The Gracious Plaza Hotel and Apartment 1901

4 Min Read

By Bart Boehlert  

The center of Manhattan has been occupied by the Plaza Hotel located just west of Fifth Avenue at the corner of Central Park South since it was built in 1907. With its elegant lines and stately proportions, it has presided over Central Park and Fifth Avenue for 117 years, prompting The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger to note that "it is the only hotel in the city that is as crucial a part of New York's architectural heritage as are such public buildings as Grand Central Terminal and the New York Public Library.'' 

The 18-story building was designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also created the iconic Dakota apartment building. Inspired by the French Renaissance chateau style, the bottom of the Plaza is clad in marble, which then rises to white brick and a steep mansard roof. The graceful facade is punctuated by rhythmic rows of rectangular windows. At the corners, castle-like rounded turrets are finished with domed roofs.  

The Plaza Hotel when it opened in 1908. Photos from the public domain.  

When the new hotel opened, its first guest to sign the register was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, then the richest man in the nation. Sadly, Alfred Vanderbilt died at age 37 in 1915 as a passenger on the RMS Lusitania ocean liner, which was torpedoed by a German U boat. With 800 rooms, the Plaza Hotel quickly became a favorite with celebrities, politicians and socialites, and a prominent destination in the city. It was designated a New York City landmark in 1969 and later added to the National Register of Historic Places.  

The building underwent a major renovation in 2008 when some of the hotel rooms were converted into residences by its owners, Ed Ad Properties, an Israel-based American real estate development company. Today, the Plaza offers 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condominium units, which are marketed as the Plaza Residences or One Central Park South. Hotel guests and Plaza residences alike enjoy many services including a butler on every floor, baby-sitting and concierges. 

The spacious living room of apartment 1901 

Currently, Brown Harris Stevens brokers Christopher Franklin and Brian Manning are offering the spacious and airy four-bedroom apartment 1901 at 1 Central Park South, which boasts lofty 11-12 foot ceilings. Its comfortable layout includes one of the largest living rooms in the Plaza that leads effortlessly to a sleek kitchen, generous formal dining room,  primary suite, and a library/guest room. Split level stairs with a custom-made stair railing lead up to two more bedrooms with Central Park views. In a finishing touch, the metal stair railing and door knobs throughout the residence feature the Plaza's signature double "PP" design motif. 

The lobby of the Plaza Residences 

Today, the Plaza is owned by the Katari Hospitality, a Qatari state-owned hotelier, which is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations. Through its evolution, the Plaza has remained a New York cultural icon. In Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the three main characters, Gatsby, Tom and Daisy, travel to a suite at the Plaza where they argue. Legend has it that F. Scott and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald swam in the Pulitzer Fountain across the street from the hotel. In the popular Eloise children's books created by performer and Liza Minnelli’s godmother Kay Thompson, the main character exclaims, "I am Eloise. I am six. I live at the Plaza Hotel." In 1966, Truman Capote held his famous Black and White Ball at the Plaza, which was recreated in the FX series Feud: Capote vs. The Swans. Neil Simon's popular play Plaza Suite is composed of three acts about three different couples staying in Suite 719. It was recently revived on Broadway starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, who then traveled with the production to London. As the classic line goes, "Nothing unimportant ever happens at the Plaza."