Remembering the Colors of Old New York

The Beekman, the Long-Abandoned Architectural Masterpiece, Undergoes a Colorful Luxury-Hotel Conversion in Lower Manhattan


There is a hush that overtakes you upon entering the atrium of the newly renovated Beekman. This historic hotel, in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District, which first opened in 1883, brings together inspiring design, stunning architecture, and ravishing color. Although there is plenty to intrigue about the 287-room boutique hotel at 123 Nassau Street, the element that has so fascinated the people of New York City is the fact that during the decades this famed location was abandoned and blocked off, visitors remained oblivious to what lay hidden behind its terra-cotta and brick facade.

For over 60 years, the iconic atrium of this ”neo-Grec meets Renaissance Revival” beauty was sealed off for safety reasons. When the atrium was rediscovered after the hotel had sat vacant for over a decade, it was only a matter of time before this diamond in the rough received special attention. And the results of that attention form the basis of our inspired color palettes.

The building, formerly known as Temple Court, is now officially landmarked, and that reverent feeling of stepping into another dimension when you pass through its doors is not entirely an illusion. The designers took great pains to restore the building to its former glory, although the addition of a shiny new skyscraper at its posterior has considerably updated its look and amenities. But while the Beekman may look the part of a historic hotel, the building hasn’t always been used for its current purpose.

A Revelation on Nassau Street

What would become the most anticipated hotel unveiling of the 21st century was once merely an idea in the latter part of the 19th century. This enduring Queen Anne–style building was born of the ambition of millionaire banker Eugene Kelly over 100 years ago and was originally intended for a unique purpose.

Beekman Hotel
The brick grandeur of the Beekman stands in beautiful contrast to the blue New York sky. Photos provided by the Beekman.

Kelly had sat on committees for a number of monumental projects, among them the Washington Square Arch and the Statue of Liberty. In 1868, he turned his attention to the vacant lot between Beekman and Nassau streets, and tapped the architects at Silliman & Farnsworth to make his vision for “the Kelly Building” a reality. His unprecedented office concept ushered in a new era in business that favored compact workspaces over single-business buildings.

The ornamental architecture reflects the area’s opulence at the time of the building’s construction, and it was one of the first high-rises in Manhattan at a now-minuscule, then-staggering, 10 stories. Today, the impressive building is dwarfed by the surrounding byproducts of over a century of growth and increasing wealth.

But the Beekman has withstood the many changes of its surroundings, and it has been victorious over the rigors of time and the unyielding drive for fresh and new developments. The distinctive Queen Anne turrets were the first of their kind in Manhattan and set the trend for the graceful crowns of buildings all over New York City. Even now, with the design of the Beekman Residences tower to the south, Temple Court is still honored for being one of the first buildings in the city to feature these soaring pyramidal towers.

The Beekman’s uniqueness extends beyond its age and architecture style into its varicolored palettes. We have harnessed the Victorian vim and contemporary vigor that bring new life to this long-abandoned space, and have curated a new Pratt & Lambert color palette inspired by the building’s timeless exterior.

Scarlet O’hara 5-16

Tumbleweed 7-28

Anthracite 25-19

The red-brick and terra-cotta facade is honored through the deep tone of Pratt & Lambert’s Scarlet O’Hara 5-16 and gentle blush of Tumbleweed 7-28 and starkly contrasted by the wrought-iron undertone of Anthracite 25-19 for a clean, minimalist take on the old building’s distinctive design elements.

From Decrepitude to Decadence

After standing tall for over a century, changing ownership multiple times, being totally abandoned in 2001, and gradually falling into disrepair, the Beekman was finally converted to a luxury hotel and officially reopened, in August, revealing the new design work by Martin Brudnizki and inciting a flurry of media attention.

Before anyone had been granted a single peek at the revamped hotel’s luxurious interior, vast art collection, and elegant, James Beard Award–winning restaurants, the New York City public was completely captivated by the nuanced nostalgia of the Beekman. This was thanks in part to the glamorous preview dinner held in June for the who’s who of the design, fashion, and real-estate worlds, but it was largely due to the integrity of the space itself, which had been left intact to pay tribute to the memory of old New York. Developer GFI Capital Resources and architecture firm Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel joined forces to restore this 19th-century beauty to a better-than-prime state, and the upper crust of Lower Manhattan rejoiced at their accomplishments.

These triumphs were many in number, among them the restoration of the ornate dragon brackets that have braced the floors of the Beekman since its inception, and recreating some of the molding that would have graced the atrium in the latter part of the 19th century. Above all, the Beekman is a symbol of the FiDi’s lifeblood: the marriage of old and new to produce something spectacular.

Unforgettable Design

Beekman Hotel Lobby
The lobby of the hotel exudes opulent luxury. Photos provided by the Beekman.

The Beekman’s nine-story open atrium is a grandiose gathering place that echoes with memories of bygone splendor. To stand in the center of the old Temple Court building and look up past the rows of wrought-iron balustrades to the soaring iron-and-glass skylight above is to be transported to its early days, and to feel connected to the people who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan over a century ago. In the lobby, Brudnizki made liberal use of on-trend, deliciously soft velvet and buttery-leather furnishings and miles of ornate Turkish rugs. The front desk itself is bedecked in these carpets to add warmth, texture, and a sense of Victorian panache to the reception area.

Looking down from above, guests will appreciate each level’s unique flooring design made of multicolored tile refinished to a glow, as well as the conversational layout of the lobby’s exquisite furnishings, suffused with natural light streaming through the skylight above.

The light and colors of the Beekman’s lobby inspired our next Pratt & Lambert palette. Old Linen 12-6 and Black Coffee 3-19 reflect the austere blend of light and shadow guests find within, while Orange Berry 8-15, Festival Moss 17-17, and Creative Thinker 30-20 come together to mimic the colors of the plush furniture and Turkish rugs that add a lovely depth to the front desk and sitting areas.

Creative Thinker 30-20

Orange Berry 8-15

Old Linen 12-6

Festival Moss 17-17

Black Coffee 3-19

A Room with a Hue

Beekman Hotel Room
The Beekman’s rooms are a mix of contemporary color and Old World charm. Photos provided by the Beekman.

When the architects responsible for the revitalization of the Beekman took over, one aspect of the building’s authentic design that they aimed to reproduce was the colors used in the era it was built. This aim presented a unique opportunity for Brudnizki to take a new approach to boutique hospitality interiors for one of Gotham’s most unique hotels.

The most sought-after rooms in the Beekman are the multilevel penthouses located in the turrets, with their private rooftop access to the terrace surrounding the reglassed skylight. Each guestroom, however, is exquisite and beautifully appointed, with backdrops of polished, opalescent whites energized by pops of color from the unique accessories and comfortable furnishings.

We were inspired to select a spirited palette to recreate the color schemes present in the guest rooms, including the opulent violet of Pratt & Lambert’s Secret 31-11, the evocative ultramarine of Spanish Blue 25-16, the very of-the-moment deep hue Frond of Green 19-16 and enriched by organic Spun Gold 13-15 and Paradise Green 16-14. When used with cool neutrals to balance out the vibrancy of these statement colors, this palette recalls the sleek and sophisticated aesthetic of the Beekman’s private suites.

Spun Gold 13-15

Paradise Green 16-14

Frond Of Green 19-16

Spanish Blue 25-16

Secret 31-11

The current impact of the Beekman has been buoyed by its historic prestige. The enthusiasm with which the people of New York City met the building’s overdue rehabilitation speaks volumes about New Yorkers’ inherent appreciation for the old, despite the perpetual forward motion of today’s big cities. Both contemporary and classic, the Beekman remains a proud example of what New York once was, and what NYC will continue to be for as long as those memories are preserved.