Is there anything more alluring than an elevator buttonmarked “PH”? With the possible exception of an unopened Champagne bottle, wethink not. As the hotel’s showpiece, the penthouse packs more “wow” andattracts more boldface guests than any other room. It’s also a breeding groundfor bespoke amenities and impressive extras—the least of which is the view.
It hasn’t always been this way. Before the elevator wasinvented, buildings’ top floors were relegated to servants. Then industrialistElisha Otis debuted his lift in 1852, and everything changed. By the RoaringTwenties, skylines were shooting up on both coasts, and tycoons realized hotreal estate was up in the air. They began commissioning rooftop residences, and the penthouse was born.
American Trust Company president John S. Drum was amongthe first to see the appeal of living within a hotel, commissioning a penthousein San Francisco’s historic Fairmont. Architect Arthur Upham Pope completed it,and Drum leased it for $1,000 per month. The Fairmont’s groundbreakingpenthouse remains as opulent and impressive as ever, but much has changedindustry-wide. Hotels go head-to-head each year to out-luxe the competition. Aprivate entrance was once considered a nice touch; now it’s required. Butlerservice is the order of the day. Frette linens? De rigueur.
The most enticing new development in the penthousecraze is its global expansion. From Istanbul to Cape Town and back again,travelers are never too far from a terrace of their own. For the best in luxurytravel, you need only look up.