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Grand Hotel Plaza - Roma

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J. P. Morgan died in the Royal Suite of the Plaza 100 years ago

Almost a hundred years ago, one of the most powerful men on earth and one of the five richest in the world came to Rome to die: John Pierpont Morgan. His bank, J.P. Morgan, is still with us, though merged with Chase Manhattan in 2000.

His library is in New York on 36th Street.Built in 1906, and open to the publicsince 1924, the Pierpont Morgan has been recentlyenlarged by Renzo Piano. Among valuable incunabula and old books, it is the only one to hold three of the 49 surviving Gutenberg Bibles, the first book with movable type in the world. Its collection of art (Leonardo and Michelangelo, Picasso, Rembrandt and Rubens) was valued at $60 million.He owned the most important shipping company, the White Star (which included the Titanic), and twice he had saved the U.S. from bankruptcy.For some, he is considered the second best manager ever. He created the U.S. Steel Corporationin 1901 when he bought the steel mills of another "squilionaire," as coinedby Bernard Berenson, Andrew Carnegie. He loved Rome (he came every year to purchase art), and Egypt; regularly passed the waters at Aix-en-Provence. He was 75 years old, and hisfinaldays aredescribed in a book by Hans Tuzzi (Death of an American Tycoon, Skira, 170 p., 15 Euros). He was among those American billionaires who raided the artistic treasures of the old continent: eight thousand objects are at the Metropolitan.


Since childhood, JPM suffered from depression and mental disorders. In the beginning of 1913, he went to Egypt for the usual Nile cruise on his yacht with his wife, four of his friends, his faithful Pekingese dog Schun. After two weeks, he realized he was sick, and he had wanted to leave the Muslim country. In Rome, from his arrival on March 10 until his death on March 31, his headquarters was the royal suite- eight bedrooms and $500 per day, the Grand Hotel, now known as the Grand Hotel Plaza. Thronging antique dealers and sellers clamoredat the entrance, but this time, no one was allowed in. Countless medical visits byAmerican and Italianluminaries diagnosed the fatal 'mental dyspepsia.’During that month, he received an average of 500 letters a day - on his death4,000 condolences arrived. The New York Stock Exchange closed for two hours. The return was worthy of a king: the funeral service in the lobby of the Plaza, a military picket train to Paris, then to Le Havre, and other militaryhonors,(the Figaro writes: "No American has received from Europe as many signs of respect, no one deserved such homage"; a voyage back on the France, one of his own transatlantic ocean liners. At the Library on 36th Street, witha carpet of five thousand scarlet roses, Belle Da Costa Greene was waiting for him. She was his collaborator (and maybe more) since she  was 22 years old, and would manage the Library until 1948.


Even so,all this wasignoredat the Plaza. Still, these events are an intricate part of the history of the building and the hotel. It was built in 1837 as the palace of Count Antonio Lozzano and soon became a bank. It was purchased by two manufacturers of luxury cars, Neinerand Bussoni, who transformed it into the hotelin 1860. Ten years later, General TulliusMasisettled here, one of the lieutenants of General RaffaeleCadorna, commander of the “capture of Rome”. ThePrincipi di Piemonte, who becamethe last sovereigns of Italy,were often guests there: they came to see the Carnival. "The suite was perhaps on the sixth floor, but it is no more.What remains almost untouched insteadis the room wherePietro Mascagni lived from 1927 to 1945 when he died."And there is more, at the beginning of the staircase, a lionrests above the old entrance of the hotel.Even the elevator is in large part the original.

The entrance hall, sumptuously luxurious, wasdesigned in 1930 by Armando Brasini, called "arches and columns." The hotel immediately becomes one of the most "à la page": not by chance Pierpont Morganchooses it. In 1866, Pius IX Mastai-Ferretti,pays a visit to Charlotte, wife of Maximilian of Habsburg. In 1926, Gabriele D'Annunzio stays there. Half a century later, Gianni De Micheliswill live and host here following of the glories of the place, before Mario Monti choosesit to present his electoral program. Fora long time, its doorman had been famous, Luigi Esposito. The tapestries of Renzo Mongiardino; Luchino Visconti filmed The Innocent and White Phones; Francesco Rosifilmed scenes forForget Palermo; Franco Zeffirelli, of a certain Tea with Mussolini. This, they tell you. However, the epic of Pierpont Morgan was unknown even to them.


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