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The Blackstone in Chicago, circa 1912, part of a growing hotel district. Credit Illustration from "Hotel: An American History"

Hotel: An American History

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When George Washington embarked on his presidential tours of 1789–91, the rudimentary inns and taverns of the day suddenly seemed dismally inadequate. But within a decade, Americans had built the first hotels—large and elegant structures that boasted private bedchambers and grand public ballrooms.

This book recounts the enthralling history of the hotel in America—a saga in which politicians and prostitutes, tourists and tramps, conventioneers and confidence men, celebrities and salesmen all rub elbows.

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Hotel: An American History explores why the hotel was invented, how its architecture developed, and the many ways it influenced the course of United States history. The volume also presents a beautiful collection of more than 120 illustrations, many in full color, of hotel life in every era.

Hotel explores these topics and more:

  • What it was like to sleep, eat, and socialize at a hotel in the mid-1800s
  • How  hotelkeepers dealt with the illicit activities of adulterers, thieves, and violent guests
  • The stories behind America’s greatest hotels, including the Waldorf-Astoria, the Plaza, the Willard, the Blackstone, and the Fairmont
  • Why Confederate spies plotted to burn down thirteen hotels in New York City during the Civil War
  • How the development of steamboats and locomotives  helped create a nationwide network of hotels
  • How  hotels became architectural models for apartment buildings
  • The pivotal role of hotels in the civil rights movement


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