Dusting Off an Art Deco Feminist Treasure

By The New York Times May 16, 2018 PDF Article Original Article Press
New York Times - Dusting Off an Art Deco Feminist Treasure

Ophelia, a rooftop bar with sweeping views of Midtown, was originally a solarium where single women living in the Panhellenic Tower would greet “men callers.”

On a recent spring evening, two young women, Amore Pistorius, 27, and Garima Deopura, 28, took the elevator to the 26th floor of Beekman Tower, an Art Deco landmark building from 1928 a few blocks north of the United Nations. They were headed to Ophelia, a recently revived rooftop bar.

When the doors opened, the women, both accountants at a private equity firm around the corner, were greeted by three double-height windows with delicate ironwork, a 24-foot pewter-cast bar with a glass inset holding curiosities from another era, and a mounted albino pheasant with its wings spread over a curated collection of spirits. They were led to the terrace, with its 360-degree views of Manhattan, and took a seat on a red velvet-covered bench.

Both ordered the Bullet Proof, a photogenic play on a whiskey sour featuring rye, St. Germain, turmeric, lemon, chili and bitters with a foamy egg white that Ms. Pistorius had seen on Instagram. The two chatted about their families, dating, work gossip and what it’s like to live in New York — Ms. Pistorius is from South Africa, and Ms. Deopura moved to Manhattan in 2016 from California.

Whether they knew or it not, these women were continuing a legacy from 1928, when the Beekman Tower, then called the Panhellenic Tower, opened as a women’s clubhouse, dormitory and social hub for sorority sisters who had recently graduated and were moving to New York in record numbers to join the work force. In the years leading up to the Depression, it was increasingly common for women to have a gap between college and marriage, with many of them moving to the city for work, said Joanna Scutts, the author of “The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It.”