Approaching the Plaza
Stretches of the Avenue—Approaching the Plaza—The Great Hotels—Old St. Luke’s Hospital—“Marble Row”—Some Reminiscences of Mr. John D. Crimmins—Men and Manners of Sixty Years Ago—Early Transportation—The Saint Gaudens Sherman Group—The Cryptic Henry James—The Fountain of Abundance.
One August day I sat beside
A cafe window open wide,
To let the shower-freshened air
Blow in across the Plaza, where,
In golden pomp against the dark
Green, leafy background of the Park,
St. Gaudens’s hero, gaunt and grim,
Rides on with Victory leading him.
—Bliss Carman, On the Plaza.
Approaching the Plaza, besides the churches, clubs, and the various houses associated with the name of Vanderbilt, there is conspicuous the cluster of great hotels. To sum up the nature of these hostelries briefly, imagine an Englishman. “We now crossed their Thames over what would have been Westminster Bridge, I fancy, and were presently bowling through a sort of Battersea part of the city,” was the way in which the British butler in Mr. Harry Leon Wilson’s “Ruggles of Red Gap” described part of a hazy, riotous ride about Paris. Later, the same worthy, come to our own New York, indicated the hotel of sojourn by the information that it overlooked “what I dare say in their simplicity they call their Hyde Park.” Beneath the caricature there was a sound understanding of the workings of the British mind. So if an Englishman contemplating a visit seeks advice in the matter of hotels there is the obvious short cut. Certain of the less pretentious places in the side streets and overlooking the minor parks may be described as “the sort of thing you find about Russell Square.” The Waldorf-Astoria, the Knickerbocker, the McAlpin, or the Astor as “like the Cecil, Savoy, or the Northumberland Avenue Hotels.” The vast, expensive edifices of public welcome in the neighbourhood of the Plaza as “something rather on the order of Claridge’s and the Carlton.”