New York Opening: Wythe Hotel

A new book by Jack Hitt tipped me off to an anecdote from 1778, wherein Ben Franklin visits the palace of Louis XVI to ask for support for the Revolutionary Army. He shows up at the gates wearing not the powdered wig and frilly sleeves customary to Versailles, but a coonskin cap and a brown fringe jacket a la Daniel Boone. Ben was hammin’ it up for the Frenchies, playing the colonial fool. When we talk of restoring our country to what the founders intended, we should look to Franklin, forefather of irony, original snarker. Now ask, what could be more in line with the history of American cheek, circa 2012, than a posh hotel in a gutted Williamsburg factory? One with XL twin bunk beds, each outfitted with mini TVs. 

The new Wythe Hotel’s “Band Rooms” come in 4 and 6 person arrangements. The option is pragmatic: you don’t want to share a bed with someone, just the cost of a room; square footage in desirable neighborhoods is pricey, bunk beds are efficient; and if you’re young and vivacious, you should be out at Brooklyn Bowl or the Brooklyn Brewery, not sleeping. The Wythe does, of course, offer plenty of luxe options for those with bad backs and thick wallets. They didn’t invent the bunk thing, either—they’re keeping in line with the Ace Hotel/Bowery House/Pod/Nu Hotel tradition of waxing nostalgic for the less-is-more, rustic-cabin-meets-freshman-dorm aesthetic. 

The appeal of bunks mat extend well beyond the rational. Novelty is fun. It flatters the imagination. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a little pastiche, especially if it keeps you away from the sterility of a Hilton Garden Inn. If anyone wants to scoff at a band of bearded fellows in ironic getups walking into the lobby of this Williamsburg palace, at least recognize that these hipsters are, historically, in pretty good company.