Manufacturer: Shenango China
User: Plaza Hotel – Persian Room
Date of plate: circa early 1950s
Notes: After prohibition ended in December of 1933, the Plaza Operating Company filed plans on January 30, 1934, with New York City's Building Department to build a new cocktail room in the south corner of the Hotel Plaza at a cost of $50,000. The new room was to have four large windows on the east wall overlooking the Plaza, from which side there was to be a special entrance. Other approaches were to be from the hotel lobby and the Plaza's Palm Court. The room was to have a service bar and a dance floor, and be called the Persian Room. It would be designed and decorated by the Joseph Urban Associates.
After its April 2, 1934, gala opening night, the Persian Room became one of the most successful New York City Night clubs. Many top performers appeared there in the forty-one years it was open. But the original decor would not last even a decade. When the Persian Room closed for the summer in 1942, its decor so chic and modern in 1934, seemed very dated. The Art Deco gave way to what we now call "Hollywood Regency."
Legendary café society performer Hildegarde reopened the re-modeled Persian Room in late September, 1942. L. L. Stevenson in his syndicated column Lights of New York reported on October 31, 1942, wrote the following about the new decor:
"In honor of the advent of Hildegarde, the Persian Room, for the second time since it opened in 1934, has undergone a complete change in decor and minor change in arrangement. The noted Lillian Gaertner Palmedo Persian murals are still over the bandstand, but little else remains of the past. A terrace, with a balustrade and a full-length banquette, has been built along the Fifth Avenue side, reducing the capacity of the room from 300 to 275, and thus making it that much more intimate."
Malcolm Johnson's, September 29, 1942 "Cafe Life in New York" column in The New York Sun had this to say about the new Persian Room:
"It is enough to say that its new dress, with egg shell white as the dominant motif, is bright and cheerful and quite unlike anything the Persian Room has worn before. Only one of the famous murals remains – the one over the bandstand – and the room has been terraced to command a better view of the floor than in the past."
Even this "new" Persian Room would not last a decade. Conrad Hilton purchased the Plaza Hotel in 1943. In 1950, Hilton contacted famed industrial and interior designer Henry Dreyfuss to discuss plans about a complete renovation of the space. Dreyfuss, writing in his 1955 book, Designing for People, said this about his redesign of the Persian Room: "Our design was contemporary, but with a Persian motif chosen because of the famous name of the room, and for this we visited museums and haunted the Iranian Institute, reading the lore of Iran and studying Persian temples and miniatures. The Persian Room has eight enormous windows twenty feet high on two of its walls. For these we had curtains woven of deep blue and green with metallic strands."
Alice Hughes in her September 29, 1950, Buffalo Courier Express column wrote: "Tonight's the night when the jog along horse-and-buggy pace of the Hotel Plaza is jet-propelled into this new electronic world. It's the night of the opening of the fabulous new Persian Room, the Plaza's cafe, rebuilt and recreated this past summer by Henry Dreyfuss." The plate in this listing was designed by Henry Dreyfuss.
"Mid-Century Modern" was the best way to describe the Dreyfuss decor. And in this design the Persian Room would thrive for the next decade-and-half. But in the late 1960's the era of the super club came to an end. The Persian Room closed for good in 1975.
Shenango China manufactured this Henry Dreyfuss designed service on a white body, with almost all of the front surface covered in a turquoise and navy-blue harlequin pattern of connected triangles. In the center of the plate's well is a line drawing of a Persian rider on a horse done in coin gold and turquoise.
drivingfordeco.com Vanished New York City Art Deco: The Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel (drivingfordeco.com)
YouTubevideo of Architectural Digest's Tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrhZVMb6yVk
ID and photos: Rodric Coslet
Author: Ed Phillips