In this glamorous history, New York Times real estate reporter Satow introduces a century’s worth of guests, residents, workers, and owners of New York City’s Plaza Hotel to illuminate the development of American celebrity culture, the globalization of money, and such cultural artifacts as room service and taxicabs. Completed in 1907, the hotel immediately attracted a wealthy and frequently eccentric slate of guests: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Clara Bell Walsh, the inventor of the cocktail party, were regulars, and Princess Vilma Lwoff Farlaghy brought with her a menagerie of guinea pigs, wolves, alligators, and lions. In the 1950s, performer Kay Thompson would entertain her friends with a character she named Eloise, a little girl who lived at the Plaza, who eventually became the subject of the famous children’s book. Meanwhile, the hotel’s ownership passed through many hands, including those of Conrad Hilton, Roger Sonnabend (whose redecorations were so harshly criticized the hotel was eventually restored), Donald Trump, Westin Hotels, and Israeli developer Miki Naftali, who turned much of it into condos in the mid-2000s and laid off hundreds of employees. The detailed accounts of the property’s ownership and costs occasionally drag, but the tales of those who walk the plaza halls are both funny and insightful. Satow’s entertaining parade of eccentric characters will appeal to readers curious about real estate and the rich, famous, and weird personalities of the 20th century. (June)
"In her thoroughly-researched book, Julie Satow delivers the delicious and engrossing tale of a century of history at the iconic Plaza Hotel, recalling its triumphs, unearthing its secrets, and bringing to life a revolving parade of famous owners and even more famous guests."Meryl Gordon, New York Times bestselling author of Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend
"In this wide-ranging and compulsively readable book, Julie Satow tells the story of American high society and its many low moments through the narrative of the Plaza. Not since Eloise was written has anyone captured so charmingly the glamour and spectacle attendant on this hotel, but here we find also the seaminess of a place where the rich have manifested their most despicable tendencies and their most naked ambition time and again. The story of the Plaza as told in these pages is the story of New York's last and greatest century."Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far & Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change
"Julie Satow's biography of America's most famous hotel is a fascinating tale of spies and sugar daddies, murder and madness, the real Eloise and Donald Trump, rich cheapskates who left 4% tips and Ragtime-era servants fighting for a half day off each week. Satow's story, as elegant as the exterior of this architectural dowager, digs deep into the century of secrets hidden deep inside the Plaza."David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of The Making of Donald Trump and It's Even Worse Than You Think
"The Plaza Hotel has a long, sometimes storied, sometimes sordid history. All of it is compelling. People often use the expression, 'If these walls could talk...' Reading Julie Satow's wonderful and revelatory history of the fabled hostelry, I couldn't help but think that they'd talked a lot to her."Michael Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 740 Park and House of Outrageous Fortune
"In THE PLAZA, Julie Satow has done a masterful job of creating a gripping narrative that spans just over a century. Her meticulously-researched tale starts with a grisly murder, and thus, in quasi-Shakespearean fashion, the reader lurches between the gritty concerns of the union-workers who built the edifice to the extravagant, excessive realm of the Plaza's various owners and inhabitants. Satow has written the stories of their entwinement with its marble halls and notorious grand ballroom in vivid, suspenseful detail."Vicky Ward, New York Times bestselling author of The Liar's Ball and Kushner, Inc.
"Julie Satow's THE PLAZA expertly shows not only the characters and events that shaped one of New York's most iconic landmarks but how it became a plaything of a global class of uber-wealthy whose questionable finances often ran through tax havens and Swiss bank accounts."Jake Bernstein, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Secrecy World
"Julie Satow has written the definitive biography of the Plaza Hotel and it is a biography, because the Plaza has been a living, breathing part of New York's cultural, political and business landscape for more than a century. She captures the Plaza's glorious, ribald, tortured history in all of its dimensions and offers a thorough and poignant account of almost everyone of note who has passed through the hotel's doors or scrambled to claim it as their own. Elegance, decadence, power, money, greed and dreams have all resided at the Plaza, and this is the narrative that weaves all of that together lovingly and knowingly."Timothy L. O'Brien, award-winning author of TrumpNation and executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion
"Covering billionaires to laundresses, charlatans to lovers, Capote to The Beatles, THE PLAZA captures the pulse and fortunes of 20th century New York. Millionaires such as Vanderbilt, Bloomberg, Trump, and Macklowe enjoyed themselves amidst Scotch whiskey and damask. Eloise's haunt comes to life through Julie Satow's lively writing and meticulous reporting, providing an enticing window into one of America's great institutions."Lisa Keller, professor of history (Purchase College SUNY) and executive editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City, Second Edition
"The Plaza is a splendid story of a splendid New York institution. Funny, surprising, intriguing, well-researched, and always candid, Julie Satow has done a wonderful job of bringing to life one of the city's and America's most beloved buildings...Ms. Satow knows her New York!"Kevin Baker, bestselling author of The Big Crowd and Strivers Row
"What do scoundrels and working men, widows and prostitutes, billionaires and murderers all have in common? Meticulously researched and full of stories of crime, duplicity, and deal-making, Satow's THE PLAZA reveals this infamous hotel in all its glory."Sheila Nevins, New York Times bestselling author of You Don't Look Your Age
"Readers will happily soak up period details and take notes on how the stalwart staff dealt with class snobbery, prohibition and gangsters, wartime privations, the turbulent 1960s, wealthy dowagers, blushing debutantes, persistent groupies, omnipresent prostitutes, and brawling Indian billionaires. This is social history at its best: thoughtful, engaging, and lots of fun."Booklist (Starred Review)
"Throughout this sumptuous, busy history, [Satow] enlightens and entertains with stories and anecdotes that recount the hotel's many famous and colorful guests...An infectiously fun read."Kirkus
"Julie Satow...digs deep into the forces that took the Plaza from a living center of aspiring social connection tied to the fortunes of American high society to its present status in an atomized era of pitiless transactional globalism."Tina Brown, The New York Times
"[THE PLAZA] offers a fascinating, in-depth look at the famed New York hotel's history of odd guests and various owners."Vulture
"[A] lively and entertaining portrait...Ms. Satow's book draws the reader in from the start...a superb history of how a once-magnificent property became its own Potemkin village, a grand luxury hotel on the outside, a hollow shell within."The Wall Street Journal
A lively tale about the "white marble mountain rising in the center" of Manhattan.
In her debut, New York Times real estate contributor Satow chronicles the history of one of New York City's most iconic structures. Drawing on architectural, financial, social, and popular history, the author "examines how the Plaza is ground zero for the increasing globalization of money and the slow decoupling of pedigree from wealth." She interviewed hundreds of people, from bellmen and managers to lawyers and chefs, to give her story a rich, personal touch (she was married in the hotel's grand Terrace Room) and an entertaining, novelistic flair. The first Plaza was built in 1890 only to be torn down 15 years later. Financier Harry Black hired renowned architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh to construct a "nineteen-story white gleaming tower"; the construction cost "$340 million in today's dollars." The hotel was lavish and opulent, filled with the finest linens, silverware, 1,650 chandeliers, exquisite dining rooms, and a "dog check room." It made its debut—along with the New York taxicab—in 1907, and the first guest was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, "the dashing millionaire." Satow clearly loves details, and most of them are fascinating. The Plaza had a staff of 1,500, including more than 80 cooks and two men to dust the chandeliers. Throughout this sumptuous, busy history, the author enlightens and entertains with stories and anecdotes that recount the hotel's many famous and colorful guests, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and author Kay Thompson (later evicted), whose fictional character Eloise also lived at the Plaza; how it weathered Prohibition and the Depression; changes in ownership, American (Conrad Hilton, Donald Trump) and foreign (Saudi Arabia, Singapore, currently Qatar); bankruptcy, and its controversial 2005 conversion to multimillion-dollar condominiums. As Satow writes, over "its 111 years, the Plaza has extolled beauty on the surface and grit behind the scenes."
An infectiously fun read.