizable living area features a walk-in closet that’s larger than many a New York apartment.  And then there’s the guest bedroom across the hall: equally impressive with a pink marble bathroom and large portholes overlooking the downstairs living room   In fact,  I ended up sleeping in the guestroom because the view was too good to pass up – but more on that later.

The third – and final – floor is accessible exclusively via the in-suite elevator and boasts a true rarity: 1,500 square-feet of private rooftop terrace and no escape from the views:  to the south are the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, to the east is the Seagram Building, Queensboro Bridge, and East River.  It’s the kind of space that makes you want to shout something embarrassing about being on top of the world.  Because after all, you are.

Spectacular and addictive in its own right is the view once the sun finally sets and the lights of New York City come alive.  It’s priceless.  Well, not really; the rack rate for this private palace in the sky is a cool $20,000 per night.


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