Did you know that Oscar Wilde died at L’Hotel in Paris, and that his bill of 26,000 francs is still outstanding? One of his last quips was, “I am dying beyond my means.”
Did you know that as a young Vietnamese student Ho Chi Minh was living in Paris in 1919, working as a kitchen assistant at the Hotel Ritz? These are fun facts I’ve gleaned from the website The Most Famous Hotels in the World.
One of my favorite areas of book collecting is books on famous historic hotels. It’s fun because you can travel the world first class anytime on the cheap at the flip of a page, learning about history and culture, architecture and geography, and famous people from the past. Even more fun is to read about a hotel, then to go experience it yourself and live part of its history; some of these great hotels aren’t even that far away!
Frank Case’s Tales of a Wayward Inn (1938) is one of my favorites, as the author recounts in jolly fashion his fascinating life as manager and owner of the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, with its famous “Round Table” of literary figures and all its legendary and eccentric guests.
Case also wrote a second memoir, Do Not Disturb (1940), and Feeding the Lions (1942), a cook book which included comments from famous guests about their favorite dishes. Case grew up in Buffalo, New York and learned his hotelier skills there at the Genesee Hotel. The Algonquin was the first major hotel in New York to welcome lone women travelers. Although we have never stayed overnight at this hotel, Ron and I have visited and had cocktails there, and it is just as enchanting as I imagined from reading Tales from a Wayward Inn. Located at 59 West 44th Street in New York, it has been open since 1902, is steps away from great museums, theatres and shopping, and was named one of ‘America’s Ten Great Historic Hotels’ by Historic Traveler magazine.
Here some additional enjoyable books on hotels and hoteliers:
Hotel Bemelmans, Bemelmans, Ludwig, Viking Press, 1946.
The Grand Hotels of Europe, Frischauer, Willi, NY: Coward McCann, 1965.
There is Only One Raffles: Story of A Grand Hotel, London: Souvenir Press, 1981.
Literary Lodgings, Borish, Elaine, Constable, London, 1984.
Great Resorts of North America, Hepburn, Andrew, Doubleday & Co., 1965.
Bonanza Inn: America’s First Luxury Hotel, Lewis, Oscar and Carrell D. Hall, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1939
An Adirondack Resort in the Nineteenth Century: Blue Mountain Lake, 1870-1900, Stagecoaches and Luxury Hotels, Blue Mountain Lake, NY: Adirondack Museum, 1962.
The Savoy: The Romance of a Great Hotel, Jackson, Stanley, NY: E.P. Dutton, 1964.
Old Waldorf Bar Days, Crockett, Albert Stevens, NY: Aventine Press, 1931.
Let these books take you on a first class trip! (Many of the books mentioned in this article are available at our on-line store www.oldscrolls.com )