Most of the structural work was concentrated on the fifteen floors of guest rooms, where each was given new wiring and bathroom fixtures. Many of the existing suites were broken up into single rooms or studios, the latter comprising bedroom, small living room and kitchenette at a lesser price than a traditional suite. As a result, the new American Stanhope has an increased room count of 276. The first floor retained its configuration with entry lobby, dining room, lounge and bar; the second floor was restructed to accommodate offices and four function rooms named, after the country’s railroads, the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe and Wichita. Also, one entire floor has been leased for ten years to a large corporation. It was planned to meet the firm’s specifications, yet it still adheres to the established motif.
As a result of Ms. Russell’s efforts, the American Stanhope has become a veritable museum of 19th-century American antiques and artworks, with paintings being primarily fine examples from the Hudson River School. Each guest room is furnished entirely with antiques; each guest room and floor corridor has its own color palette based on hues authentic to the period.
Service rooms, too, portray a different aspect of America. The dining room, with strictly American fare. is named the Saratoga, and intimates classic elegance of the Northeast through such elements as a pale yellow and blue palette, Empire furnishings, mirrored columns and jardinieres of potted palms. The Red Jacket bar, as contrast, was planned with the Southwest in mind. Sand colors and artworks of an American Indian motif establish the theme. The lounge, suitable for tea, cocktails or light dining, takes its decor theme from its name–“The Furnished Room,” as in the O’Henry tale. This space recalls a Victorian parlor that might be found anywhere in urban America. It is, Ms. Russell comments, particularly appearling to female executives who may be reticent to dine alone in a more formal setting or sit in a bar.
From where one might logically ask, did all this come? “I got to know a lot of dealers personally,” Ms. Russell responds, and names sources in North Carolina, Detroit, Massachusetts and New York as evidence of her far-reaching combing. Auctions were another prime source–not only the major New York events at Sotheby Parke Bernet, Christie’s East and the William Doyle Galleries, but also small country auctions. In assembling the painting collection, the designer worked in close collaboration with the Hirschl & Adler Gallery, purchasing many of the works and arranging for others to be on extended loan. It took almost two years to assemble the art, she reports, since even the gallery did not own the amount of work at the requested caliber.
Thus, says Ms. Russell, “the assumption that we [Americans] don’t have anything is not correct. The value of American 19th-century art and antiques has gone up increasingly; they are probably worth considerably more than English 19th-century antiques.” Analyzing the market over the past three years, she also notes a tripling in prices and increasing scarcity of furnishings from the era. “There’s a whole awakening of Americana,” she says. “Our Empire period is comparable to the French Second Empire, but ours is more diverse with the different woods used and the influences from other countries.”