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The Empire Hotel from “Gossip Girl”

Aug 30th, 2017 | By | Category: Sex and the City Filming Locations

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My friend Mikey, from the Mike the Fanboy website, always teases me for being a huge fan of “Hollywood randoms,” i.e. stars he has never heard of.  One of my favorites of the so-called randoms is Ed Westwick, who played Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl.  Out of all the male TV characters I’ve ever come across, Chuck is hands-down my most-loved.  (Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock runs a close second.)  The Grim Cheaper and I were obsessed with Gossip Girl when it was on the air, but haven’t seen the CW series since it wrapped in December 2012.  Out of the blue, he put on the pilot last night and I can’t tell you how great it was to once again hear that famous intro speech narrated by Kristen Bell.  You know the one – “Gossip Girl here – your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite.”  Watching the episode got me to thinking about the Empire Hotel, which was owned by Chuck on the series and which I stalked while in New York last April.  Somehow I had never gotten around to blogging about the place.  So here goes.

The Empire’s history dates back to 1893 when construction began on a large 7-story lodging at the corner of West 63rd Street and Broadway on New York’s Upper West Side.  The Hotel Casa Alameda, as it was set to be called, was never completed, though, and the property went into foreclosure.  It was eventually sold, the construction finished and, in 1889, re-opened as the Empire Hotel.  Nine years later, the Empire was purchased by Herbert DuPuy, who had lofty goals for the site.  He had the building razed in 1922 and replaced it with a new, larger, 15-story hotel.  The re-imagined Empire opened to the public on December 5th, 1923.

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Its now iconic rooftop sign was erected at the same time.

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Though Hotel Online states that the sign is “one of the first ever and longest standing neon billboards in the United States,” according to Curbed New York, it was actually replaced in the 1960s.  I am unsure which site’s information is correct, but, regardless, the “Hotel Empire” sign makes for some amazing photo opportunities, as you can see here and here.

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In December 2003, the Empire was shuttered after being slated for a condominium conversion project, but the plan was halted by a group of permanent residents who filed complaints with the city.

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Instead, the hotel underwent a massive 3-year renovation, re-opening in August 2007.

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The interior of the 413-room property was reimagined by interior design firm Goodman Charlton.

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The result of their efforts is a very Old Hollywood-esque tapestry of golds, blacks, oranges, and the occasional zebra print.

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The sweeping two-story lobby is marked by swaying curtains, tall cushy sofas, and a massive staircase.

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It is not at all hard to see how the Empire wound up on Gossip Girl.  Its design is so very, very Chuck Bass.

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The site first showed up in the Season 3 episode of GG titled “The Lost Boy,” in the scene in which Chuck announces to his longtime girlfriend Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) that he has cashed in all of his Bass Industries stock in order to purchase the Empire.

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The hotel’s next appearance on the series was in “How to Succeed in Business,” also from Season 3, in which Chuck opens a speakeasy on the premises.

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The Empire then went on to be featured regularly in both establishing shots . . .

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. . . and in various on-location shoots throughout the remainder of the series’ 6-season run.

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The penthouse suite Chuck called home was just a set, though, located on a soundstage at Silvercup Studios East in Queens, where the show was lensed.

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According to a January 2010 CNN Entertainment article, the Empire saw a 5-10% increase in bookings and a 50% increase in website traffic due to the filming – at a time when most hotels were experiencing a decrease in numbers.  John A. Fox, a senior vice president at hospitality consulting group PKF, noticed the spike in bookings, but “had not thought to attribute it to the hotel’s guest appearance in a television show.”  Um, hello!  Thankfully, David Bowd, president of the hotels division of Amsterdam Hospitality, the company that owns the Empire, had more foresight.  Of his reasoning behind the decision to allow filming on the premises, he said, “I think that teenagers can dictate where their parents stay over vacation and we saw a lot of that over the Thanksgiving holiday and into the bookings for Christmas and New Year’s.”  Serious kudos to the Empire!  So many hotels, restaurants, and businesses I’ve come across consider filming a nuisance and aren’t too keen on broadcasting their onscreen appearances, which I’ve never understood as cinematic stints can be such a massive draw for potential customers.

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Gossip Girl is not the only production to have utilized the Empire.  In the 2010 flick Sex and the City 2, the after-party for the premiere of Smith Jerrod’s (Jason Lewis) new movie is held in the property’s lobby, though the hotel is not mentioned by name.  Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) simply describes the place as “the VIP room at the after-party.”

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It is in the Lobby Bar that Carrie catches Mr. Big (Chris Noth) flirting with the Senior Vice President of the Bank of Madrid, Carmen Garcia Carrion (Penelope Cruz).

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As its name suggests, the Lobby Bar is located in a tucked-away corner of the Empire’s lobby.

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Lobby Bar Empire Hotel

In the Season 1 episode of Power titled “Not Exactly How We Planned,” which aired in 2014, James ‘Ghost’ St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) and Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) met with Felipe Lobos (Enrique Murciano) at the hotel.

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The Empire masked as the Wooster Hotel, where SVU detectives Odafin Tutuola (Ice-T) and Dominick Carisi Jr. (Peter Scanavino) investigated the rape of aspiring Olympic pole vaulter Jenna Miller (Kim Morgan) in the Season 18 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit titled “Heightened Emotions,” which aired in 2016.

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The Empire was also supposedly featured in the Season 2 episode of The Equalizer titled “Solo,” which aired in 1987, but I could not find a copy of it anywhere to make screen captures for this post.

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For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The Empire Hotel, from Gossip Girl, is located at 44 West 63rd Street on New York’s Upper West Side.  You can visit the hotel’s official website here.

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