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Oak Room (Plaza Hotel) facts for kids

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Oak Room (Plaza Hotel) entrance on 59th Street, Sept 2017
Oak Room entrance on 59th Street

The Oak Room was a bar and, later, a restaurant in the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The bar was open from 1907 until its closing in 2011. It was distinct from the adjoining Oak Bar.

Description

Designed by Plaza Hotel architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in a German Renaissance style, the room features walls of English or Flemish oak, frescoes of Bavarian castles (by a painter whose identity is now lost to history), faux wine casks carved into the woodwork, and a grape-laden chandelier topped by a barmaid hoisting a stein hanging from the twenty-foot-high ceiling.

The Oak Room was long a grand, opulent, and elegant space. Critic Ada Louise Huxtable, writing in 1971, contrasted the "dignity, scale and period authenticity" of the Oak Room to other more modernized spaces in the hotel. It was accordingly frequented, like the Plaza's other spaces, by the rich and famous. George M. Cohan was a regular to the extent that his booth was named Cohan's Corner; a commemorative plaque for Cohan was installed in the room in the 1940s after his death.

The Oak Bar

Day Trip to New York City (2787626323)
Entrance to The Oak Bar in August 2008.

The Oak Bar is closely associated with the Oak Room and adjoins and is connected to it, but is a separate entity. The Oak Bar was established in its current location on the northwest corner of the Plaza Hotel in 1945 when the hotel was under the ownership of Conrad Hilton (or re-established – the area may have been part of the Men's Bar between 1912 and 1920). Prior to the 1945 renovation, it served as a brokerage office.

Three Everett Shinn murals were commissioned for the 1945 opening and remain in place, and a 38 feet (12 m) oakwood bar was installed. All or part of the area occupied by the Oak Bar had formerly been the offices of E. F. Hutton. The Oak Bar is in Tudor Revival style with a plaster ceiling, strapwork, and floral and foliage motifs.

History

It opened in 1907 as the Men's Bar. The Men's Bar was used as a space for businessmen to talk, in contrast with the Men's Grill (now the Edwardian Room), which acted as a social club where business discussion was socially inappropriate. The bar closed during Prohibition (1920-1933) during which time it was known as the Café or Oak Lounge.

The Men's Bar re-opened in 1934 as a restaurant under the name Oak Room. Women were allowed in the Oak Room during the summers starting in the late 1940s. By the early 1950s, women were allowed inside the Oak Room and Bar during the evenings as well. The Oak Room and Bar still acted as a men-only space before 3 p.m. on weekdays, while the stock exchanges operated. This continued until, in February 1969, Betty Friedan and other members of the National Organization for Women staged a protest. The gender restriction was removed a few months later.

The restaurant closed while the hotel was closed for renovation (2005–2008), reopening in 2008 after renovations with interior design by Annabelle Selldorf. It was, however, a descent into alleged vulgarity that led to the 2011 closing. Central to the closing was a dispute between the owners of the Plaza Hotel (various investors led by the El-Ad Group) and Eli Gindi, owner of the Oak Room and lessee of the Plaza Hotel. Although unpaid rent and other matters were alleged, a major point of contention was the "Day and Night" parties held on Saturday afternoons. These events (crucial to the Oak Room's profitability, bringing in $180,000 in an afternoon) were rowdy and featured loud music, and were described by the hotel's owners as damaging to the hotel's reputation and disturbing to the hotel's guests.

Notable performers

Although the hotel's Rose Club (formerly the Persian Room) has long been the hotel's premier nightclub and venue for entertainment, the Oak Room has also hosted performers including Alexa Ray Joel and Brian Newman. Lady Gaga appeared in impromptu performances with Newman in the Oak Room on September 29, 2010 (wearing a dress made of hair) and again on January 5, 2011.

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