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Hotel Dreams

Hardback
, 328 pages

47 halftones

ISBN:
9780801899874
March 2011
$60.00

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Hotel Dreams

Luxury, Technology, and Urban Ambition in America, 1829–1929

From the time they emerged in American cities in the 1820s, commercial luxury hotels were far more than places where a traveler could eat and sleep—they were icons of style, opulence, and technological sophistication. Molly W. Berger offers a compelling history of the American hotel and how it captured the public’s imagination as it came to represent the complex—and often contentious—relationship among luxury, economic development, and the ideals of a democratic society.

From New York to San Francisco and points in between, Berger profiles the country’s most prestigious hotels, including Boston’s 1829 Tremont, which served as a model for luxury hotel design; San Francisco's world famous Palace, completed in 1875; and Chicago's enormous Stevens, built two years before the great crash of 1929. The fascinating stories behind their design, construction, and marketing reveal in rich detail how these buildings became cultural symbols that shaped the urban landscape.

Though America’s large, luxury hotels were impressive architectural and corporate accomplishments, they were lightning rods for public debate about urban development and economic power. Inside the buildings unfolded human dramas that shaped ideas about race, gender, and class. Berger deftly explores the tension between both elite and egalitarian values that surrounded America’s luxury hotels.

The American hotel evolved into a "machine for living," soaring to skyscraper heights, defining ideas about technological innovation, and creating a unified system of production and consumption unique to the modern world. Hotel Dreams is a deeply researched and entertaining account of how the hotel’s material world of machines and marble integrated into and shaped the society it served.

Molly W. Berger is associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and instructor of history at Case Western Reserve University. She is editor of The American Hotel, an award-winning volume in The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts series.

"A very informative and entertaining read."

"Complements and expands on A.K. Sandoval-Strausz's Hotel."

"[Berger's]nuanced interpretation of technology makes her work so important to design historians... Hotels have served as realms of the fantastic that permit guests to escape the everyday and enter into a world of dreams where service and splendour define new experiences. It is this dream world that Berger successfully evokes in this important book and others should follow her lead by exploring this remarkably rich topic."

"A rigorously researched and elegantly written study of the role of the hotel in shaping and embodying ideals of progress, luxury, and technology in a consumer capitalist society. Berger's monograph is a welcome contribution to the growing scholarly literature on the history of hotels in modern America, and is a must-read for scholars of business history, the history of technology, architectural and urban history, and the history of consumer culture."

"A salutatory and important book."

"A worthwhile addition to the growing scholarly literature on hotels."

"In a relatively compact study, Berger has provided a rich, revealing portrayal of her subject that is likely to remain a basic source for scholars examining the history of the city no less than of the hotel itself for some years to come."

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