Great Architects of New York: Henry J. Hardenbergh
The Plaza Hotel
Address
2 Central Park South or
768 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10019
Location
Grand Army Plaza from Central Park South to West 58th Street, west side
Neighborhood
Midtown
Built
Jan. 19, 1906, to Nov. 25, 1907; an addition on 58th Street, built in 1921, was designed by Warren & Wetmore as a simplified version of Hardenbergh's design.
Style
French Renaissance
Use
As of 2007, the hotel is being converted to condominium apartments with a few hotel rooms remaining on the 58th Street side.
AIA Guide
"A vestige of Edwardian elegance. Hardenbergh, its designer, graced New York with another, and equal, social and architectural monument: The Dakota (apartment house). The white glazed brick and the verdigris copper and slate mansard roof have been returned to their pristine splendor. One of the most exciting views of New York (Eloise-style) is from any room on the north side from the third to the fifth floors. From there eyes can skim the trees in a dramatic perspective of Central Park and Fifth Avenue. Frank Lloyd Wright was a devotee of the Plaza and used it as his New York headquarters."
Landmark Status
Designated an individual landmark in 1969. Eight ground-level rooms on the ground floor were designated interior landmarks in 2005: the Palm Court, the Grand Ballroom, the Terrace Room, the Edwardian Room, the Oak Room, the Oak Bar, the 59th Street lobby and the Fifth Avenue lobby.
Web resources
The City Review
New York Architecture Images
Wikipedia
Emporis

The horse-drawn carriages plodding past provide a 19th-century oasis from the rush and din of Midtown Manhattan, and the Plaza Hotel compliments them perfectly, providing the backdrop for an enduring tranquility that has charmed visitors from around the world for a century. Could the horses and carriages exist without the Plaza Hotel behind them? It's a thought that is hard to imagine.

Sitting as it does with Fifth Avenue on one side and Central Park on the other, the Plaza Hotel has perhaps the most auspicious site in the entire City. And it rises to the level that its location demands: It is hard to imagine another building anywhere that more fully achieves elegance. Certainly, it is the most spectacular of Hardenbergh's surviving buildings. Note the similarities to his other masterpiece, the Dakota: the understated verdigris trim in the roof, the two-story gables and the many-windowed turrets topped with modest cupolas. The corner turrets also have precedent in the 15A, 41 and 65 West 73rd Street. The double-P logo was repeated, in more ways than one, at the Copley Plaza.

This building was owned by a Saudi Arabian prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, who sold it to Elad Properties, the American arm of an Israeli development company, for $675 million in August 2004. Elad is converting it into a condominium residence with a small hotel component on the 58th Street side. As of January 2005, apartment prices range from $4.5 million to $15 million.



View from the northeast.

Eastern facade, facing the plaza.

The Plaza was built at the dawn of the skyscraper age, when the invention of the elevator had allowed for the creation of buildings much larger than had ever existed before. The architects of the time who practiced in New York City, where the elevator was invented and the first skyscrapers rose, were the first to grapple with the problem of taking old styles that dated back for millenia, and making them work at a new scale. In a conversation that foreshadows the Modernism that would arrive within four decades, Hardenbergh spoke about the Plaza with Sadakichi Hartmann in an interview that appeared in Architectural Record in May 1906 (emphasis added):

"Have you any special method in following out your theories?"

"My method is really a very simple one. There, for instance, is a sketch of the new Plaza Hotel," and he showed me a sketch of that giant caravansery. There seems to be a striking tendency in this latest of his work, to abandon the picturesqueness and irregularity of his former style, and to arrive at a simpler, and at the same time more pleasing effect. I had involuntarily to smile, however, at what seemed to me interminable rows of windows. He guessed my thought: "None of them is unnecessary. Now, what would be the use of introducing columns, colonnades, as they do. The Greek didn't build buildings of this kind. Edifices of this order have been unknown to past generations. They have no prototypes. All one can do is to take some good model, that served some kind of purpose as a hotel, and enlarge upon it. And then embellish it as well as one can, as for instance, in this case, with the early French Renaissance."