The Second-Lives Club
The Former Millinery:
You can tell even before you get inside that the building housing the newly opened Refinery Hotel has had a rich history: Intricate carvings adorn its neo-Gothic façade. The structure first opened in 1912 as a millinery. Now, couples can book the ground floor, home to the locally sourced Parker & Quinn restaurant, or take over a glassed-in roof deck that offers views of the Empire State Building and has ceilings made of wood salvaged from the building’s original water tank. The hotel’s rooftop can fit 240 for cocktails, and its restaurant holds up to 120 for a seated dinner. Pricing starts at $250 per person for a five-hour event, and couples must use in-house catering. 63 W. 38th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 646-664-0310; refineryhotelnewyork.com.
The Former Tycoon’s Office:
The Campbell Apartment
The majority of those who pass through Grand Central Terminal don’t even realize they’re steps from this posh hideaway. In the twenties, it served as the office of railroad magnate John W. Campbell. The apartment—a popular bar for commuters—still channels a plush, clubby vibe with its dark-wood-paneled walls and gigantic stone fireplace. Even with a balcony overlooking the main room, the space is intimate; weddings here can accommodate 125 guests for cocktails and 75 for a sit-down dinner (50 with dancing). Prices range from $125 to $500 per person, with in-house catering by Hospitality Holdings. Grand Central Terminal, 15 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. 43rd St.; 212-980-9476; hospitalityholdings.com.
The Former YWCA:
Built in 1927 as part of the central branch of the YWCA, this Art Deco theater housed everything from community concerts to USO dances. Nowadays as Roulette, it hosts experimental-music and -dance events. Couples can marry onstage under a proscenium arch carved with floral reliefs, then head to the lobby for cocktails. Booking the venue gives you access to the theater’s in-house audio technician, who can help you make the best of the state-of-the-art sound, video, and lighting—including a twenty-foot projection screen. The space fits 250 to 350 for a cocktail party and 150 for a sit-down dinner with dancing.Site fees start at $5,500 for twelve hours; couples must bring in their own vendors. 509 Atlantic Ave., at Third Ave., Boerum Hill; 917-267-0370; roulette.org.
The Former Auto-Body Shop:
The folks behind Gowanus’ Green Building are also the proprietors of 501 Union, a former auto-body shop that dates back to 1916. (By spring 2014, it’ll also be home to 501 Social, a members-only club.) The newly refurbished 6,300-square-foot space is divided into three rooms: the lounge, with a twenty-foot marble-top bar; the gallery, with another twenty-foot bar and Jason Miller globe chandeliers; and the garden, an outdoor space decorated with hanging globe lights, which can be warmed with space heaters for winter use. The venue fits up to 200 for a cocktail reception and 120 for a seated dinner with a dance floor. Rental rates range from $5,500 to $8,900 and include all spaces for a 24-hour period. Couples must use their own caterers and the venue’s bar services. 501 Union St., nr. Bond St., Gowanus; 347-529-6486; 501union.com.
The Former Home of a Bed-Stuy Beer Baron:
Akwaaba Mansion Bed and Breakfast
Budget-friendly wedding venues are hard to come by in this town, but there’s an elegant solution right in the middle of Bedford-Stuyvesant. At the four-bedroom Akwaaba Mansion, guests are greeted on a sun-filled, glassed-in porch. This Italianate villa was built in the 1860s as the home of a beer baron, but since 1995 it has been operating as an inn, redecorated with a mix of antiques and African décor. Original details remain, like the hand-carved marble fireplaces, chandeliers, and vintage-glass floor-to-ceiling windows. The inn accommodates 150 for a cocktail party and 70 for a sit-down dinner with dancing in the ballroom. Site fees range from $300 to $400 per hour; couples must use their own vendors. 347 Macdonough St., nr. Stuyvesant Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant; 718-455-5958; akwaaba.com.
The Former Naval Office:
Kings County Distillery
Once a naval paymaster building, this spot (co-owned by New York Magazine editor David Haskell) opened in 2010, becoming the first distillery to operate in the city post-Prohibition. Wedding guests can mingle over cocktails amid 2,500 open, airy square feet of copper stills and fermentation tanks, before heading upstairs to the 1,600-square-foot, exposed-brick barrel room, where a host of whiskies and bourbons are aged. Although the venue is long on charm, couples should be prepared to bring in décor, lighting, and sound equipment, and caterers must be able to work without a prep kitchen. The building fits 150 for cocktails and 100 for a sit-down dinner (or more in mild weather with a tented outdoor area). Site fees start at $5,000, but vary by event. Brooklyn Navy Yard, 63 Flushing Ave., Bldg. 121, Wallabout; no phone; kingscountydistillery.com.
From the Winter 2014 New York Wedding Guide