The Plaza by Julie SatowThe Plaza: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel by Julie Satow
Narrator: Jefferson Mays
Published by Hachette Audio on June 4, 2019
Source: Purchased
Genres: Non-fiction, Architecture, History
Length: 11 hrs 13 mins
Pages: 358
Format: Audiobook
Purchase at or Audible
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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 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 the disgraced Indian tycoon who ran the hotel from a maximum-security prison cell, 7,000 miles away in Delhi. In this definitive history, award-winning 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 a handful of rich, dowager widows were the financial lifeline that saved the hotel during the Great Depression, and how, today, foreign money and anonymous shell companies have transformed iconic guest rooms into condominiums that shield ill-gotten gains-hollowing out parts of the hotel as well as the city around it.THE PLAZA is the account of one vaunted New York City address that has become synonymous with wealth and scandal, opportunity and tragedy. With glamour on the surface and strife behind the scenes, it is the story of how one hotel became a mirror reflecting New York's place at the center of the country's cultural narrative for over a century.

The Plaza was a fascinating look at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, its history, its owners, and some of the people who lived here over its history. The original hotel opened in 1890 and then reopened as the luxurious hotel we know in 1907. We follow its story from the Gilded Age, through the Jazz Age and Prohibition, two World Wars, to 2018.

I loved the people’s stories, from the construction workers to the rich and famous, even the fictional little girl, Eloise. It’s a little bit like reading the society papers over the years. I didn’t care quite as much about the real estate deals in more recent years. I listened to the audio though and the narrator, Jefferson Mays, kept me engaged throughout.

The book is well-researched and I enjoyed it. I do think it might have been a bit tedious in print for me, but mostly because I cared more about the anecdotes and less about the dates and dollars.

About Julie Satow

Julie Satow is the award-winning author of “The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel” and the forthcoming “When Women Ran Fifth Avenue: Glamour and Power at the Dawn of American Fashion,” to be published in June 2024 by Doubleday.

A regular contributor to the New York Times, her work has also appeared on National Public Radio, Bloomberg Businessweek, Travel + Leisure, and elsewhere. A graduate of Columbia College, she has a Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs.

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