“History and Luxury collide in a Lower East Side Hotel filled with artful details from an original tenement.”
– Citi Search
In 2001 Settenbrino envisioned a stately hotel where others only saw a neighborhood’s crumbling tenement building.
You hear about people like Settenbrino all the time — the kind of guy who gets an idea, like launching a rocket or building an ark or swimming a channel — and then, no matter the odds, the time, the cost, he just does it”.
- Rob Eshman
Stepping through the doors of the Blue Moon Hotel is much like walking into a museum. Settenbrino, artist as-architect, poured his heart and soul into transforming a historic 1879 tenement built by Julius Boekel, architect for NYC’s First German Baptist Church.
“Settenbrino was...the guardian angel of every artifact that might be salvaged, refinished by hand and reinstalled in the building.”
– The Villager
The tenement apartments were closed off for 70 years. 1930s to 2001, making it a time capsule from Depression-era Manhattan. There was a treasure trove of personal effects and artifacts that were discovered as Settenbrino hovered over the excavations like a guardian angel. Then Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia decreed that owners had to meet stricter codes, and the landlords declined the cost prohibitive requirements and simply closed off the residential floors, preferring to forego tenants and focus on working their storefronts.
“Manhattan will always have its sprawling, soulless mega-hotels. And if you like staying at a Hyatt or a Hilton, that’s fine. But a number of New York innkeepers have decided in the last few years that some of us might want something other than Room 29768.”
– John Horn, L.A. Times
As part of his renovation, Settenbrino salvaged the tenement's fixtures and artifacts, reintegrating them into the hotel’s design, scattering and repurposing their likenesses throughout his cozy inn. Historic memorabilia found throughout the building during reconstruction have been preserved and used as a part of the décor. Wood moldings became picture frames to house images of the jazz era celebrities the rooms are dedicated to. Wrought iron was taken from the original shapely fire escapes to form elegant window balconies, mosaics gathered from the central vestibule were reconfigured into strategic spaces throughout the lobby, elevator and entertainment space.
The elevator ceiling sports a Van Gogh-esque mural by Settenbrino, the lower cab is decked in wainscoting and the upper walls are covered in ornate tin squares, taken from the back of the original staircase. During the 2021 resurgence they were fastidiously repainted in soft blues and pale yellows by Settenbrino’s apprentice daughter Ida.
Original hinges and knobs can be seen on closet doors. The 1879 apartment entrance doors could not pass fire codes, but serve nicely as bathroom doors, and are enlivened by Settenbrino with one of his faux finishes which he uses throughout the hotel to amuse and create harmonious settings for the artifacts and enrich the décor. Each apartment contained both a marble and a wooden fireplace mantel, with a wrought-iron grille. The wooden mantels are placed opposite the elevator openings on each floor to enrich the sensibility that you are stepping back in time. The etched marble mantles sport a relief of a rising sun and are set in wood casings; they adorn as they cap the wainscoting creating a consistent and charming motif which wraps around the lobby into the entertainment space.
The Blue Moon's relics hit you as soon as you walk in you are transported to another time and place
Themed collages adorn the walls, all are underlaid with Depression-era Green Stamps. During the Depression, Green Stamps were especially desirable and sought after. They were a form of merchant currency used as an incentive to gain shopper loyalty, collected with each purchase and exchanged by clientele for a practical daily necessity such as dishes, glasses, cookware, or for the children to get a special gift they could not ordinarily afford, like a doll or a pair of skates. A hoard of stamps from an anonymous merchant were discovered in dirt floor wooden stalls. Using the Green Stamps as background and layering of personal effects such as a pawn shop tickets, articles from Cosmopolitan, The Sun, The News, Scholastic, a young boy's elementary-school homework, another’s Sunday school lessons, the first aerial view of Manhattan, a pristine 1920’s boy scout membership card, pages from Seward Park High School year book… another is loaded with sports memorabilia -- a newspaper clipping of the rich, powerful and famous, ads for various products that have bizarre uses, one ad reads The Elegantin Damen in Berlin use Lysol for feminine hygiene or how in one article Cosmopolitan Magazine naively printed an article lauding Mussolini’s views on science and religion, beloved items for sale such as a $4 Babe Ruth baseball mitt and 9 weeks of camp for $175.00, Sports themed has Bill Tilden's 1920 Wimbledon win, one about society has 'Robbins rout Giants' and "Three Die as Guns Blaze in 6 Hold Ups'.
“Settenbrino may fancy himself a painter, but the Blue Moon is his bricks and mortar masterpiece.”
--Susan Pigg in the Toronto Star
Settenbrino’ s meritorious five-year award-winning project of outstanding recognition boasts 50+-plus major articles including NY Times, LA Times, Toronto Star, Bloomberg Contra Costa Times, International Herald Tribune etc. and prestigious accolades via National Geographic Traveler, New York Magazine Critic's Pick, Citi Search’s Best Boutique Hotel, and Rizzoli’s Best 100 Little Hotels videos and radio programs.