By Rob Arango
The Plaza Hotel is celebrated as one of New York’s most iconic hotels and has had a fascinating history. Located in the southwest corner of Central Park South, construction began on the first Plaza Hotel in 1833. However, developers had bigger dreams for space and, in 1905, the original hotel was completely demolished in order to build a much larger one.
In October 1907, at a cost of $12.5 million (about $314 million today), the new Plaza Hotel opened its doors. The first famous guests to check in were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, followed by the Goulds and McKees—setting the standard for the type of guests to fill the remainder of the suites. Many do not know that the “Champagne Bar” was originally known as the “Champagne Porch” and located outside along the Fifth Avenue side of the hotel. In 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, was published with scenes set in the hotel. Zelda and F. Scott hosted numerous outrageous parties that ended out in Long Island later in the evening.
My venue, the Grand Ballroom, opened its doors on October 3, 1921 where thousands of galas would be held in the beautifully guided ballroom for over the next 100 years. It quickly became the gala venue of choice, as well as the most-sought out place to get married. There was a period of time that you could only order lemonade at The Plaza, but luckily gin and tonics were once again served when Prohibition was repealed in December 1933.
In October 1943, Conrad Hilton acquired the Plaza for $7,400,000 (about $110 million today). The original Eloise painting, made for author Kay Thompson, was “kidnapped” after a college dance in the ballroom. One of the most famous guests to check in on February 7, 1964 was global music sensation The Beatles, who stayed for six days. Then, there was the most coveted and sought after invitation in town—Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Ball held in the Grand Ballroom in November 1967. Legend has it that Truman and Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, stood at the main doors and welcomed every guest. The “who’s who” of famous notable New Yorkers danced until 2 am, when they were served champagne and chicken hash.
Jumping forward to 2005, The Plaza closed its doors for an extensive lobby-to-roof restoration and later re-opened in October 2007, which is when CPS Events began its run, hosting hundreds of galas, weddings and corporate functions in the Grand Ballroom. Vincent, Mike, Emily, Celio and myself started as the opening team and to this day, we continue to service spectacular events under the joint partnership of Great Performances and Delaware North.