Since 2008, The Jane has been arguably the most original hotel in Manhattan. But let's cut to the chase ? it may be original, but there's no escaping the fact that most of its rooms are miniscule. That said, they are surprisingly well-equipped and have everything you could need for a short stay. As you'd expect from the gentlemen who brought you The Maritime and The Bowery, the décor is rather eclectic and convincingly authentic and has been accumulated over several decades. In addition to the hotel's rich history and trendy location, it has a decent restaurant and a bar like no other in the form of Rhino Bar. Not one for those who need their space, this value hotel is for those who don't mind roughing it a bit but who still want some of the comforts of a regular hotel.
If you're looking for an alternative location to the tourist trap hotspots, then The Jane is perfect. A little far from the closest subway station (8th Avenue-14th Street), it is nonetheless within walking distance of the trendy areas of the Meatpacking District, Chelsea and Greenwich Village. The area is well known for its independent stores, hip restaurants and bars and more laid back way of life. The Highline Elevated Park, a former rail line converted into a beautiful walkway, whose starting point is just a couple of minutes' walk away at Gansevoort Street and which stretches right up until 30th Street, is the closest point of interest. While there are of course shopping opportunities close to the hotel, the big brands and luxury boutiques, as well as the main tourist attractions are situated quite a way from the hotel. JFK is 19 miles away, La Guardia 11 miles and Newark 14.
The American Seaman's Friend Society Sailors' Home and Institute, as the building which is now home to The Jane was originally called, was completed in 1908 by William Alciphron Boring, better known for designing the Immigration Station at Ellis Island. Survivors of the Titanic were lodged at the hotel for a time in 1912, while in 1944 the YMCA took over the property. It later became a theatre notable for the debut of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Since 2008 it has been The Jane and was restored to its original glory by Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode.
The Jane is housed in a large red brick building at the corner of Jane Street. The entrance to the hotel is via a set of steps flanked by a couple of columns either side. Inside, the lobby has all of its original features such as the green wall tiling, the stone floor and fabulous old wooden welcome desk with the open key boxes behind. The mock candle chandeliers give a warm light to the space while the reception staff and porters' typical bell-boy uniforms help us step back in time to the days when sailors were the only patrons. To the left you will see an original fountain with a worn plaque at its base - this is a memorial to the victims of the Titanic whose words have unfortunately been rubbed off by years of being stepped upon. Other features to look out for include the tapestry hung high up on the wall in the corridor opposite the reception desk, the hunting trophy and the peacock. There is a small lift to get you to the right floor after which you'll have to negotiate the long narrow corridors to find your room. The carpet in these well-lit corridors was, like much of the décor, salvaged from here there and everywhere by Mr. Goode. The staff at The Jane is one of the friendliest around and is down-to-earth and efficient in equal measure. There is complimentary wifi throughout the hotel as well as free-to-use bicycles which are kept outside at the front of the hotel in a rack. The hotel doesn't have a spa or gym.
Three types of guestroom, or cabin as they are called here, are offered at The Jane: bunk bed, standard and captain's. The first two are exactly the same room, with the only difference being the presence of an extra bed above the other. They are probably the smallest hotel rooms in the city at only four and a half square metres but they have a surprising amount squeezed into them. On the right side of the room is the single bed, above which is, depending on the room, another bed or a storage shelf, while the other half of the room is empty for the simple reason that if it wasn't there would be literally no room to move! At the end of the room are a few integrated shelves which contain your towels, bathrobe, slippers, iPod docking station/radio and complimentary water. On the wall is a flatscreen television and telephone while under the bed is more storage space. There is both a fan and air conditioning which operates only while the short rod on the key chain is placed into the whole next to the light switches (same goes for the lights too). The bunk and standard rooms do not have bathrooms ? these are communal (mixed) and can be found down the hall. They comprise several sinks and cubicles for the toilets and monsoon showers (which also contain soap and shampoo). They are cleaned regularly by the hotel staff and are in very good condition. The biggest rooms are the captain's cabins which resemble more a regular hotel room. They have double beds dressed in 300-count cotton as well as furniture including wardrobe, side table, bedside tables and a table and chairs. The superior parts of the walls are upholstered in a peacock feather motif fabric while they have extra amenities such as iron and ironing board, fridge and books in the bedside tables. These rooms also have their own en suite bathrooms, tiled completely in white, and have a monsoon shower, hairdryer and C.O. Bigelow toiletries. Some of the captain's cabins are larger than others but cost no more - ask for one upon reservation.
Café Gitane is the hotel's restaurant, located at the entrance to the hotel. This French/Moroccan eatery is a popular meeting place with young, good-looking, trendy locals and is usually busy every night of the week, especially at the weekend. The décor of the high-ceilinged, rough around the edges room gives a nod towards the Far East with sillk Chinese paintings and Indian idols, while other features include the faded green walls with hints of tiling, the stained glass arched windows and the bar at the centre. This latter serves as a coffee bar in the mornings when guests can enjoy a full breakfast served by waiters and waitresses in black and white striped t-shirts and berets. At lunch and dinner diners can choose from a comprehensive list of dishes which include salads, sandwiches and specialities such as the cous cous or hachis parmentier. We found both the service and food to be of a good standard however the space can become quite noisy as the night goes on.
On the other side of the hotel is the Rhino Bar, another neighbourhood favourite which used to be the Jane Street Theatre and was where Hedwig and the Angry Inch was debuted. Open from 5pm, the décor, all hand-picked by MacPherson, is wonderfully eccentric and eclectic and features a mish mash of furniture, paintings and objects such as the rotating disco ball and stuffed ram high above the fireplace. With its oriental rugs, tall green plants and faded velvet Chesterfields, the spacious bar could well be the drawing room of an aristocratic estate, untouched for decades. It is undoubtedly one of the most original bars in the city and one of our favourites too. Upstairs is another space with a ship's quarters theme and which is a little more intimate and discrete.
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