Penn Club of New York asks us to come back

Plus ça change … Over the next months, Helpern Architects and Lynne Beyer Design will be updating and, with a light hand, changing some of the public spaces at the Penn Club of New York. The first phase of this project is the library/reception room on the main floor with its distinctive English oak woodwork.

“It’s always wonderful to be asked to update work we’ve done a while back,” comments David Helpern. Although the building at 30 West 44th Street was just short of demolition in 1987, over the next seven years the Helpern office transformed the Penn Club’s property into a distinctive meeting place and hotel in the mode of the city’s other great private clubs.

“Commercial hotels work on at most a five-year renovation cycle; they follow trends depending on their guest demographic, amplified by wear-and-tear on their facilities,” Lynne Beyer comments. “Although clubs are by definition more classic, they need to appeal to a broad age range, including their new young members.”

In the case of the Penn Club, much of what was supposedly carefully restored had never been part of the building when another university built it in the early 1900s. David Helpern recalls: “When it opened with a gala dinner in 1994, guests congratulated us on retaining the original decor. I never told them that much of it was created from scratch.”

This is the first Helpern/Beyer collaboration in New York City. Helpern Architects has defined New York-style hospitality for over two decades, starting with the SoHo Grand, the first new hotel in the awakening arts and fashion district South of Houston Street, to the 2018 new AC Hotel New York Times Square, a Marriott property with a distinctive Catalan style.

Lynne Beyer, named in 2018 as a Designer of Distinction by the American Society of Interior Designers, has done hospitality and residential projects from San Diego to Manhattan. Her office’s ongoing work to transform and expand the legendary Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been praised in many international hospitality publications.

Image above:
Before: The Penn Club’s library – actually its living room – in 1994.
Now: The stained-glass lay light you see in the ceiling [in front of the fireplace in the before view] was created to honor a Penn scholar/athlete who died very young. It was once in a fraternity house and came to the club from the University’s archives.