Philadelphia’s new Four Seasons, located at 1 North 19th Street, offers guests a glimpse into the kind of modern luxury that has yet to be seen in Philly. Unlike the Ritz Carlton on 10 Avenue of the Arts or the Rittenhouse Hotel at 210 Rittenhouse Square, which are elegant but antiquated, the Four Seasons, and particularly JG SkyHigh, features a kind of minimalist luxury that one might find in New York, at a hotel like 11 Howard, the Crosby Street Hotel, or The Mark Hotel… or any number of creamy-hued New York City hotels, really.
Before entering Michelin Star restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s 59th floor “lounge” and restaurant, guests are ushered past a teamLab generative art wall and into a series of glass elevators. These elevators ascend at 11 mph, offering visitors an ever-widening glimpse of the City of Brotherly Love. Guests collectively pull out their smartphones to watch as William Penn’s grid system becomes increasingly apparent. I resist the ever-present temptation to document because I’d rather enjoy the ride.
Upon exiting from the elevator car, visitors are greeted by an impressive wall of Jeff Leatham floral arrangements and a row of concierges at check-in. I turn towards the entrance to JG SkyHigh and am overwhelmed by a sense of isolation, but it’s yet to be decided whether this feeling emanates from internal or external factors.
A rectangular bar to the left mirrors sit-down service to the right, and I’m too overwhelmed to register that there is yet another bar sunken into a space that is situated in the back of the glassed-in restaurant. A set of Richard Serra-esque film “mirrors” ripple through the ceiling like blinds. I’m too sheepish to angle my iPhone at these hanging sculptures; the selfie-potential of these hanging sculptures seems a bit too obvious. Although the bar is packed, I wedge my way past a large bowl of gladiolas and through hordes of businessmen to a seat at the outer corner. Being able to accomplish even a seemingly minute task like getting a seat instills in me a bit of confidence, and I reward myself by ordering a $17.00 glass of Chenin Blanc.
The Rocher des Violettes’ Touche Mitaine is served to me in an impossibly thin lipped glass on a napkin that feels softer than Frette sheets. I take a thoughtful sip and watch two middle-aged men pose with their dirty martinis for a landscape selfie. I see a clique of bleach blondes with Semitic roots across the bar, and hone in on their clique with a snobbish eye that I really haven’t earned (and that probably stems from insecurity). I note with distaste their matching J. Crew cardigans (the cashmere sweater of Philly), David Yurman cable bracelets and Louis Vuitton Neverfulls.
I watch intently as several couples enter the restaurant following the formula of Startup-bro Boyfriend + Bebe Bodycon-clad Girlfriend, and wonder when elegance became synonymous with y2k provocativity. An Avalon-tanned blonde in a ruched leather miniskirt catches me staring, and I grin at her. She grins back.
On my next visit, I can’t find a seat, although a friendly couple offer me a drink. I accept gratefully and drift off to the polka-dotted windows. I overestimate my importance and uncomfortably envision all eyes on me as I glimpse down at the tiny-ant civilians, the Eastern State Penitentiary and Logan Square (which is actually a circle). There’s something very high school-ish about JG SkyHigh’s bar, and I postulate that seating was made limited by design in a kind of Veblen-esque model of exclusivity.
I do give credit however, to Philly developers, for curating a completely new experience in a city that often rests on the laurels of its colonial history.