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Eric Feigenbaum

A Room With A Brew

Conwell Coffee Hall opens in an historic building in Lower Manhattan

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AT THE TURN OF the last century, the early merchant princes used several enticements to lure customers into the newfound department stores. Among the attractions and temptations was great architecture, from beaux arts storefronts and neoclassic grandiosity to art deco edifices and interiors. In a marriage of history, architecture and coffee, Conwell Coffee Hall, opened in January, not only entices coffee lovers into their new environment, it also differentiates the coffee buzz experience from all other brewmasters and barristers. Caffeine connoisseurs, art aficionados and architectural enthusiasts need look no further to satisfy their yearnings for coffee and culture.

Conwell Coffee Hall has awakened the passion of caffeine fiends with its spacious café on the corner of Exchange Place and Hanover Square. Formerly the lobby of the legendary Life and Trust Bank in one of Lower Manhattan’s most beautiful edifices, the caffeine corner offers a list of proprietary custom blends, including “Sleep No More Espresso,” “Skyscraper Medium Roast,” and “The Vault Dark Roast.” Complementing the exclusive brew list is a menu of small bites and delights from Waldorf salad and green gazpacho to avocado toast and spinach rarebit – as well as an assortment of classic pastries and croissants.

A Room With A Brew

 

Named after J.G. Conwell, an influential philanthropist, a devoted patron of the arts and one of Life and Trust Bank’s most notable CEOs in the early 1900s, the coffee hall is an expansive extravaganza with fluted art deco-inspired moldings and columns, alongside the bank’s original ornate pendant lighting fixtures.

Upon entering the space through a revolving brass doorway on Hanover Street, visitors walk up an arched stairwell that transports them to another time, another place and another state of mind. More than just a caffeine buzz, the Conwell Coffee Hall, positioned under the former bank’s monumental high ceiling, invites the coffee drinker, casual or convicted, to the opulence, glamour and power of New York in the 1920s and ’30s.

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At the top of the stairs, eyes are immediately drawn to a magnificent mural titled “Destiny, the Great Caretaker” (artist unknown) in the style of early-century muralists such as Diego Rivera. Providing a historical timeline with depictions of the hardships, challenges and accomplishments of the day, the piece suggests the best of times and, perhaps, the worst of times, as America transitioned into an industrial powerhouse.

A Room With A Brew

 

Below the mural and central to the hall is the stunning original teller’s counter, resplendent in brass and marble. In years past, money was deposited and withdrawn at the elaborate counter, and today, orders are given and taken for an invigorating cup of Joe and the accompanying fare. The center core leading to the richly appointed bank teller’s counter is flanked on the left side by dining tables with period library lamps for both reading and ambience, and groupings of leather-backed couches on the right side for lounging and relaxing.

The Conwell Coffee Hall demonstrates that a fresh brew is better served when it’s framed by art, architecture and history.

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)
📷 ERIC FEIGENBAUM, NEW YORK

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