TWA Hotel at JFK Airport: A reborn NYC landmark brings 1960s style, glamour back to life (photos)

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

NEW YORK CITY — The clock above is only partially correct. Yes, it’s 9:43 p.m. But everything else about the time here seems in doubt.

The Beatles are singing “Please Please Me.” There’s a big old boat of a car, a 1966 Chrysler Newport, parked in the hallway. The front page of the New York Times features a story about the moon landing.

Is this 2019 or an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” where time is a blur and I’ve traveled backwards, all the way to the 1960s?

Story and photos by John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Some places might recall another time or appropriate it as retro, but the TWA Hotel actually makes you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.

(Egads, if only some of the hotel guests would’ve left their shorts, sweat plants and flips-flops back home. Hey, no one wore that stuff out in the ’60s.)

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The recently-opened hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, is a place where memories and nostalgia mix and mingle over a martini, a song and countless signifiers from a long-gone era.

The Beatles landed at JFK when they invaded American in 1964, which accounts for the large number of Beatles songs in a rotation of ’60s-era rock, pop and soul music played throughout the hotel. (Full disclosure: the Fab Four flew in on a Pan American flight, but they did take TWA in 1966.)

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The 512-room hotel is an ambitious repurposing of the iconic TWA Flight Center. The architectural gem was designed by Eero Saarinen, the pioneering architect and industrial designer renowned for his neo-futuristic style.

Now, it’s a marker of the past and one of the most detailed attempts to resurrect it that I’ve ever experienced.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The “newsstand” features magazines and newspapers from the ’60s; it’s located next to the payphones.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

An exhibition on the second floor dubbed the TWA Museum collects classic flight crew apparel.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

A reading room boasts history and design books and midcentury modern décor and furniture, including a Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair. “People will grab a book and relax on that chair for an hour,” the woman working there told me. “You can get lost reading and sitting on that thing.”

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The arrivals-departures board in the lobby – it features changing flight info on imaginary flights from the past – could anchor a Museum of Modern Art exhibition on the Space Age.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Hmm, Cleveland, arrival time 9:54 p.m., just popped up. That’s my flight.

Just landed in the Sunken Lounge. It’s one of many bars at the TWA Hotel that have been repurposed from waiting areas back when this was a terminal.

Mmm, this Old Fashioned – one of many ’60-era cocktails on the menu – goes down swimmingly as Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” plays.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

I guzzle down the last half of the drink – and not because I’m boozing like Dean Martin. The sights keep calling me.

I usually bring a camera whenever I travel in the event something catches my eye. I was hard-pressed to find something that didn’t here – which explains why I took 4,000 photos during my 36-hour stay.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The Sunken Lounge looks out onto “Connie.” The 1958 Lockheed Constellation plane, formerly part of the TWA fleet, is parked on the tarmac outside.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

It’s been retrofitted into Connie’s Cocktail Lounge, which serves cocktails, snacks and above all, “Mad Men” fantasies from another time.

(Must add, the bar offers more legroom than the last Spirit flight I took.)

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

A woman dressed in a 1960s TWA stewardess outfit walked down the aisle. She wasn’t an employee, however – “I just thought it would be fun to get dressed up for my visit,” she told me.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

She was still wearing her outfit when I ran into her again an hour later at the Pool Bar.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The rooftop spot features an infinity pool, lounge chairs and a bar that serves food and drinks like the Runway (a martini served with a flight wings pin). The biggest draw is the view. You get to watch planes land and take off from one of JFK’s busiest runways. It recalls a common pastime many decades ago, when the Jet Age was taking off and families would park their cars at airports to soak in the sights.

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