Now boarding for 1962: A night at the retro TWA Hotel

Step back in time to an early Jet Age wonder of design and style.

Geoffrey Morrison
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TWA Hotel

The iconic TWA Flight Center, a legendary symbol of the early Jet Age, is now the TWA Hotel. And I stayed there.

For more about this hotel and my stay, check out Fly me to the moon: A night at the retro-masterpiece TWA Hotel.

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Taking flight

The Flight Center was designed by Eero Saarinen. It opened in 1962.

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Grand entrance

Stepping inside is like stepping back in time. The staff even wears uniforms designed by Stan Herman, who designed TWA uniforms in the '70s.

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Checking in

Checking in at the hotel is like more like checking in for a flight: you use touchscreens. 

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The split-flap departures and arrivals board updates throughout the day, featuring airlines and destinations of the era. Many older airlines have their old logos, too.

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It's a hotel lobby, but it's also an airport lounge. Anyone flying out of the new Terminal 5, or JFK airport at all, can relax here and get food and a drink before checking in for their flight.

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Lounge and lobby

If someone has a long layover, they can even rent a room for an afternoon to freshen up between flights. I needed to stay overnight in New York anyway, so I booked a room for the night.

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Twistin' the night away

Believe it or not, I saw some people actually playing Twister a few hours after I took this picture.

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That is one Jolly Cinquecento.

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The upstairs of one side of the main hall is a restaurant, the other has a display of original uniforms and more seating to relax before your flight... or before you go back to your room.

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Pennsylvania 6-5000

A double rarity: a pay phone -- and a rotary one at that. They work!

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Under the tunnel

To get to the cool bar and "runway", you have to pass under the tunnel that connects to the modern Terminal 5.

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An actual Lockheed Constellation! TWA flew Constellations for 22 years starting in 1945.

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Yes, you can sit on the baggage tractor.

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This Constellation is technically an L-1649 Starliner, the last iteration of the type. It first flew in 1958 and spent its first two years with TWA.

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Fully restored and parked behind the hotel, the aircraft has a slightly different use today...

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Fine beverages

...As a bar! Well, cocktail lounge. Partake of some predinner or preflight drinks and snacks, served by waitstaff dressed as flight attendants.

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Amusingly, the plane still seems to be resting on its shocks, as you can feel it move slightly as people walk around. I don't think most people would notice.

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Ready to fly

The Connie isn't flying anywhere, but look at the attention to detail taken for its restoration. The cockpit, which you sadly can't enter, is in fantastic shape.

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I kinda want these seats in my house.

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The gorgeous main building is really just the lobby. There are two buildings behind where all the rooms are. I'm standing on one, and the other is on the opposite side of the main hall.

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Not many pools look down onto airport tarmac and taxiways. It's fairly loud and windy, but the water is well heated.

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Connecting tunnels

Two tunnels branch off from the main building. One connects to the current Terminal 5. Both get you to the rooms. I was in the Hughes wing. The other is called the Saarinen wing.

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It's certainly modern, but with a bit of style from the past.

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For a king

I splurged, as it was my last night after four months of travel. I got a king-size bed that overlooked the tarmac and runway. The woodwork was done by 200 Amish craftsmen.

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Do I have to leave?

The thick windows kept the room quiet, and there are motorized blackout curtains that descend from the ceiling. Note the midcentury modern furniture. Another nice touch? The rotary phone by the window.

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Yes, TV remotes existed in 1963, but I still like the juxtaposition. The TV this remote controls was a 65-inch UHD LCD, which definitely didn't exist in 1963.

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Just an A380 pulling into its gate, as seen from my hotel room.

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Quiet hours

The airport starts to settle in for the night, but I'm not ready just yet.

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After relaxing in my room for a bit, I decided to explore some more and get some dinner.

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Food court

In addition to a full restaurant, there were some smaller eateries next to this 1966 Chrysler Newport.

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Night falls

The TWA Hotel opened in May, 2019.

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For a weekday night, the bars and public areas of the hotel seemed fairly busy.

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One of many

The Constellation was one of the many aircraft designed, or at least assisted by, the legendary Kelly Johnson. Others included the P-38, F-80, U-2, F-104, F-117, SR-71 and more.

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All quiet

A quiet hotel lobby, with the occasional clack-clack-clack of the departures board.

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At night, with Lincoln

You can sit in the Lincoln Continental, too.

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Blue lights on the runway

The airport sleeps, and so do I.

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I don't want to leave.

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Trans World Airlines

The TWA Hotel is a magical place that's like stepping back in time. I want to redo my house with midcentury modern furniture. Wish I could stay longer, but I have a flight to catch -- at a completely different airport. 

For more about my stay, and the history of the hotel and terminal, check out Fly me to the moon: A night at the retro-masterpiece TWA Hotel.

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