Americana: Knells for a Preppie Hotel: The Biltmore

Years before alligator shirts covered every second American torso, long before artifacts of Ivy League style were mass-merchandised, before anyone dreamed of writing an "official handbook," Manhattan's Biltmore Hotel was the premier public place for preppies. Within its vaulting rococo spaces, numberless Princeton boys leered at an endless parade of Vassar girls, while Dartmouth seniors, a little tight, chatted up Smithies. Aging doughboys staggered out of regimental reunions singing. The bubbliness was swell and incessant. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger, writing for and about two generations of preppies, each dragged characters through the gilded Palm Court, under the clock...

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