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TWA Hotel rooms at JFK to recall ‘magical period’ in New York history

Rooms in the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport

Rooms in the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport feature picturesque runway views -- through 4-inches-thick glass that helps dampen the noise. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Travelers will soon be able to channel their inner Don Draper — sip a martini while talking on a classic rotary phone — when they check into the new TWA Hotel at Kennedy Airport, set to open next year.

Developers on Tuesday showed off the ongoing construction, which broke ground in December 2016, revealing a model room just minutes from the historic building.

From the original penny-tiled floors and Eero Saarinen-designed curves to the cozy nooks, chili pepper-red carpeting, and ticking split-flap boards, stepping into the TWA Flight Center will feel like stepping into a mid-century TV show.

“It’s a bit of stepping back in time, but to a magical period. It was a terrific time for New York, it was a terrific time for America, anything was possible,” said Tyler Morse, the CEO of MCR and MORSE Development, the company heading up the project, adding: “This is one of the most important buildings in America.”

Once completed, guests will be able to relax in Knoll womb chairs and drink Tab sodas while watching planes take off and land from many of the 512 rooms. And if jet engines aren’t your idea of a lullaby, don’t worry: the rooms’ windows feature seven panes and are more than four inches thick. The hotel is expected to open in spring of 2019, and Morse said he expects about 10,000 people to come through each day.

The revived TWA Flight Center, which closed when the airline folded in 2001, will still include the signature sunken lounge as well as a pair of tubes connecting the main building to Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 (you might remember them from a scene in “Catch Me If You Can”).

Visitors will also have access to six restaurants and eight bars from which to imbibe, including a restaurant built into a parked 1956 Lockheed Constellation L-1649A Starliner plane.

The hotel also boasts an observation and rooftop pool deck on top of one of the two towers from which Terminal 5’s runways are visible.

The TWA Flight Center first opened in 1962, designed by renowned Finnish designer Saarinen. Saarinen also designed both the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Washington Dulles International Airport. The TWA hub was landmarked by the city in 1994 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

“We are putting a box around 1962 for this hotel,” Morse said, adding the construction of the flight center was a “massive, massive undertaking. You could never build a building like this today.”

The building is being built with union jobs, and will be LEED certified, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. All 186 windows — each a different size — are being replaced and the building will have its own power plant with natural gas driven engines and a battery storage backup system, Morse said.

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