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The Hotel: A Week in the Life of the Plaza by Sonny Kleinfield

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THE Plaza Hotel was built as a monument to the new of industrial wealth, as a magical place for people with an appetite for luxury and an aching to be part of high society. When it opened, it was an authentic wonder. Its first advertising campaign, in fact, described it as “The World’s Most Luxurious Hotel.” The owners actually feared it was so fancy that some of its prospective guests—no matter the depth of their pockets—might be intimidated. The day after the hotel opened, the uncertain manager ordered shellac applied atop the gold leaf decorating the lobby so that the guests would not be overly dazzled.

Though it has slipped somewhat from its early grandeur, the Plaza is still in many ways the quintessential luxury hotel. The place doesn’t ...

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