The Plaza Hotel: Founded 1907

The Plaza Hotel in New York City is jointly owned by Sahara Group and Kingdom Holdings, a Saudia Arabia based corporation. It has been managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts since 1999.

It was once said, “Nothing unimportant ever happens at The Plaza.” One of America’s most celebrated hotels, The Plaza opened its doors on October 1, 1907, amid a flurry of impressive reports describing it as the greatest hotel in the world. Located at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, this luxury hotel was constructed in the most fashionable residential section of New York City.

The Plaza was the dream of financier Bernhard Beinecke, hotelier Fred Sterry, and Harry S. Black, President of the Fuller Construction Company. They purchased a 15-year-old hotel of the same name on the site. The three men set out to replace it with what is surely one of the most elegant hotels in the world. Construction of the 19-story building (a skyscraper back then) took two years at a cost of $12 million – an unprecedented sum in those days.
Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also designed the Dakota apartments, the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. and The Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston, set about his task to provide all the pomp, glory, and opulence of a French chateau. No cost was spared. The largest single order in history for gold-encrusted china was placed with L. Straus & Sons, and no less than 1,650 crystal chandeliers were purchased.

Originally, The Plaza served as a residence for wealthy New Yorkers. Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt were the first to sign the register. For guests who chose to rent on a nightly basis at the time, this New York City luxury hotel’s single rooms started at $2.50 per night.

Kings, presidents, ambassadors, stars of stage, screen and sports, as well as business executives and travellers from all parts of the world have gathered and stayed at The Plaza. The Plaza was so well known that Ernest Hemingway once advised F. Scott Fitzgerald to give his liver to Princeton and his heart to The Plaza.
Although The Plaza appeared fleetingly in earlier films, this Manhattan luxury hotel’s true movie debut was in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest – the first time a crew, director and cast assembled on site to make a picture. Before then, movies were shot almost entirely on Hollywood soundstages and rarely on location. The Plaza has provided the location for other motion pictures such as Plaza Suite, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Barefoot in the Park, Funny Girl, Cotton Club, Crocodile Dundee I and II and Home Alone II: Lost In New-York.

Designated a New York City Landmark in 1969, The Plaza is listed on the Register of Historic Places and the only New York City hotel to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.

One hundred years legacy book

For over 100 years The Plaza Hotel has held a special place in the hearts and imaginations of people around the world. It set the standard for luxury accommodation and service the moment it opened its doors at the corner of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1907 and received its first guest, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a member of the famed American industrial family.

Throughout the twentieth century it was the site of the most lavish social affairs and was the New York City pied-a-terre of business leaders, socialites, movie stars and artists. In the 1920s it was the occasional home and social playground of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and their artistic and literary crowd companions.
Published as a commemorative collectible in 2007 on the 100th year anniversary of the Plaza’s opening

At The Plaza, by Curtis Gathje

At The Plaza is a pictorial record and an anecdotal history of the world’s most famous hotel: New York’s Plaza. As a story, it traverses the breadth and scope of Gotham’s high society during the American Century. As a photo collection, it’s like no other, capturing the hotel’s remarkable presence on the ever-changing New York scene. Curtis Gathje has been The Plaza’s official historian since 1994. In At The Plaza, he has compiled a tremendous collection of photographs and vignettes chronicling the colorful history of a building, an institution, and a city.

Book available for Purchase at The Plaza Boutique
For more information please call 212-546-5454

The History of Eloise at The Plaza

One of the Plaza’s most famous residents is the ever elusive and capricious Eloise. Introduced to the public in Kay Thompson’s Eloise: A book for precocious grown-ups – Eloise’s mischief and antics has delighted readers and visitors to The Plaza since its publication in 1955.

Eloise was the alter ego of Kay Thompson, who used the voice of Eloise to entertain her friends. At the urging of D.D. Ryan, Thompson met with illustrator Hilary Knight in December 1954. After the meeting Knight sent Thompson a Christmas card with the first drawing of Eloise.

“It was an interesting, beautifully executed and highly stylized picture of an angel and Santa Claus, streaking through the sky on a Christmas tree. On the end of the tree, grinning a lovely grin, her wild hair standing on end, was Eloise. It was immediate recognition on my part. There she was. In person.”

Thompson and Knight immediately began work on the first Eloise book which was published in November 1955 by Simon and Schuster. Kay Thompson’s Eloise was a huge success. Soon children and parents alike were clamoring for more, more, more. Three additional books were published in short order: Eloise in Paris (1957), Eloise at Christmastime (1958), and Eloise in Moscow (1959).

Soon Thompson, who lived at The Plaza, began receiving phone calls from girls saying, “Please may I speak to Eloise?” Children began visiting The Plaza asking for Eloise. The Plaza staff would reply, “I’m sorry, you just missed her. But if you run into Eloise, please tell her we found her missing shoes.” A pair of Mary Jane shoes was kept on hand to demonstrate Eloise’s continuous presence.

The Plaza embraced Eloise and all her fans. The Tricycle Garage, inspired by Eloise, opened in 1956. Guests of The Plaza were invited to pick up bikes and tricycles to ride through Central Park. An exhibit of Eloise’s bedroom was opened for special visitors. Inside, Nanny would greet visitors and guide them on a tour where they received a call from Eloise. In 1957 a portrait of Eloise, painted by Hilary Knight, was hung opposite the Palm Court. Mothers and daughters loved having their picture taken with Eloise. In 1960, the portrait mysteriously disappeared after a dance in the ballroom and was never found. The picture was redone and hung in 1964, where it remains today.

Over the last 50 years, the mystic of Eloise has only increased. Eloise’s charm and wit have enticed new readers whose parents also adore the precocious child. Guests are still able to rent tricycles from The Plaza Boutique to ride through Central Park. In 2010, the rawther spectacular Eloise Suite, designed by fashion designer Betsey Johnson, was launched. Located on the 18th floor, the suite is exquisitely decorated in pink and black with custom design bedding and furnishings.

On The Plaza’s Concourse Level the Eloise at The Plaza Shop opened in 2010. The whimsical setting brings out the Eloise in all adults and children. Visitors can try on the latest Eloise styles in the fashion room and enjoy Eloise movie clips or stories in the reading room. Family and friends are invited to celebrate birthday parties and other occasions in the Tea Room.

The Plaza absolutely loves, loves, loves Eloise. Whether she is riding her bike in Central Park, taking Weenie and Skipperdee for a walk down Fifth Avenue, or off to Paris Eloise’s fanciful spirit is infused throughout The Plaza.

The Restoration

Gal Nauer

Interior Design Architect
Commenced in 2002 and completed in 2007, the Plaza restoration is among New York City’s most delicate and impressive. With the city and its Historical Landmark Preservation Board holding our team to the highest standards of excellence, the Plaza restoration is a true New York success story.

Walter Melvin

The Restoration Architect
“Mayor Bloomberg, had proclaimed October 1st, 2007 the Plaza’s 100th birthday; The hotel, known for its history of offering a locale for celebration, went all out. There was the 50-member orchestra, the cake, introductions by city resident Matthew Broderick, and the largest pyrotechnic display ever launched from atop a building–let alone a million square foot building in Midtown. And then there were the guests. Members of the Central Park Conservancy, city officials, and socialites. Women in evening gowns, held close by their male escorts to avoid the chill of this first night in October. A small girl in a matching tan petticoat and headband with perfectly straightened brown hair ran wild for a moment before her mother caught her, a modern day Eloise.” – excerpt from New York Observer reporting on the 100 year celebration.

Timeline of the Plaza

Memory Blog

Architectural Tour

Plaza Book