The Plaza. Need I say more? I only wish you could hear the nasal, nose in the air manner in which I say, “The Plaza.” The moment I hit Fifth Avenue and Central Park South I want to scream as in prominent view is the land of all things luxurious we know as The Plaza. This historic hotel has been a New York for the who’s who since October 1, 1907. It also has been the backdrop in a host of television shows and movies. It’s the hotel where Elaine from Seinfeld was to stay when she was interviewing for a publishing house. Unfortunately, Jerry’s apartment had fleas and his visiting parents ended up soaking up The Plaza experience instead of Elaine. And we can’t forget the episode of Murder She, Wrote where Jessica beat the police to the punch when she discovered one of the rooms to be the crime scene of a murder. Need we mention Macaulay Culkin’s character, Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2 when yet again his parents him yet again? It was so sad yet so entertaining!
The first movie to actually use The Plaza as its backdrop was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest. Prior films were shot on a sound stage in Hollywood. Other movies that have since utilized The Plaza are Plaza Suite, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Barefoot in the Park, Funny Girl, Cotton Club, Crocodile Dundee I and II and as previously mentioned, Home Alone II: Lost In New-York.
Prior to The Plaza circa, 1907 there was another hotel bearing the same name at the same location. It took two years to complete the construction of the magnificent 19-story building we know and love today, a skyscraper back then.
Three men made the dream of The Plaza come true. Financing the $12 million project, a hefty amount at the time, was financier Bernhard Beinecke. Compare that price tag to the recent $450 million facelift the hotel received. Fred Sterry was hotelier and Harry S. Black was the President of the Fuller Construction Company. Others that contributed to the original grandeur includes designer, Henry Janeway Harenbergh who before The Plaza brought beauty to the Dakota Apartments, the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. and the Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston worked his magic at The Plaza. With history in the making, The Plaza’s amenities were every bit impressive then as they are now.
The Plaza Hotel consists of 268 beautiful rooms. If you’re fortunate enough to stay in one of the 102 suites, you’ll be pleased to know each has the largest square footage of all hotel suites in New York City and includes 24 hour butler service.
Originally serving as a private residence for the New York upper crust, with Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt being the first to sign the register, The Plaza continues to offer permanent residency. The pied-a-terre hotel condominiums are located on prime floors, offering all that money can buy. Others who made The Plaza their home included Knights, business leaders, socialites, movie stars and artists. Still available were rooms for rent at $2.50 per night. Patrons were sure to see F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald spending their time at The Plaza while enjoying the company of fellow artistic and literary chums. Today, an average night will run a guest anywhere from $665 to $865. There are extras that can increase the price of each night’s stay.
Another famous person who lived at The Plaza was Kay Thompson. Readers of Kay Thompson’s Eloise: A book for precocious grown-ups knew well. You see, Eloise and Kay Thomspon were actually one in the same but with a twist. It was her charming and whimsical self as Eloise that delighted and entertained friends. It was after a meeting in December 1954 with illustrator Hilary Knight that Eloise was born. Knight had drawn a picture of Eloise on a Christmas card she sent her. A little less than one year later, the Knight and Thomspon collaboration published the first Eloise book by Simon & Schuster and a living legend was born.
Visitors to the hotel would often ask for her. They would be excitedly disappointed to find out they just missed her. It was an inside joke among hotel staff to share that bit of news. To solidify the ruse hotel staff would ask those requesting to see her to let her know her missing shoes were found. There was actually a pair of Mary Janes on hand to give credence to their statement. To honor Eloise, Betsy Johnson was commissioned to design a suite bearing the illustrious and illusive writer. There’s actually an Eloise Ambassador to make reservations.
The beauty of old-world luxuriousness is blended with today’s technology. Like most hotels, each room at The Plaza has a flat screen television and Wi-Fi internet access. One amenity The Plaza can boast being the first hotel to offer is the use of an iPad to make just about any request. You want it, you got it; just let your fingers stroke across that piece of today’s technological finest.
Perhaps staying overnight at The Plaza is not in your budget. Consider having afternoon tea at The Palm Court. It recently received a $6.5 million restoration. Consider treating yourself to something in one of the exclusive boutiques or a meal in one of the fine restaurants. You may want to get your coif tended to at the hair salon or a massage at the spa. Whatever the case, it’s nice to explore an institution that not only was designated a New York City Landmark in 1969, is listed on the Register of Historic Places and is the only New York City hotel to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.
I ended up staying over for one night without partaking in the amenities. It was all too much for me! Next time, I’ll do the opposite. Next time I’ll take advantage of the offerings at the Plaza Food Hall. Collaborating with chef and restaurateur Todd English, there is a host of items one can purchase that can be enjoyed on the go or in one of eight seating areas. Whatever your appetite, there is sure to be a type of cuisine that is satisfying.