With a height of 250 ft (76 m) and a length of 400 ft (120 m), the hotel occupies the west side of Grand Army Plaza, from which it derives its name, and extends along Central Park South in Manhattan. Fifth Avenue extends along the east side of Grand Army Plaza. The Plaza Hotel is recognized as a Historic Hotel of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The hotel's main entrance at 768 Fifth Avenue faces the southern portion of Grand Army Plaza, which commemorates the Union Army in the Civil War, whence its eponymous predecessor derived its name.
The Plaza Hotel offers its guests and residences many services including a butler on every floor, baby-sitting and concierges, a shopping mall, the Palm Court under the restored stained glass ceiling, the Champagne Bar located in the hotel lobby with views of Grand Army Plaza, the Edwardian Room, the Terrace Room, the Rose Club, the Grand Ball Room, the Plaza Food Hall by Todd English, as well as meeting rooms and conference rooms. The Grand Ballroom, Terrace Room and meeting spaces are currently managed by CPS Events, a joint venture between Delaware North Companies and the high end caterer Great Performances. The Oak Room, now closed, was another restaurant in the Plaza.
The Plaza Hotel is the second hotel of that name on the site. The French Renaissance château-style building was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh and opened to the public on October 1, 1907. At the time, it cost $12.5 million to construct. When the hotel opened, a room at the Plaza Hotel was only $2.50 per night, the equivalent of $64.26 today. The same room costs over 15 times as much today.
Alphonse Salamone joined the hotel in 1947, although later left to accept a position in San Juan at the Caribe Hilton. He returned the hotel and helped it out of hardship during the 1960s. The Plaza Hotel was accorded landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969; it was designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 1986.
The hotel offers tours of its interior to the public.
Long the site for famous performers and guests, it has also been the meeting place for important political meetings. The nationally known singers Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Liza Minnelli, Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne, Kay Thompson, Sandler and Young, Ethel Merman, Shirley Bassey, Andy Williams, The Mills Brothers, Patti Page and Peggy Lee played the Persian Room. Miles Davis recorded a live album in the Persian Room in 1958.
Unaccompanied ladies were not permitted in the Oak Room bar; women favored the Palm Court for luncheons and tea.
In September 1985, ministers of developed countries met at the Plaza Hotel to consult on finance issues and affirmed their agreement by signing the Plaza Accord. It served as an agreement among the finance ministers of the United States, Japan, West Germany, France and Britain to bring down the price of the U.S. dollar against their currencies.
The Beatles stayed at the Plaza Hotel during their first visit to the United States in February 1964.
On November 28, 1966, in honor of the publisher Katharine Graham, the writer Truman Capote hosted his acclaimed "Black and White Ball" in the Grand Ballroom. The ballroom was also the site, in 1993, of Donald Trump's wedding to Marla Maples in front of 1,500 guests.
Conrad Hilton bought the Plaza Hotel for $7.4 million in 1943 (equivalent of $102 million today) and spent $6 million (equivalent of $83 million today) refurbishing it. The Childs Company, a national restaurant chain which partnered in the development of the neighboring Savoy-Plaza Hotel, (now the site of the General Motors Building), purchased the Plaza Hotel in 1955 for $6.2 million in stock (equivalent of $56.6 million today). Childs, later named Sonesta International Hotels, sold the Plaza to Western International Hotels (later Westin Hotels) in 1975 for $25 million (equivalent of $112 million today).
Donald Trump bought the Plaza Hotel for $407.5 million in 1988 (equivalent of $824 million today). Trump commented on his purchase in a full-page open letter in The New York Times: "I haven't purchased a building, I have purchased a masterpiece – the Mona Lisa. For the first time in my life, I have knowingly made a deal that was not economic – for I can never justify the price I paid, no matter how successful the Plaza becomes." Trump installed his wife, Ivana Trump as the hotel's president. After $50 million in renovations, the hotel was earning a healthy operating income, but not enough to make the payments on its heavy debt load. Trump made plans to pay off the hotel's debt by selling off many of its units as condominiums. A deal was instead reached for the Plaza's creditors, a group of banks led by Citibank, to take a 49 percent stake in the hotel in exchange for forgiveness of $250 million in debt and an interest rate reduction. The agreement was submitted as a prepackaged bankruptcy in November 1992.
In 1995, CDL Hotels International and Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal purchased a controlling stake in the Plaza in a deal that valued it at $325 million (equivalent of $511 million today).
The hotel was sold in 2004 for $675 million (equivalent of $856 million today) to Israeli-owned Manhattan-based developer, El Ad Properties. El Ad bought the hotel with plans of adding residential and commercial sections. Since the Plaza Hotel is a New York landmark, Tishman Construction Corporation, the construction management company hired to complete the renovations and conversions, had to comply with landmark regulations. El Ad temporarily closed the Plaza Hotel on April 30, 2005, for extensive renovations. Beginning May 2005, the Plaza Hotel's contents were available to the public via a liquidation sale.
The hotel reopened on March 1, 2008, offering 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condominium units; it is managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Diamond retailer Lev Leviev put in the first bid for a Plaza apartment at $10 million. Most of the condominium units are usually empty, used as pieds-à-terre by their wealthy owners.
In November 2008 the Plaza Hotel unveiled its retail collection, an underground mall featuring luxury brands such as Vertu and Demel Bakery (closed as of March 2010), an Austrian-owned business. In 2010 the Plaza Food Hall opened in the underground mall, anchored by The Todd English Food Hall in collaboration with Chef Todd English.
On July 31, 2012, India's business group Sahara India Pariwar agreed to buy a 75 percent controlling stake for $570 million from El Ad Properties. The stake includes 100 of the Plaza's 150 hotel-condominium units and a retail portion that includes The Oak Room bar.
In August 2014, Sahara's Subrata Roy announced he was seeking a buyer for his company's majority stake in the Plaza, along with similar stakes in the Dream Hotel in New York and the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. A $4 billion price tag was placed on the Plaza stake. Speculation that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei would be the buyer was quashed by the sultan. The hotel continues to be owned by Sahara India Pariwar.