Shepheard’s of New York

Shepheards_ashtray

I recently saw the item above for sale. It’s a Shepheard’s ashtray but I’d never seen the design before. And even though it’s in an art deco style there’s also something quite modern about it. It’s a bit Sixties-ish. And so it turns out to be. After a bit of research it turns out that it is nothing to do with Cairo’s famed Shepheard’s hotel, either the original, which burned down in 1952, or the 1957 rebuild, but comes from Shepheard’s nightclub, which was part of the Drake hotel in New York.

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The Drake was one of New York’s grand old hotels, opened in 1926 on 21 floors. In the early 1960s, the hotel was acquired by entrepreneur William Zeckendorf, who added New York’s first ‘discotheque’, which he called Shepheard’s. Why Shepheard’s? Who knows, but it was obviously in homage to the Cairo hotel of that name because the interior was Egyptian themed; if you look at the cigarette ad below (click to enlarge), which depicts a scene at Shepheard’s disco, you can see the Mamluk-styled striped stonework through the doorway and a giant pharaonic head.

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According to a former manager of Drake’s, writing on the ‘Most Famous Hotels’ website, Shepheard’s was the hottest nightspot in Manhattan. It was open seven days a week for cocktails, dinner and supper with continuous dancing until 3am. The hotel printed a card entitled, ‘How to Do the Newest Discotheque Dances at Shepheard’s in New York’s Drake Hotel’ with step-by-step instructions to dance the Jerk, Watusi, Frug and the Monkey. Patrons apparently lined up on 56th Street and around the corner on Park Avenue. Maybe so, but it still doesn’t sound half as fun as the Cairo Shepheard’s in its 1920s heyday.

I don’t know how long the nightclub Shepheard’s lasted but the Drake hotel was demolished in 2007 and the site redeveloped as 432 Park Avenue, which is currently the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere.

4 Comments

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4 Responses to Shepheard’s of New York

  1. Christina Harris

    Although not the real thing, the ashtray is still a bit of fun and a nice thing to have. It is hard to find ashtrays at all anymore, so you might have a collectors item with that fact alone.

    • cathie donaldson

      I fondly remember Shepheards Disco at the Drake Hotel in NYC in the 60’s. It was magnificent and very Egyptian. There were 2 huge gold sphinxes on either side of the entrance with a tent-type ceiling with thin stripes. It was so elegant! I was a stewardess and, at the time, it was also frequented by models and socialites. It was the most elegant nightclub I have seen in NYC. Also very popular at the time were the El Morocco and the Latin Quarter.

  2. Noit exactly to this entry; but I miss the once famous Omar Khayyam hotel which, as much as I know, had been built at the time of opening the Suez Canal. It stands right at the Zamalek head of Abu-Ela bridge under a new hotel brandname. Many fascinating waal paintings show the ceremonies of the Opening the Canal with dozens of royalties participating…

    • AndrewH

      The Omar Khayyam was originally the Gezira Palace, and there are several posts about it on this site. These days it’s the Cairo Marriott.

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