Beauty in the Back of the House

Posted by on Mar 22, 2018

Tintype by Margaret Muza

Donna is enchanted by all the secluded places in this hotel. She finds the most beauty in backstory and in the back of the house.  Her Pfister hidden gems are the places no one else pays attention to, and she relishes sharing why each of these spots is extraordinary and deserves to be noticed.

She loves the “silver room” in the hotel’s lower level, where for more than a century all the silver used to serve countless elegant meals here has been cleaned.  She marvels that there used to be a job position dedicated solely to polishing all that silver, until a person shining platters and teapots was replaced by a large burnishing machine.

Donna sees herself and the Pfister’s other longstanding staff as “caretakers of the hotel”, both of the actual tangible pieces and the many happenings here, and also the bits of history stashed in every nondescript corner.  She tells me how the stewarding office was once a men’s bathhouse and how both the current chef’s office and pastry kitchen are original to the hotel.  One of her most beloved tales is her surprise to learn that one of the most valuable items in the whole hotel is a rare antique duck press, a macabre tool invented in France that squeezed the bird’s carcass to release every bit of blood and bone marrow, which then became an exquisite delicacy of a sauce.

She’s interested in how things happened below the stairs to create the upstairs glamour; the massive kitchens on the hotel’s seventh floor that even now are choreographed like a complex dance; the exertion that efficiently happens behind the scenes so a perfect meal can be served to hundreds of guests at the same time.  It’s the process of things and the effort that looks deceptively effortless that intrigues her.

On my very first day as Narrator, Donna greeted me with a warm smile and immediately whisked me through a trail of hallways and back staircases, the hidden maze that allows a grand hotel like this one to function.  I now see how fitting that first meeting was.

Donna looks regal and timeless in this tintype. Astoundingly, it was taken in a Pfister bathroom.  In this portrait, and to Donna herself, it is actually a lavish dressing room, a place of splendor.

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