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The Plaza: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel

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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  985 ratings  ·  151 reviews
Journalist Julie Satow's thrilling, unforgettable history of how one illustrious hotel has defined our understanding of money and glamour, from the Gilded Age to the Go-Go Eighties to today's Billionaire Row.

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
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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Twelve
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Lorna
The Plaza: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel was a delightful look at the Plaza Hotel in New York City from the opening of its first location in 1890 to the luxurious hotel it became when it reopened its doors in 1907 at Fifty-Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. This is not only a well-researched history and biography of the famed Plaza Hotel and many of its famous residents as well as its investors over the years, but a remarkable history of New York City and Am ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The iconic Plaza Hotel sits on the most prime piece of real estate in NYC........5th Avenue and 59th Street, overlooking Central Park and has prevailed for 112 years, through good times and bad. It was THE place to be seen and some of the very rich lived there year round and were pampered to a fault by the management and staff. Beautifully designed, it was the ultimate in luxury and a magnet for the rich and famous.

The author took 11 years to complete the research for this in-depth study of the
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Kathryn in FL
The Plaza is sure to thrill the history buff and those with an interest in how the upper crust, wealthy have chosen to live over more than a century. It is an examination on how a successful business adapts to sociological changes and changes to financial cyclical seasonality. The Plaza experienced major transitions in services and delivery to accommodate the needs of its customer base, while its competitors failed to be adaptable. This would serve any marketing student with a greater understand ...more
Samantha
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it
This detailed history of the Plaza Hotel is a mixed bag for the reader, whose enjoyment of this book will be largely dependent on how interested they are in the minutiae of commercial real estate. (File me under: Not very).

There is some fascinating information in this book, to be sure, particularly the chapters that focus on the early history of the Plaza. I just wish the author had focused more on the architecture, design, and goings-on at the hotel rather than the intricate financial circumsta
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John Behle
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This well researched, deftly written and artfully narrated work was for me, a winter's week spent in escapism. Julie Satow weaves a tale that rolls and whistles like a glossy novel, but is a true backed-by-documentation (and great photos) chunk of social history.

Satow introduces the massive 1907 Manhattan building as a metal and stone skeletal framework for suspending the famed personalities, intrigue and modern 5th Avenue culture which bring that structure to life.

If you have never stepped foo
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Donna
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have never been so thankful to finish a book! This was a very tedious read. I was being generous giving it two stars. It seems that other people enjoyed this book, but I would think only a historian or someone that is totally enamored of the Plaza Hotel would find pleasure from reading it. The book was loaded with so many facts, dates, numbers and details instead of entertaining stories about the people that stayed there. There were a few tales about the famous folks that visited or lived at t ...more
Susan
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a well written book and I am regretting that I never went to the Plaza in its heyday for tea or to see the Eloise suite. Lots of interesting facts about the construction of the building and I enjoyed reading about the guests and residents (Seriously? If I had the money I would live in a hotel!)
Amazing that the hotel survived the great depression but it took one egotistical man in the late 80s only four years to drive it into bankruptcy. You know who he is - he lives in Washington, DC
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Karen Miles
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
Reading a book about a landmark was definitely out of my comfort zone. However, I was intrigued to learn the history about the Plaza Hotel from the beginning till the present. I have seen the Plaza Hotel many times but have never entered the building.

I think the different stories included about residents and the multiple owners (including Donald Trump) was fascinating. I would recommend this book to others who are curious to know how a landmark became to be an integral part of New York City.
Michelle
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this in-depth look at the history of the plaza. Read in one sitting.
Lisa
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
The author obviously worked hard to include a comprehensive history of the gorgeous building. I appreciate that and enjoy reading about NYC history through the lens of a regal building. I don’t like reading tabloids, though, and I can’t be bothered with celebrity. I think someone who enjoys reading People Magazine would be more enamored by all the name dropping. I wanted to hear more about the workers who are not known but exploited in keeping the place running. I found the last 100 or so pages ...more
Mark Mortensen
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: americana, history
I was drawn to “The PLAZA”, as in the early 1980’s I’d generally stay at the hotel a couple times a month on business. There were some great photos and a few interesting topics but the book was a bit of a tabloid and did not seem to follow a solid chronological path.
Jessica
Jul 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I was really excited to read this book, eager to learn more about the magical and icon Plaza hotel. While the book is well-written and taught me some about the history of the Plaza, it left me disappointed overall. The author seems to have researched the history of the Plaza a great deal, but reading the book felt like reading a gossip column that started in 1907 and ended close to present day. Sure, I want to learn about the people who played significant roles in the hotel over the ages, but I ...more
Jan
It feels like a love song to the grand past of a once Grand Building that has evolved into a different time and incarnation. It's about all of the luminaries who stayed there and the impact they had on the hotel and on the public who adored them. And it's about the fascinating entertainer who embodied and wrote the iconic series of books about a young girl named Eloise and her home at the Plaza Hotel. I loved the walk through NYC history as viewed through the perspective of an iconic institution ...more
Melanie Dotcity
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was such an interesting read. A lot of history can be packed into a 112 year old building, as it turns out. Satow's descriptions made all of the disparate characters--from first owner Harry Black to the 39 widows to fraudster Subrata Roy, who went to prison without ever spending a night in the Plaza--come alive on the page. I saw someone complain that the book was too "gossipy." I didn't find it to be so. Yes, Satow includes things that are ripped from tabloids, but only because t ...more
Deidre
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, business
A great history of a great hotel. The story of The Plaza is about more than just one building, it's the story of New York City, of the ways that international finance plays out in the U.S., and more than a few loan cautionary tales added in for good measure. Satow does a brilliant job of making some of the more complicated details come alive through meticulous and thorough research. ...more
Becky Loader
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
I must admit that I read this book because I was such an Eloise fan when I was a little kid. The Plaza certainly has had a star-studded, controversy-riddled, mess of a history. I enjoyed the bit about the golden age, but I certainly lost interest when Trump bought it. Ugh.
Joanne Clarke Gunter
This was such an interesting, informational, and fun read for me. The Plaza has led one storied life since it was first opened at its current location in 1907 with Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt as its inaugural guest. This history of its owners, including Donald Trump who owned it and bankrupted it for the first and only time in its long life in the late 1980's and of the many colorful and unbelievably wealthy guests some who lived there for many years, sheds light on the lives of the rich and famous ...more
Tara Corrigall
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Audio version - The history of New York thru the evolution of the Plaza Hotel. Lots of trivia and of course Eloise.
Kate Grace
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a compulsively readable ‘biography’ of the iconic Plaza hotel.

Author Julie Satow’s research, storytelling, and personal connection(s) are fantastic! I’m just not sure that the book’s cultural criticism ever hits as hard as she intended.
Kathleen
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fun read! I really enjoy nonfiction and biographies, and this was a great one. Full of interesting, exciting and sometimes sad anecdotes about the people who created and maintained, and inhabited the iconic Plaza Hotel over the years.
Liz
Jan 19, 2020 added it
Fascinating read about the Plaza Hotel. Having grown up reading Eloise, I wanted to live at the hotel just like she did. Unfortunately Trump plays a large part, so I had to read about him too.
Barbara
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
There are equal parts of information about the famous Plaza Hotel building in NYC and important stories about the people who built it and were residents. I was familiar with Eloise, the fictional resident of The Plaza made famous by books and movies. Eloise has her own chapter in this book. The second Plaza Hotel was built in 1907, with lots of social and physical improvements made over the years. Many famous guests have graced the rooms. Who knew that some Chef Boy-Ar-Dee products were created ...more
Karenbike Patterson
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
The early years of the Plaza (1905- the 1930s) were very interesting when all the iconic places were being used and established as National Historic Places. From Donald Trump on the building became more of a token to be traded, chopped up, and used like an old mistress. The recent decades have seen the place owned by foreign magnates with lots of money troubles. I did enjoy the stories of the 39 widows in the lobby, the black and white ball given by Truman Capote, the strikes and resolutions in ...more
Katie
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m a Southern girl, me, and I love a stay at a nice hotel, but glamorous New York City hotels have never been a big part of my life.  However, there are hotels, and there are icons – like The Plaza.  Today’s Plaza is actually the second one on the site and opened in 1907, the same year that taxicabs were introduced in New York.  The Plaza.  Let’s do a little name-dropping here.  The first recorded guest – Alfred G. Vanderbilt.  There’s F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Conrad Hilton, Truman Capote ...more
Chelsea
Nov 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in the Plaza, NYC, or architecture
While I enjoyed the various anecdotes throughout this book and the chronological order of the retelling of events, it was a little too nonfiction, journalistic fact-based reporting for my taste. I found a lot of the information interesting, and it made me want to visit the Plaza to see everything described in the book, but it also made me a little sad to see such a historic and beautiful piece of the past eventually get chipped away at more and more to where only bits of its former grandeur are ...more
Regan
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Super read! In a marvelous story telling voice Satow takes her readers into the origins of the Plaza Hotel, it's owners, residents, foibles and major events. Growing up in New York I remember bits and pieces like the Beatles arrival at the Plaza -- although I couldn't go )-:. The ups and downs of the owners is told interspersed with events occurring at the time in New York and the world. Famous personages such as Truman Capote and the not so real Eloise traveled through the hotel.

Even if you do
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Sofia Goya Outeiriño
Some of my favorite memories of New York revolve around this iconic hotel, this is why I was looking forward to reading this book.

Julie tells in this book many interesting stories about this hotel, since the early days of its founding until today.

It seems as the walls of this hotel have talked with Julie and they’ve told her their most juicy secret.

If you love luxury hotels or New York city then this is the book for you.
Susan
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
What doesn't The Plaza have? Over the years they have had just about everything, including a long-term guest who brought a lion and a family of alligators to live with her. Scandal, parties, crime, drama and drama and more drama! I'd love to time travel and visit the Plaza during its heyday. Satow does a great job of bring the building to life, lots of great stories and interesting people are in this book. ...more
Brooke Everett
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Plaza first came onto my radar via its role in the 1992 movie Home Alone 2, where Kevin McCallister boards the wrong plane when departing for a family vacation and ends up in New York City. He uses his dad's credit card to check into the Plaza. Kid knows what's up.

I'm not a New Yorker, so I don't have any personal connections to this titan of a building. I don't think I've ever set foot inside, not even to use the restrooms in the lobby. But the parade of those who have certainly includes an
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Claudia
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have several histories of famous and notorious hotels/buildings and I must admit that Satow provided an easily read as well as well flowing history to the Plaza. Her research - which seemed to uncover information previous undetected - tried to provide a complete picture of the luxury that the Plaza embodied as well as the numerous situations where the building was nearly lost forever. Especially when faced with the fight between the Israeli owners who was more focused on how much money they co ...more
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Julie Satow is an award-winning journalist and the author of The Plaza: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel, out June 4, 2019
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