New York City's legendary Plaza Hotel flung open its golden doors Saturday for the first time in three years, after a $400 million facelift restored the 100-year-old building's luster.
Even though rates begin at $700 a night, the 282 guest rooms are fully booked for the next several weeks, said Shane Krige, the Plaza's general manager. "Everybody has been calling, anticipating the date of the opening," he said.
The hundreds of crystal chandeliers have been dusted to sparkle, the mahogany doors gleam from polishing, heavy rugs muffle footsteps on the miles of marble floors, and elegant silk curtains frame tall windows overlooking Central Park — every detail essentially the same as when the hotel opened in October 1907.
This weekend, hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers strolled through the lobby, eager to see the new public areas and the renovated Palm Court, which now features a stained-glass ceiling similar to the original, which was boarded over 60 years ago. Generations of young girls have been taken for formal afternoon tea at the Plaza in the Palm Court.
The Oak Room, another favorite New York watering hole of a different sort, is expected to reopen in the next few months.
As for the paying guests, some said they came to fulfill a long-held dream of staying at the world-famous hotel. Still others are long-time customers, eager to see the improvements made on the building, which now has private residential condos on some floors and hotel rooms on the others.
Each floor has its own butler and every bathroom has gold-plated fixtures. While the rooms still have their turn-of-the-century flair, they also have some modern bells and whistles. Inside each room is a guest service electronic menu that dims the lights, plays an iPod, provides the local weather and can alert the valet to bring your car around front.
Over the hundred years that the Plaza has hugged the corner of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue at 59th St., a dozen major movies have been set there ("The Way We Were." "Home Alone 2" among them), various novels have been written inside, and lavish events of all types have been celebrated in the public spaces.
Donald Trump married Marla Maples there — he owned it at the time — and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were also wed in the elaborate Grand Ballroom. The late writer Truman Capote used the room for his famous Black and White Ball.
And then there's Eloise, the sprightly, mischievous 6-year-old girl dreamed up by author Kay Thompson and drawn by Hilary Knight, who lives on the "tippy-top" floor of the hotel with her nanny, her turtle and her dog.
The initial "Eloise" book, published in 1955, made her a permanent part of the hotel's lore; her portrait hung in the lobby until the renovation began (and management has said it will be returned this spring in time for the official re-opening in May).