History of Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel
A legendary neighborhood bar of Upper East Siders and visitors alike, Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle is a special hideaway where artist and author Ludwig Bemelmans’ whimsical illustrations come to life on its walls. Best remembered for his beloved Madeline series of classic children’s books, Bemelmans was commissioned by the hotel’s Managing Director in the mid-1940s to paint the large-scale murals to depict all four seasons in famed Central Park. In exchange for his work, it is rumored that Bemelmans and his family received accommodations in the hotel for a year-and-a-half.
Originally opened in 1947, some of New York City’s greatest jazz pianists have graced the piano at Bemelmans Bar over its seventy-two-year history. The iconic bar features live music seven days a week by favorite performers such as Earl Rose, Rob Mosci, Loston Harris, David Budway, Jim Caruso, and Billy Stritch. All have an affinity for playing classics from the Great American Songbook, but guests can also occasionally hear songs from more contemporary artists as well.
Restored in 2002 by renowned designer Thierry Despont, the bar maintains its Art Deco legacy with chocolate-brown leather banquettes, nickel-trimmed black glass tabletops, a dramatic black granite bar, and a 24-karat gold leaf-covered ceiling. Featuring the only surviving Bemelmans’ commission open to the public, the bar combines wit and coziness in a unique New York style.
Bemelmans is open from Monday to Saturday from 12:00 noon to 1:30 a.m. and Sunday from 12:00 noon to midnight. Bar snacks and light meals are available from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. Guests can enjoy classic cocktails while swinging to lively music, including live solo performances every Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and a jazz trio every Tuesday through Thursday from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and Friday and Saturday evenings from 9:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to midnight.
The famous Madeline Tea is hosted in Bemelmans Bar every Saturday in November and December and is a delightfully playful afternoon and sing-a-long event for children and parents alike. With two seatings available, 10:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., guests can listen to songs from the Madeline Song Book with Tina de Varon while dining at Madeline’s Children Buffet.
Ludwig Bemelmans once joked he’d like his tombstone to read: “Tell Them It Was Wonderful.” Well, wonderful it was, and still is, at Bemelmans Bar. Named in honor of the legendary artist, Bemelmans is a classic New York watering hole that has drawn socialites, politicians, movie stars, and moguls for over seven decades.