And she only paid $500 a month.
New York’s famed Plaza Hotel is so lovely, it makes guests feel like they want to stay forever—and Fannie Lowenstein almost pulled it off.
Lowenstein stayed at The Plaza Hotel for 35 years during which time she earned herself the title of "the Eloise from hell,” in a reference to the Plaza’s other famous, albeit fictional, tenant. Thanks to a quirk in New York real estate, Lowenstein paid just $500 a month for a three-room suite at the iconic hotel overlooking Central Park, according to Vice. Nowadays, guests could pay upward of $1,000 a night for the suite that Lowenstein called home for over three decades.
Lowenstein moved into The Plaza in 1958 with her husband, Leo Lowenstein, when, according to Vice, “a number of New York's grand hotels, The Plaza included, were on the skids and decided to take on long-term tenants to insure a monthly income.” When her husband died three years later, Lowenstein stayed put in the rent-controlled unit for decades, thanks to a deep knowledge of the real estate law and a feisty lawyer willing to take The Plaza’s corporate owners to court over things like “defective carpet.”
Attorney Gary Lyman, who was The Plaza's general counsel from 1977 to 2004, told Vice that he had many encounters with the "eccentric character" over the years, much to his chagrin. "She complained about everything. She screamed. I'm telling you fact because, you know, I lived through it. Everyone was terrified of her—this little woman, who was then about eighty, of small stature."
It’s perhaps no surprise then that, according to the New York Times, when Donald Trump bought the iconic hotel he was told: "The biggest issue... is Fannie Lowenstein." The Times reported that to placate Lowenstein, who was unhappy about Trump’s plan for the hotel, Trump "ultimately offered her an apartment in the Plaza that was almost ten times as large as her studio apartment.” It came with a view of Central Park, a Steinway piano, new furniture, new dishes, and a new price tag—rent-free for life. Lowenstein grudgingly agreed.
Like hotel guests everywhere, Lowenstein eventually did have to check out of The Plaza. She became concerned about “toxic” paint in her apartment. She moved to the Park Lane Hotel, where she paid full price for her room. She lived there until her death in April of 1992 at 85 years old.