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The Plaza: 1912

The Plaza: 1912

New York circa 1912. "Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Going along 59th Street (bordering the Park), the block with the Plaza seems to be shorter than it is today. Was there another street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue at the time of this photo? I say this because if you look at the size and number of buildings on this stretch of 59th in the photo, the block seems to end before it gets to Fifth Avenue. Is the end of this block an alleyway or just a short block cutting between 58th and 59th?

By the way, I find it interesting that a narrow, sliver of a building is still adjacent to the Plaza wedged in next to another much larger building.

Eloise, please

The Plaza may have been a New York hotel then, but four decades later it would become the literary home of Eloise, a fictional six-year-old who tormented the staff and her nanny while her never-seen parents went about living the life of unencumbered sophisticates.

"I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza."

The Plaza even had an Eloise plaque (later stolen), an Eloise children's menu, and an Eloise room for tourists who came there because of the book.

E.B. White

had cinnamon toast here with a young lady three or four years later. His essay "Afternoon of an American Boy" recalls an awkward first date, "tea-dancing" at the Plaza as a teenager.

A great read. As are all his essays.

Taxi stand

With the exception of the Franklin (or Renault?) parked at the front door, those cars lined up down the street and around the corner all look like taxis.

Also looks like four ne'er-do-wells on the closest corner, or, on the positive side, they could be newsboys waiting for the next edition.

Carbona for cleaning

Way in the background you can see a "Carbona" sign, reversed.

Carbona was the first non-flammable dry-cleaning solution. Before that, they used things like benzene.

Ancien Pauvre

This is certainly not the Plaza of nouveau riche, for which the rehabbed Plaza is apparently intended. The old Plaza had character to spare -- relatively tiny and cheap rooms up in the roof, and the more unaffordable suites down below. It offered a great tea, afternoons, and its character and history were undeniable.

My saddest moment was going through the edifice as its innards were being sold away -- all looking like a parts of an ocean liner run aground. I wish I had photographed the Palm Court - strewn with uniforms, table fixtures, prints, and doors, stacked up and down stairs and under columns. It was heavy with regret. Now, it's all but a pretty fossil.

Interesting how you can see the Times Building so well from that vantage point with nothing in the way. This had to have been shot from the New Netherland Hotel, which was gone by the late 20's. The mansion at left has a plywood entrance, for that moment.

Pre-Fountain Days

I see there is no fountain adjacent to this view of the Plaza. Therefore I deduce that this phto was pre-Zelda Fitzgerald's infamous dip. I think Joseph Pulitzer gave the fountain to the city in 1916.

Just a hole in the wall

Back in the late 1970s, during one of my Plaza stays I found out that some fellow guests included two bands, which if memory serves me these many years later were Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. One of the bands had a suite directly across from my comparative hovel of a room and I recall they had security sitting in the hall 24/7 although I'm pretty sure "24/7" was not in the lexicon back then.

Well, a couple of the lads - I forget which band - apparently had some, uh, excess energy to burn which they did by busting a huge hole in one of their suite's interior walls. The damage was so great, I was told on a later visit, that the Plaza decided it was easier to just make the hole a doorway.

I never did run into any of the band members but one afternoon in the main lobby I almost bumped into Eartha Kitt, who was appearing in the Plaza's Persian Room. I am pretty sure The Kittster did not spend her idle hours in her suite busting holes in the walls, but I could be wrong.

I'm not in Kansas anymore

It is photographs like this that drive me into sublime wonderment that
once anything was built like this!

Not only the double-hung windows

But foldable awnings! I love seeing them on these old hotels. I wonder when the last of them disappeared as air conditioning made them unnecessary.

The hand of God

Or did someone else leave fingerprints in the sky?

Procol Harum at the Plaza

I have attended countless press events in my years, but none as grand as the dinner Warner Brothers threw for the band Procol Harum in the magnificent ballroom of the Plaza. Dress was formal, the invitations were engraved and guests were announced at the top of the sweeping staircase. At its base, Procol Harum lined up to greet each guest individually. This was in the early Seventies, when the record industry was drowning in money. Within a few years, it was cold cuts and soda in the conference room.

I can see the Plaza from my apartment, but I haven't been there since it changed hands and had a makeover. Love the cars lined up in front.

Open and shut

It's interesting that in the days before central air every window, all the way to the very top, looks as if it's a functioning double hung window. Nowadays you can rarely open a hotel window at all.

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