The word vision is defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘having or marked by foresight and imagination.’ In St. Louis in the 1920s, it was defined by a man named Sam Koplar, who included The Park Plaza among those in his architectural legacy.
Koplar had vision from an early age. Born to parents of Russian heritage, he inherited his desire for better things and the ability to manage funds from his mother, Rose. She and her husband, Berol, were in this country of opportunity due largely to the fact that she expertly handled the family money. Berol wanted to buy cattle, but held out for tickets for the family’s passage to America.
The young Koplar was a bright student and gained admission to Manual Training School, which was a division ofWashington University.Working from an early age to help with family finances, he was getting a reputation of being an adept problem-solver and manager.
After marrying Jeannette Grollneck in 1909, the Koplars had three children and lived an incredible roller-coaster ride of life experiences. (Their middle child, Harold, would go on to make The Chase Park Plaza ‘the place to stay in St. Louis’—but that’s for another article!)
Sam Koplar began significant growth to his real estate empire in the 1920s, with construction of The St. Louis Theatre (a movie house that would later become Powell Hall), The Embassy Apartments, and the twin Congress and Senate buildings overlooking Forest Park. It was in the Senate where he lived with his wife and children in the penthouse on the 15th and 16th floors—a space I am proud to say I later inhabited for many years.
In 1929, Koplar began the project that he referred to as ‘my baby’—The Park Plaza. The Art Deco building was inspired by a visit to the Savoy Plaza in NewYork. Securing a lot on the corner of Lindell and Kingshighway boulevards, Koplar hired architects Schopp and Baumann to design his masterpiece. He named it The Park Plaza after Forest Park and the Savoy. The 320-unit building with an adjoining 300-car garage was well underway when Oct. 29, 1929, changed the course of everything…temporarily. His lenders called loans and construction hit a hiccup until 1930, when Sam arranged for a $3.07 million loan to complete the project. The end result was nothing like St. Louis had ever seen: large windows to take in the vistas, public spaces made opulent with luxurious fabrics and furnishings, fine dining and uniformed bellhops—the finest hotel in St. Louis.
Today, The Park Plaza is alive and well. The building was joined with the Chase Hotel in the 1950s and the union created a jewel that has hosted dignitaries, politicians, celebrities and countless memorable events. Truly, Sam Koplar’s vision has helped to make St. Louis a better place and we thank him for it.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CANDACE O’CONNOR’S MEET ME IN THE LOBBY: THE STORY OF HAROLD KOPLAR & THE CHASE PARK PLAZA