Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

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Discover Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, which was once the Carew Tower and Netherland Plaza Hotel, designed to be a city within a city.

Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1991, dates back to 1931.

A National Historic Landmark, the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza is among the most recognizable buildings in downtown Cincinnati. This wonderful historic hotel originally debuted as part of a multipurpose commercial structure known as “Carew Tower.” The person behind its entire development was a local real estate developer named John J. Emery, whose family had made a fortune in the Cincinnati’s rugged stockyards. Emery had hoped that his novel building would function as a “city within a city,” in which everything from boutique shops to office space could be found inside. He even planned on opening a luxurious new hotel within the structure that would rival the Waldorf Astoria. To infuse more capital into the project, Emery partnered with renowned skyscraper builder William A. Starrett of the Starrett Investment Company. The two men decided to use Starrett Brothers, Inc., as the primary general contractor with the architectural blueprints coming from W.W. Ahlschlager & Associates.

Emery and Starrett began constructing Carew Tower just moments from Fountain Square on the site of the old Carew Building in September of 1929. It quickly became one of the largest construction projects in the city, employing hundreds of workers over the next several months. Yet, the project nearly died soon after it had started, as the Great Depression hit when the stock market crashed that October. Against the advice of his own accountants, Emery had liquidated his stock mere weeks before the financial collapse in order to funnel more money into the construction work. Carew Tower may never have been built had he done nothing! In all, it cost Emery and his business partners some $33 million to completely fund the whole venture. But it was well worth it. When the building finally opened at the beginning of 1931, to stood as a magnificent tribute to Art Deco architecture.

While people throughout Cincinnati quickly adored the many different facilities located inside the structure, the hotel proved to be its greatest attraction. Debuting as the “St. Netherland Plaza,” it offered the very latest in technology and comfort. The hotel’s original 800 guestrooms featured ultra-modern baths, as well as access to high-speed automatic elevators, an internal broadcast system both for convenience and safety, and an automatic electric garage. The eleven kitchens that serviced St. Netherland Plaza’s seven restaurants contained only the finest Van Range equipment, enabling the chefs to produce a ten-course meal for the 1,800 guests that attended the opening night. The marvelously crafted Pavillion Caprice functioned as a “big band” nightclub that provided live entertainment, eventually hosting Doris Day’s professional debut within its tiered ballroom. There was even an ice-skating rink in the hotel’s spacious Continental Ballroom! The St. Netherland Plaza eventually dropped the “St” from its name, becoming known simply as the “Netherland Plaza Hotel.”

Many of the nation’s most prominent citizens subsequently visited the hotel over the next several decades, who left a bunch of wonderful stories in their wake. Shortly before becoming Great Britain’s Prime Minister in World War II, Sir Winston Churchill spent a few days at the Netherland Plaza during the late 1930s. Upon seeing his suite, he telegraphed its design specifications to builders in England so that they could reproduce it in his own personal manor. Rock star Elvis Presley also frequented the hotel whenever he was touring that portion of the country. In one such memorable occasion, Presley implored the hotel’s chef to cook him an impromptu meal. Against the chef’s better judgment, he made the musician a hamburger that Presley said was the best he had ever eaten. And Bing Crosby loved walking through the Netherland Plaza’s central lobby. When warned to take an alternative route away from the space to avoid a massive crowd, the singer replied: “When they stop recognizing me, I’m in trouble.” He then hopped on top of his convertible parked outside and sang a few songs for the gathering.

It has since gone on to receive many numerous accolades for its world-class hospitality and unrivaled historic grandeur. In 1985, the Netherland Plaza Hotel and Carew Tower earned National Historic Register and National Landmark status from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The hotel also won the prestigious Preservation Honor award because the most recent renovations went far beyond the requirements specified in the government’s Standards for Rehabilitation. And in 1989, the hotel became a charter member of Historic Hotels of America. More recently, it has earned a coveted Five-Diamond rating by the American Automobile Association—the only hotel in Ohio to receive such a distinction. Today, the Netherland Plaza is a part of Hilton Hotels and Resorting, operating as the “Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.” This fantastic historic hotel continues to be among the best places in downtown Cincinnati to experience a truly memorable vacation.

  • About the Location +

    The Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel and Carew Tower overlooks Fountain Square on the corner of 5th and Vine Streets. Located right in the center of the Central Business District, Fountain Square is among Cincinnati’s most famous landmarks. Even though it was officially founded in 1871, the location was the site where the city’s first inhabitants settled down nearly a century prior. Dozens of local concerts and festivals occur at the square every month, with many congregating around its central landmark, the iconic Tyler Davidson Fountain. Dedicated just months after Fountain Square debuted, this beautiful statue is an homage to Cincinnati’s maritime connection with the Ohio River. Its relief features anecdotes featuring the four primary historical uses of water in the city: steam, waterpower, commerce, and fisheries. The Tyler Davidson Fountain is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fountain Square is near a number of other amazing cultural landmarks, including the Taft Theatre, the Aronoff Center for the Arts, the Great American Ballpark, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Many more are just a short drive away, too, such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

    Cincinnati itself is a historic city dating back to the late 18th century. Its earliest residents arrived in the area during the late 1780s, founding a rustic military based called Fort Washington. But the first administrator of the nascent outpost—General Arthur St. Clair—quickly renamed it “Cincinnati” after the Society of Cincinnati. This organization was a social fraternity composed of veteran officers who had served with distinction throughout the American Revolution. But the isolated settlement rapidly emerged as one of the nation’s most integral port cities, for it provided a rare access point through the Allegheny Mountains. Steamboats soon became a regular sight in Cincinnati, ferrying all sorts of passengers and cargo along the Ohio River. A prosperous local pork-packing industry developed around the same time, which led to the city earning the name “Porkopolis.” Yet, Cincinnati’s most enduring nickname came about in the mid-1850s, when Americans from across the nation took to calling it “The Queen City.” Cincinnati continues to be an important center of commerce and culture in the heart of the American Midwest, with millions of people traveling to experience its rich heritage every year.


  • About the Architecture +

    Carew Tower was a novel idea when John J. Emery first introduced it in the summer of 1929. He called for his structure to offer a wealth of services ranging from upscale restaurants to boutique storefronts. To finance his dream, Emery partnered with William A. Starrett of the Starrett Investment Company. Starrett was a renowned builder of skyscrapers, with his most notable work the Empire State Building. Starrett provided Emery with the main source of labor through his construction company, Starrett Brothers, Inc. They, in turn, hired the architectural firm W.W. Ahlschlager & Associates to create the building’s beautiful new design. But Emery also asked that another design company—Delano & Aldrich—assist W.W. Ahlschlager & Associates in the creation of Carew Tower. Together, they developed an engineering masterpiece that displayed some of the finest Art Deco architecture in the entire country. When construction finally started that September, the work site became one of the largest employers in Cincinnati. Yet, the whole endeavor nearly came to a dramatic halt roughly four weeks into construction with the crash of the stock market. Emery had fortunately liquidated his entire portfolio to help fund the project beforehand though, so he was able to maintain a tight schedule. In the end, he and Starrett has spent more than $33 million to create Carew Tower.

    Among the greatest sections of Carew Tower that Emery and Starrett built was a new hotel. The two men had hoped it would rival the Waldorf Astoria in New York with its elegance and luxury. They originally decided on “St. Nicholas Plaza” for its name but were later forced to switch to the more seemingly unconventional “Starrett’s Netherland Plaza” following an injunction by another business. The reason why “Netherland” was used as part of the title was from the belief that the hotel occupied a nether region between the Ohio River and the nearby hills. Eventually, they abbreviated “Starrett’s” to “St.” before dropping it outright. Besides the unique name, the building offered some 800 cutting-edge accommodations that possessed some of the most luxurious bathrooms ever seen inside a hotel. Additional, technologically advanced amenities included high-speed automatic elevators, an internal broadcast system, and an automated parking system in its garage. There were seven magnificent restaurants located onsite, as well: The Frontier Room, Restaurant Continentale, Arcadia Tea Room, Rotisserie Grill, Lunchonette, The Coffee Shop, and the Pavillion Caprice. Located on the 4th floor, Pavillion Caprice also doubled as a nightclub, where celebrities performed under its tiered ceiling. The architects had designed this fantastic room to resemble the SS Leviathan, which was a famous ocean liner active from 1914 to 1934.

    The Netherland Plaza Hotel featured other event spaces that made the destination incredibly special. Guests entered The Palm Court by walking through the lobby, where they encountered a blend of French Art Deco design aesthetics mixed with French Renaissance Revival-style architecture. Railings and posts in The Palm Court featured beautiful engravings of the letter “L,” which paid homage to the majesty of King Louis XV of France. Further inside, the room contained a ziggurat-shaped fountain with a ram’s head and two large sea horses, as well as several murals depicting Cincinnati’s history. The fountain itself was designed by Rockwood Pottery, which also created the floral tiles that reside near the eastern and western entrances into the hotel. The Continental Room up on the Mezzanine level debuted with a small ice-rink and four beautiful murals representing the seasons. The famous Hall of Mirrors was even farther up on the 3rd floor. A gorgeous ballroom constructed with French Fleur de Peche marble, renowned theater-set designer George Unger crafted its structural appearance. He specifically crafted the space to resemble a theater meant to evoke a deeply emotional response. Countless gold-plated mirrors line the walls, leading to a staircase that formed the central stage. Beautiful light sconces of bronze and frosted glass offered a source of indirect light throughout the space, which bounced off a large foliated trim.

    Much of the hotel’s original architectural features were covered up throughout the 1960s, as its owners attempted to modernize it for a contemporary audience. Craftsmen changed most of the beautiful structural components—such as the interior plaster reliefs and the marble floors—by covering them with paint, plywood, and vinyl. Yet, Belvedere Hotels largely undid this work in partnership with Omni Hotels and Resorts some two decades later. They vigorously restored the building’s outstanding Art Deco architecture, removing the intrusive wood and synthetic paneling. Light fixtures were repaired, and stagnant décor was removed. Even the historic murals inside The Palm Court received a much-needed cleansing. Perhaps the greatest change occurred when Belvedere Hotels decided to convert the 800 accommodations down to 624 more comfortable spaces (there are now 561 rooms at the hotel). Subsequent renovations to the hotel have transpired ever since, happening frequently throughout the 2000s.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Elvis Presley, rock star celebrated as the “King of Rock and Roll.”

    Bing Crosby, world-famous singer and actor known for his roles in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s.

    Doris Day, renowned actress known for her roles in Pillow Talk, Calamity Jane, and Lover Come Back.

    Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady to former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, First Lady of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

    Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1940 – 1945; 1951 – 1955)

    John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (1961 – 1963)

    Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States (1969 – 1974)

    George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1989 – 1993)


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    The Edge of Night (1956 – 1984)

    Carol (2015)

    The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)


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