“It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.!” extolled a disco hit in the late 1970’s made popular by the then-exotic band, the Village People, with waving arms and flexing fingers silently echoing the iconic letters. In Pittsburgh, it is still fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A. which has now morphed into the classy and very hip Ace Hotel, minus the double entendre of the song.
The Portland, Oregon-based chain of locally focused hotels found the perfect venue; the one-time Y.M.C.A-turned-hot-hotel captures the unique aesthetic of the once-gritty East Liberty neighborhood. The Ace proudly respects both its antecedent and the transformation of the Steel City into a biotech and information-based economy in step with its long-standing creative culture. Here’s why, in Pittsburgh, I found that the Ace is, indeed, a place you can go.
One of only seven Ace properties in the U.S., the Pittsburgh venue opened in late 2015. In repurposing the late 19th-century “Y” building, Ace left the building’s facade intact and carefully incorporated local artisans and cultural partners in the renovation. In collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Art, a public staircase is graced with three decades of neighborhood photographs taken during the mid-20th century when the Y served as a community beacon. There is a fascinating cultural and social history narrative on those walls.
The hallways show off the spartan dorm-like spirit of a residential Y, an aesthetic carried out in the uniformity of the rooms which are designated by simple progression: small, medium, large and a suite-sized.
As a solo guest on a short stay, I chose a ‘small’ room (about 250 square feet), but it felt roomier with a huge window and a beautiful view.
While appearing utilitarian, the rooms’ decor blends the look and feel of sleek Scandinavian design with the heritage of single-room occupancy residences. Each room has splashes of elegance and the kind of amenities (e.g., flat screen TV, a fully stocked mini-bar, free wi-fi, high-end branded toiletries, and snazzy bathrobe) which reminds you that you’re not really in a Y at all.
It’s worth mentioning that the mattress and bed linens (really important to this traveler) are sumptuous, but fair warning that the bed frame is lower than one expects in a better hotel. So no judgment, it just is.
Note the addition of the Clark bar among the mini bar treats; another everyday item born in Pittsburgh. No Steeler swag, but then it wasn’t football season.
Across the street from my room’s tall window, I had a moment of deja vu looking at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church’s soaring gothic towers. No, I wasn’t in Paris, it’s Pittsburgh.
The lobby (and staff) is warm and welcoming…the expansive main floor is divided between a bar – clearly a ‘go-to’ – along with the lovely restaurant Whitfield. Whitfield is the creation of Pittsburgh native Brent Young who established his reputation with the co-founding Meat Hook, the whole-animal butcher shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., before returning home to launch this restaurant.
My enthusiasm for the Ace is sincere; the room was at my expense and the management is unaware of this post, although I will let them know when published.
ACE HOTEL/Pittsburg DETAILS
- Address: 120 S WHITFIELD ST, PITTSBURGH, PA 15206
- Queries: Enquire.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.acehotel.com/pittsburgh
Please add your experiences at the Ace/Pittsburgh, or any other hotels in the Ace “family” in the comments below. Thanks!
© 2016 3 Score and More
Photo Credit: Jane Trombley