The Concourse Plaza Hotel, A Place That Matters
January 23rd, 2009, 11:06 am
The Concourse Plaza Hotel, located at 900 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for its unique role as host to the history of the Bronx. The hotel also played an important part in a number of American presidential campaigns. The Grand Concourse was designed in the late 19th century by Louis Aloys Risse and completed in 1909. The first hotel in the borough, the Concourse Plaza, was built in 1922 on this wide tree-lined boulevard, often considered the Champs-Élysées of the Bronx. The Plaza’s political legacy was established from the very day of its opening. Signaling the importance of the event, New York State Governor Alfred E. Smith made the keynote address at the hotel’s glamorous debut. From then on, civic leaders clamored to hold their events in the dazzling ballroom, fitted with gilded balcony railings and a soaring 28-foot high ceiling. “Just about anything important that happened in the Bronx took place there.” In 1924, beginning with John W. Davis, it became customary for the Democratic candidate for president to campaign at the Ladies’ Luncheon at the Plaza on the last Saturday before the general election. Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy had followed in this tradition. It was there, on November 5, 1960, that Kennedy proclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen: I said up the street that I was a former resident of the Bronx. Nobody believes that but it is true!” As a luxury apartment hotel, the Plaza was also known for its famous inhabitants. Just a fly ball away from Yankee Stadium, the team spent game nights at the hotel. Rumor has it that a three bedroom suite was expanded to accommodate the needs of “Bronx Bomber” Babe Ruth. The Concourse Plaza Hotel survived the burning of the Bronx by transforming into a welfare hotel. It was purchased in 1973 by the City and has served as a home for the elderly since 1982. Many of the neighborhood residents who can recall the grandeur of the hotel during its golden age are able to live there now during their golden years. To read more about the Concourse Plaza Hotel, log on to Place Matters. For the full list of featured places to date, log on to the Place Explorer and choose the Featured Search called “Place that Matters of the Week.” Please tell your friends about these places of history, memory, and culture and invite them to join the Place Matters e-mail list.