Luxury, Technology, and Urban Ambition in America, 1829–1929
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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In the early 1980s, after moving into a new house in suburban Cleveland, we used our last remaining dollars to take our four young children on a trip east. In Philadelphia, we stayed at a large chain hotel, which for us at the time was a bit of a step up. My younger daughter, all of ten years old, kept asking me if this was a âfancyâ hotel. It was a perfectly respectable hotel, utilitarian and somewhat upscale...
1. The Emergence of the American First-Class Hotel, 1820s: âAll at Hand, and All of the Bestâ
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On April 15, 1848, Philip Hone, diarist and one of New York Cityâs âbestâ citizens, gave voice to what he often called the âgo-aheadâ age. Describing what he considered âthe magical performance of the lightning post,â Hone revealed his enchantment with the heretofore unimaginable changes wrought by technology, in this case recounting the speed at which news of the markets had traveled fourteen...
2. The Tremont House, Boston, 1829: âA Style Entirely Newâ
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Two twenty-foot-tall Doric granite columns anchor opposite corners of Institute Park in Worcester, Massachusetts, just across the street from the American Antiquarian Society. The columns are a mystery to most Worcester residents today: the columnsâ monumental proportions are at odds with the small urban park, and the strange juxtaposition between the two underscores the col-...
3. The Proliferation of Antebellum Hotels, 1830â1860: âEvery Thing Is on a Gigantic Scaleâ
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The luxury hotel concept seemed to tap into a well of American enthusiasm, as urban developers proposed hotel projects throughout the United States and journalists and writers chronicled their rise. As hotels proliferated in American cities, major American and British periodicals regularly published descriptions and commentaries about hotels that recognized and reinforced their...
4. The Continental Hotel, Philadelphia, 1860: âIn Reference to the Building of a Monster Hotelâ
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In 1857, Philadelphia businessmen worried. New York Cityâs booming growth as a port and commercial center contrasted sharply with Philadelphiaâs decline. Even before that yearâs devastating economic panic further eroded Philadelphiaâs position, a number of editorials in the cityâs newspapers urged local businessmen to sell their cityâs attributes to an otherwise oblivious national marketplace. âIf we...
5. Production and Consumption in an American Palace, 1850â1875: âTo Keep a Hotelâ
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As hotels grew to such great size during the middle half of the nineteenth century, a system of hotel management evolved with the goal of efficiently serving the enormous numbers of both transient and permanent guests whose expectations for service had escalated with the size and extravagance of the buildings. This became known in both the United States and England as âthe American Sys-...
6. The Palace Hotel, San Francisco, 1875: âThe Greatest Caravansary in the Worldâ
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The year 1875 was eventful for San Francisco,â observed Society of Pioneers historian John S. Hittell in his 1878 history of the city. He noted that San Franciscans were obsessed with conversation about the ongoing feverish speculation on the mining stock exchange, the political machinations surrounding the cityâs water supply, as well as calamities like Virginia Cityâs destruction by fire. Topping the list...
7. The âNewâ Modern Hotel, 1880â1920: âIt Is Part of the Hotel Business to Hide All These Things from Viewâ
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While the story of the Palace Hotel might seem idiosyncratic, driven as it was by an overriding commitment to excess by its fanatical promoter, economic and political leaders in American cities large and small shared an understanding about the way grand hotels, their architecture and interiors, served as material testimony to a cityâs economic and cultural ranking in the world. After...
8. The Stevens Hotel, Chicago, 1927: âVirtually a Multiple of Twenty-Five Small Hotelsâ
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When the Stevens Hotel opened on May 2, 1927, nine thousand people came for dinner. During the more than two years that encompassed its planning and building, Ernest J. Stevens, the hotelâs projector, majority shareholder, and manager, had thoroughly promoted his new hotel as the worldâs largest and greatest. The perfectly orchestrated opening festivities not only introduced the hotel...
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For Sinclair Lewis, George Babbitt represented Americaâs everyman, and the downtown hotelâthe material representation of Babbittâs worldâwas an integral part of his everyday life. It would be almost impossible to describe Georgeâs comings and goings without the luxury hotel as part of his mise en scÃ¨ne. While he regarded his hometown Zenithâs thirty-five-story Second National Tower as âthe...
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As a project, Hotel Dreams has a very long history of its own, and, as a result, I am indebted to a great many people who have helped and encouraged me along the way. First and foremost, my mentor and adviser Carroll Pursell expressed enthusiasm for the project from its very first days, and his steadfast confidence in its significance and in me has helped me persevere whenever my own commitment to...
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Essay on Sources
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The endnotes document the primary sources used in the preparation of this book. It is useful, though, to discuss the range of sources and how they changed as the long nineteenth century advanced. For the early chapters, I made extensive use of published travel narratives, newspapers (including articles, want ads, social columns, and advertisements), periodicals, sheet music, city directories, handbooks, strangerâs guides,...
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Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 46 halftones
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Studies in Industry and Society
Series Editor Byline: Philip B. Scranton, Series Editor