Seventeen years ago, Mark Grossich of Hospitality Holdings (who has owned the Campbell Apartment: New York Bar and Institution until now), renovated the space for about $3 million and opened it to the public.
"The Campbell Apartment kind of acquired me,” Grossich told me. “Back years ago, I started a group of places called Bar and Books, and they were lofty library-like environments back when you could still smoke cigars and all the rest, and they had library backdrops. We were then approached by the MTA about an interest in [the Campbell Apartment] space… apparently there was no one interested in the space at all. It was a completely destroyed room… everything was damaged. The ceiling was damaged. The windows were all broken. It was horrible.”
Grossich sought to restore the Campbell Apartment to its days of old New York glamour and antique novelty. “It was a one-of-a-kind space,” he says. “We invested [the money] to completely restore it, which in and of itself was a delightful exercise. We spent a lot of time in historical societies, and looking back at that period, and getting the right stuff together, then hiring a bunch of Sistine Chapel-like craftsmen to lie on their backs and repaint the whole ceiling from scratch.”
Under Grossich’s conscientious touch, the Gatsby-era space came to personify a certain ghost of New York’s past. “I saw it, and it spoke to me,” he recalls. “I'm like, ‘This is it. This embodies all that I really want my place to be.’ It has a history to it that gives it some personality, and all the rest.”