The account of one vaunted New York City address that has become synonymous with wealth and scandal, opportunity and tragedy.

 
 
 

The Plaza

From the moment in 1907 when New York millionaire Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt strode through the Plaza Hotel's revolving doors to become its first guest, to the afternoon in 2007 when a mysterious Russian oligarch paid a record price for the hotel's largest penthouse, the eighteen-story white marble edifice at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street has radiated wealth and luxury.

For some, the hotel evokes images of F. Scott Fitzgerald frolicking in the Pulitzer Fountain, or Eloise, the impish young guest who pours water down the mail chute. But the true stories captured in THE PLAZA also include dark, hidden secrets: the cold-blooded murder perpetrated by the construction workers in charge of building the hotel, how Donald J. Trump came to be the only owner to ever bankrupt the Plaza, and the tale of a disgraced Indian tycoon who, having never even slept at the Plaza, buys the hotel anyway, then proceeds to rule over it from his jail cell in Delhi.

QUINTESSENTIAL NEW YORK: On the Plaza’s opening day, not only was the iconic hotel introduced to New Yorkers, but so was another indispensable city accoutrement. Here, the first-ever New York City taxicabs line up along the Fifth Avenue side of the Plaza, awaiting their first passengers. It wasn’t long before these taxis displaced horse-drawn hansom cabs as New Yorkers’ transportation of choice.

QUINTESSENTIAL NEW YORK: On the Plaza’s opening day, not only was the iconic hotel introduced to New Yorkers, but so was another indispensable city accoutrement. Here, the first-ever New York City taxicabs line up along the Fifth Avenue side of the Plaza, awaiting their first passengers. It wasn’t long before these taxis displaced horse-drawn hansom cabs as New Yorkers’ transportation of choice.

 

“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)

 
PLAZA ON PARADE: On the Plaza’s opening day, October 1, 1907, a stream of New York’s wealthiest citizens arrived to check in to the hotel. None was more celebrated than the dashing Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who remains indelible as the hotel’s inaugural guest. Here he is with his first wife, Elsie French, whom he divorced shortly after moving into the Plaza.

PLAZA ON PARADE: On the Plaza’s opening day, October 1, 1907, a stream of New York’s wealthiest citizens arrived to check in to the hotel. None was more celebrated than the dashing Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who remains indelible as the hotel’s inaugural guest. Here he is with his first wife, Elsie French, whom he divorced shortly after moving into the Plaza.

In this definitive history, award-winning New York Times journalist Julie Satow not only pulls back the curtain on Truman Capote's Black and White Ball and The Beatles' first stateside visit -- she also follows the money trail. THE PLAZA reveals how, during the Great Depression, it was a handful of rich, dowager widows who were the financial lifeline that saved the hotel, and how foreign money and the anonymous shell companies of today have transformed the iconic guest rooms into condominiums shielding ill-gotten gains -- hollowing out parts of the hotel as well as the city around it.

WHITE BEACON: The Plaza was designed as a French chateau in skyscraper proportions, with a facade of marble and white terracotta, and a copper mansard roof that reflected the green of nearby Central Park. Here it is in 1920, dominating the skyline.

WHITE BEACON: The Plaza was designed as a French chateau in skyscraper proportions, with a facade of marble and white terracotta, and a copper mansard roof that reflected the green of nearby Central Park. Here it is in 1920, dominating the skyline.


 

Early Praise