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Fate of pioneering modernist hotel, on verge of dilapidation, may depend on redevelopment plans

Have you ever heard of the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati? Built in 1948 by the then emerging architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it was America’s first hotel in the postwar era. Its sky lobby—a revolutionary idea—sat on the eighth floor, above a department store. It was the first hotel to have elevators without operators in them, the first to have rooms with individual temperature controls, and it even had sofas that would convert to beds at the push of a button.

“It introduced modernism to the country, both in terms of modern architecture because it was the first major International Style hotel, and because it introduced modern art to the public,” Paul Muller, executive director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association, told AD. The interiors featured Joan Miró’s first commission in the U.S., as well as works by Alexander Calder, Saul Steinberg, and Jim Davis. And if that isn’t significant enough, it also represents an important—and underrecognized—contribution by Natalie DeBlois, lead designer at SOM at a time when there were very few female architects working at that level.

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