As The New York Times reported earlier today, the Oak Room will close tonight. Its demise had been anticipated since May, when its owners, who had been locked in a lawsuit with the Plaza Hotel, announced that the 104-year-old landmark would close. The shutter is bad news for its employees, not to mention drinkers and preservationists, but there is a faint hint of silver lining to be found: The bar’s expansive murals of Central Park will be saved.
Like Café des Artistes, the Oak Room was known in part for its murals, which were painted by Everett Shinn. Shinn, an American realist painter and illustrator who was active in the early 20th century, is most famous for his numerous depictions of life in the city. He was a member of the Ashcan School, a group of eight painters who rebelled against the artistic academic standards that tradition dictated.
Shinn’s Oak Room murals were typical of his style, which featured bold, broad strokes and often depicted people from diverse walks of life. Like the nymphs Howard Chandler Christy painted for the Café des Artistes, they became almost as much of an attraction as the establishment they embellished. Regardless of what replaces the Oak Room, it’s some relief to know that the murals will remain emissaries from a time untroubled by Gossip Girl tours, Mel Gibson cocktails, douchebag brunches, and sexual harassment lawsuits. Infamy may be fleeting, but class is forever.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2011