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An American History

A. K. Sandoval-Strausz

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A spellbinding look at the bustling and colorful world of the hotel, from colonial days to the twentieth century

When George Washington embarked on his presidential tours of 1789–91, the rudimentary inns and taverns of the day suddenly seemed dismally inadequate. But within a decade, Americans had built the first hotels—large and elegant structures that boasted private bedchambers and grand public ballrooms. This book recounts the enthralling history of the hotel in America—a saga in which politicians and prostitutes, tourists and tramps, conventioneers and confidence men, celebrities and salesmen all rub elbows. Hotel explores why the hotel was invented, how its architecture developed, and the many ways it influenced the course of United States history. The volume also presents a beautiful collection of more than 120 illustrations, many in full color, of hotel life in every era.

A. K. Sandoval-Strausz is associate professor of history at the University of New Mexico.

“This is an essential history of one of the nation’s most significant building types. A.K. Sandoval-Strausz deftly sets hotels at the center of the nation’s social history, urban development, and political consciousness.”—Dell Upton, author of Architecture in the United States 

“Once upon a time, hotels were simply way-stations where weary travelers could stop to rest along a journey that could take many days. But over the centuries, hotels evolved into the symbols of American capitalism and of urban life. The biggest and best of them provided glamour, sophistication, elegance, and excitement, and A. K. Sandoval-Strausz has now given them the recognition they deserve. Beautifully illustrated and engagingly written, Hotel will reward both the specialist and the general reader.”—Kenneth T. Jackson, Columbia University

"In Hotel: An American History, A.K. Sandoval-Strausz presents a highly creative history of the nineteenth-century first-class hotel, and develops important and stimulating interpretations of what hotels have meant to American business, culture, and racial politics."--Paul Groth, University of California, Berkeley

“Professor Sandoval-Strausz’s cultural history of the hotel in America is like getting the best suite in the house: fabulous views, elegant details, and fine finishes. Writing as an historian, he integrates architecture, urban geography, and social history to illuminate the influence of hotel development and tourism on our country’s development.”—Richard Penner, Cornell School of Hotel Administration

"Hotel is a marvelous piece of work. It is lucid, original, beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and historiographically and theoretically sophisticated. It is brimming with fresh insights."—Wendy Gamber, Indiana University

"All scholars interested in the interrelationships among architecture, institutions, politics, economics, and culture ought to read this excellent study. that it fills the longstanding need for an up-to-date scholarly history of the hotel is only the most obvious of its considerable achievements."—Catherine Cocks, American Historical Review

"Sandoval-Strausz's . . . majestic book convincingly argues that the hotel undergirded the dramatic social and cultural changes that transformed the U.S."—Charles Truheart,

"A. K. Sandoval-Strausz's thoughtfully conceived, illuminating, and richly illustrated book is the first work to treat the phenomenon of the American hotel in a broad historical context. . . . Superlative."—Bryant Franklin Tolles, Jr., The Journal of American History


"In his well-researched and well-illustrated history, A.K. Sandoval-Strausz shows how the purpose-built American hotel evolved from the often-improvisational inn. . . . Sandoval-Strausz . . . charts the history of this quintessentially American institution with élan."—Edward Short, City Journal

"This excellent book is a wonderful example of illuminating scholarship for a general audience. . . . Not the least virtue of this book is the copious supply of illustrations, showing us what hotels looked like in their formative stages. For these, we are in debt not only to the author, but to a publisher who still understands how books should be made."—Samuel McCracken, Columbia Magazine 

"Engaging, lavishly illustrated. . . . An unusually thoughtful and provocative perspective on an important American institution."—Jeffrey S. Adler, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Addressed to scholars in social sciences and humanities, this richly layered and lavishly illustrated investigation merits repeated readings. An essential resource on hostelry; highly recommended."—Library Journal (Editor's pick for October 2007)

"Marrying contemporary critical approaches to sound historical method, Hotel presents the history of a structure that existed both in reaction to, and as motivator of, social, political, and civic change in America. Young scholar Sandoval-Strausz exhibits that rare blend of erudition and clarity that most of us can only dream of possessing. You'll never look at the evolution of your built environment the same way again."—Library Journal (Best Books 2007)

"A new exhaustive history on where travelers hang their hats."—New York Post

"This delightfully illustrated historical survey explores the emergence of the modern hotel as a distinctly American phenomenon—an anonymous place where presidents, celebrities, prostitutes, conventioneers, and ordinary travelers all cross paths."—Newsday

"If Elvis had crooned Highbrow Hotel, it might have stood as a good review of this exquisitely cerebral history, also lovely to behold, of an institution that changed modern life. Check in if you can."—Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"In this lucid and creative work, Sandoval-Strausz situates the rise of hotels within the history of the triumph of capitalism and of an increasingly mobile society. Hotels, he says, facilitated mobility and the integration of frontier lands into larger networks of capital and commerce. . . . From start to finish, this is a fascinating study."—Publishers Weekly

"In a time when America is spending billions to build a wall along its southern border, this brilliant history is a reminder that the fear of the traveling stranger is something we have overcome before."—Kerry Howley, Reason Magazine

"A dense, ambitious, and valuable new work. . . . Hotel is filled with interesting information; Sandoval-Strausz . . .  develops social, moral, economic, legal and political connections with originality and insight. His impassioned reading of our 'built environment' is fascinating, his research prodigious. . . . I will never again check into a hotel without thinking of myself as an ambassador of peace; that alone, with its profound implications, makes this thoughtful book worthwhile."—Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review

"The authority and imagination with [which Sandoval-Strausz] explores an impressive range of subjects, orchestrating them within a taut, holistic framework render Hotel an exceptional study by any standard."--Richard Longstreth, Journal of Social History

Winner of the 2008 Pacific Coast Branch Award given by the American Historical Association.

Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

A 2007 Best Book of the Year and Best Book for December 2007 by Library Journal



ISBN: 9780300142020
Publication Date: December 2, 2008
384 pages, 7 x 10
124 color