Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Netherland Plaza Hotel; Cincinnati, OH

Detail of Swan carvings from Fourth floor foyer area
This strange object is one of many that line the walls in the Pavilion Caprice. The original design of the room was meant to evoke the feeling of being on a luxury cruise-liner or Zeppelin. The lamp is a "Sunburst" design and was meant to give the illusion of sights seen through the porthole. (As an aside - I think that it looks like a giant eye and is terrifying. I would not want to see it while I was drunk...)

Original Elevator sign on Fourth Floor

Detail of wall ornamentation in Julep Room (Formerly the Wedding Chapel)

View looking into far end of Palm Court (Where Jazz Musicians play) from Mezzanine

View of far end of Palm Court from Mezzanine showing detail of railing and view of ceiling

View of Palm Court ceiling facing South

Detail of railing in Palm Court showing Egyptian influence on French Art Deco style

Detail of far end of Palm Court

Far end of the Palm Court where live jazz plays every Saturday night. "The fountain and sun were favorite Art Deco motifs, representing life giving forces, youth and freedom."

The fountain at the far end of the Palm Court: Made in Cincinnati in the world renowned Rookwood studio. The fountain is "ziggurat-shaped with a rams head guarded by two seahorses with lotus crowns." These creatures represent protection and guardianship for travelers.

Detail of Frieze work and Fresco painting looking directly up from hostess podium

Detail of (one of the) Fresco paintings in the Palm Court

View looking East into Carew Tower from Hotel Lobby

Lobby area Coat Check

Detail of Metalwork facing West into Palm Court from South Staircase Landing

Metalwork between South Staircase and Palm Court

Lobby: South staircase

Chandelier above the Grand Staircase that represents the Sun

Elegant floral and frieze work above main entrance grand staircase

Elevator Doors that feature Herons etched as a free-flowing design into the Benedict Metal doors

In 1931 the landscape of America was crippled by depression, organized crime, and the stark reality that sunk in after World War I. When one hears of the cornerstone of a massive and majestic hotel being laid down in 1929 one can not help but wonder how these social and economic events may have played a part in the design and construction of such a building.

In August of 1929 the plans were announced for the construction of two massive skyscrapers that would rise out of the heart of Cincinnati. The Carew Tower and Netherland Plaza hotel were designed to be "a city within a city" where people could work, shop, dine, stay and never have to set a foot on the street. The plans were bold and would require a substantial investment. John Emery, the Cincinnati millionaire behind the plans approached the bank to provide backing for the project but the idea was too new and risky for their interests. "Emery, convinced his project would be a success, sold all of his stocks and securities, despite advice from his financial advisers." In October 1929 the stock market crashed and sent the country plummeting into the Great Depression. All of the country, except Cincinnati, that is.

The plans to build the Carew Tower and the Netherland Plaza were underway when the stock market crashed. Since Emery had removed all of his money from the bank and cashed out his investments he and his money were safe. His project to build a "City within a City" employed more than 1000 men consistently until January 1931.

In 1981 the hotel underwent a massive restoration effort. After removal of old dingy carpets the fabulous marble floors were exposed for the first time in 50 years. Dirt and grime were removed from the beautiful relief carvings and paintings in the Palm Court. Paint that covered the rare Brazilian Rosewood was scraped off. And $28 million dollars later the hotel was returned to its Art Deco glory.

After all of the extensive and careful restoration work the hotel earned National Historic Register and National Landmark status in 1985 and then in 1989 the Netherland Plaza became a charter member of Historic Hotels of America.

As you can see from the photographs the hotel maintains its Art Deco style still today. The stay in this hotel was the best and most memorable part of my Cincinnati experience. There is something magical and transcendent about being here. It reminds me of a time, not unlike our own, when people were struggling but could still come together to create such lasting beauty. Between these walls there exists a hope that we can also create a treasure that will last 80 years and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting these. I was looking for photographs of the Palm Court and these are the best I have found online so far.