The Plaza Hotel, one of the finest in the world, was doubtlessly the most renowned hotel in New York City throughout the first three quarters of the 20th century, at least. At one point it was the most expensive and definitely the most luxurious. In the 1980s other hotels sprang up in Manhattan and perhaps outdid the Plaza in terms of opulence and, obviously, high-tech standards. But the Plaza has preserved its mystique and is still one of the most sought after hotels in the city. It is also designated as a New York City Landmark, is listed on the Register of National Historic Places and is the only hotel in New York to be recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
Built in French Renaissance chateau style by architect Henry Janeway Hardenburgh in 1907, the 76-meter high, 19-story building was the most sensational hotel in the world at the time. Its owners - Bernhard Beinecke, Fred Sterry and Harry S. Black - had spent $12 million, an unfathomable sum back then, which today would be equal to roughly $700 million. They ordered the largest amount of gold-encrusted china that had ever been supplied to any single house or institution in history. They also purchased about 1,700 crystal chandeliers and made sure that the first to reside in the Beaux-Arts decorated rooms were members of New York's most illustrious families, who turned out to be Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.
The Plaza, with its 282 rooms, 150 of which are suites, was erected with the purpose of being not only a hotel but also a condominium. It derived its name from the Grand Army Plaza, the square at the southeastern corner of Central Park facing the hotel. In the beginning the cost of a basic single room was $2.50 a night, which is equivalent to $63 in today's money. Currently, that same room costs about 1000 $ per night.
Anyone who is anyone has stayed at the Plaza: presidents, kings, ambassadors, world-famous athletes, writers and entertainers. In the 1920s, when he was the talk of the town, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed at the hotel and even set two scenes from his classic novel The Great Gatsby in the Plaza. Today there is a suite named in his honor. In the 1950s American singers such as Liza Minnelli, Andy Williams and Peggy Lee performed in the Persian Room, while jazz star Miles Davis even recorded an album there. In 1959 Alfred Hitchcock shot a scene for his film North by Northwest starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint - it was the first time that the hotel had allowed a film crew on its premises. In 1964 the Beatles stayed at the hotel during their first visit to America. In 1985 ministers from the US, Germany, France, Great Britain and Japan stayed and met in the hotel to sign the Plaza Accord, an agreement that lowered the price of the dollar against their currencies.
The Plaza has had many owners, as can be expected of one of the greatest hotels in the world. In 1943, during World War 2d, the hotel was bought for what today would be equivalent to $100 million by Conrad Hilton, the founder of the Hilton hotel chain. It was later acquired by the Childs Company, which resold it in 1988 to New York real estate magnate Donald Trump for a sum equal to $812 million today. After divorcing from his wife Ivana in 1992, Trump sold the hotel for a smaller amount than what he had originally paid - $503 million in today's money. It was speculated that he had sold the building just to completely free himself of his wife, who had been the hotel's president. The Plaza then passed through the hands of a series of international property owners until the Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar became the majority stakeholder in 2012 for a price of $570 million.