Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pg. 69: "Hotel: An American History"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz's Hotel: An American History.

About the book, from the publisher:
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. Hotel 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
Among the praise for the book:

"A dense, ambitious, and valuable new work... 'Hotel' is filled with interesting information; Sandoval-Strausz... develops social, moral, economic, legal and political connections with originality and insight. His impassioned reading of our 'built environment' is fascinating, his research prodigious... I will never again check into a hotel without thinking of myself as an ambassador of peace; that alone, with its profound implications, makes this thoughtful book worthwhile."
—Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review

"In Hotel: An American History, A.K. Sandoval-Strausz presents a highly creative history of the nineteenth-century first-class hotel, and develops important and stimulating interpretations of what hotels have meant to American business, culture, and racial politics."
--Paul Groth, University of California, Berkeley

“This is an essential history of one of the nation’s most significant building types. A.K. Sandoval-Strausz deftly sets hotels at the center of the nation’s social history, urban development, and political consciousness.”
—Dell Upton, author of Architecture in the United States

“Professor Sandoval-Strausz’s cultural history of the hotel in America is like getting the best suite in the house: fabulous views, elegant details, and fine finishes. Writing as an historian, he integrates architecture, urban geography, and social history to illuminate the influence of hotel development and tourism on our country’s development.”
—Richard Penner, Cornell School of Hotel Administration

“Once upon a time, hotels were simply way-stations where weary travelers could stop to rest along a journey that could take many days. But over the centuries, hotels evolved into the symbols of American capitalism and of urban life. The biggest and best of them provided glamour, sophistication, elegance, and excitement, and A. K. Sandoval-Strausz has now given them the recognition they deserve. Beautifully illustrated and engagingly written, Hotel will reward both the specialist and the general reader.”
—Kenneth T. Jackson, Columbia University

"Hotel is a marvelous piece of work. It is lucid, original, beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and historiographically and theoretically sophisticated. It is brimming with fresh insights."
—Wendy Gamber, Indiana University

"Addressed to scholars in social sciences and humanities, this richly layered and lavishly illustrated investigation merits repeated readings. An essential resource on hostelry; highly recommended."
Library Journal (Editor's pick for October 2007)

"In this lucid and creative work, Sandoval-Strausz situates the rise of hotels within the history of the triumph of capitalism and of an increasingly mobile society. Hotels, he says, facilitated mobility and the integration of frontier lands into larger networks of capital and commerce.... From start to finish, this is a fascinating study."
Publishers Weekly

Read an excerpt and learn more about Hotel: An American History at the Yale University Press website.

Check out a slide-show essay about the history of the hotel at Slate.

Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz is assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico.

The Page 69 Test: Hotel: An American History.

--Marshal Zeringue