The Plaza Hotel is one of the most famous and celebrated hotels in the world and has a remarkable history which I am not covering in this story. As a glass artist, I would like to present one of the best known decorative glass ceilings in North America.

For over a century, The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel has been New York City’s iconic destination. It is well known for the room’s signature feature: a beautiful stained-glass dome reminiscent of the historical stained glass lay-light installed in 1907. 

Historical stained and leaded glass domed skylight at the Plaza Hotel in New York installed in 1907
Historical stained leaded glass skylight ceiling at the Hotel Plaza in New York

Inspiration

Modelled on the Winter Garden at London's Hotel Carlton, the Palm Court featured a leaded and stained glass ceiling designed in the Neo-Classical Revival style by architect Henry Hardenbergh with interior decoration by E. Spencer Hall & Co.

Black and white image of stained leaded glass domed ceiling at the Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel in New York
Black and white image of stained leaded glass domed ceiling at the Palm Court Plaza Hotel in New York. Image credit The Plaza

In press

The Palm Court received the most attention in the press, one commentary noting that “There is no provision for a roof garden; the lofty tea room on the main floor with its spreading palms and tropical plants supplying in some measure this now-common feature. . .” While The New York Times noted that “This profusion of greenery, together with the mirrors, the long casement windows, and the glass dome, with sunlight sifting through, combine to give a cool, open, garden-like effect.”

Stained glass domed ceiling at the Plaza Hotel with crystal chandelier
Stained glass domed ceiling at the Plaza Hotel with crystal chandelier . Image credit The Plaza

The original glass dome

I am really in love with the design and glass selection of the original leaded glass ceiling lay-light that was installed in 1907. The reason is that a historical Tiffany stained glass skylight was originally fabricated with transparent textured glass letting natural light in. Leaded black lines in combination with lightly textured (cathedral) transparent glass created an intricate airy lace of glass fabric. Taking into account size and scale of the glass ceiling I would declare that this is one of the most ambitious glass project at the time it was built.

Detail of glass domed ceiling in the atrium of Plaza Hotel in New York.
Detail of glass domed ceiling in the atrium of Plaza Hotel in New York. Image credit The Plaza

To be honest, I like less the latest replica of the glass lay-light installed in 2007. Despite that, I accept that it is one of the most impressive glass ceilings of the 20th century and it brings a unique unforgettable experience to the Hotel's visitors.

New York stained glass domed ceiling at the Plaza Hotel with artificial light. The best afternoon tea
Stained glass dome at the Plaza Hotel with artificial light. Image credit KatieLara

From the start, the roof of the hotel was constructed in a way that was not durable causing some leaks and other problems. As a result, the hotel's roof evidently dated to the 1940s. Additionally, at the start of the Second World War Two, the city ordered that all skylights in public buildings were tarred or painted over so that any enemy planes that might flight over North America could not see lights leaking into the sky. Sadly, the original iron frame was destroyed and the glass was removed. Only a few little chunks of glass survived.

The replica

Neoclassical stained glass domed ceiling for the atrium of the Plaza Hotel
Replicated Neoclassical stained glass domed ceiling for the atrium of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Image credit Bethany Lool

The latest stained glass ceiling was recreated by Botti studio in 2007. Since a 1921 addition blocked the natural light, the new decorative glass ceiling was designed with artificial lights above the glass lay-light to imitate the impression of sunlight. Moreover, a lighting system subties changes to suggest the time of day. Because of that, the glass selected for the project was from an opal family, that does not transmit all light and creates a darker, more solid impression comparatively to the original skylight

The reconstructed 1 200 sq feet domed ceiling was fabricated with 1,5 million dollars budget.

Historical stained glass dome skylight is the best place for afternoon tea
Historical stained and leaded glass skylight the Plaza Hotel in New York - a stunning interior landmark. Image credit KatieLara

References

Atrium lobby with stunning stained leaded glass domed skylight
Atrium lobby with replicated historical stained leaded glass domed skylight at the Plaza Hotel. Image credit LARRY LEDERMAN

Victoria Balva, Architectural Glass Artist, Toronto Victoria Balva, Glass Artist, Toronto

Summary
Decorative glass domed ceiling at Plaza Hotel, NY
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Decorative glass domed ceiling at Plaza Hotel, NY
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An insight into the history of famous stained and leaded glass dome at the Hotel Plaza in New York
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Victoria Balva Glass Studio
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