THE PLAZA HOTEL IN Chicago stands eight stories tall in heavy red brick. It’s actually kind of boring. But the restraint ends there. Inside, it’s a wedding cake. Heavy white columns with golden capitals hold up ceilings covered in intricate ornamentation. Red velvet seating sits atop rouge carpets. Rich red paisley dresses the mirrored walls. Everything appears to be frosted in gold.
On May 3, 1912, ‘Abdul-Bahá met with visitors in the hotel’s ballroom throughout the day. If he was impressed, he failed to comment. There were more urgent things at hand.
‘Abdul-Bahá turned his attention once again to the war taking place in Libya. He painted an apocalyptic scene: “Observe what is taking place in Tripoli: men cutting each other into pieces, bombardment from the sea, attacks from the land and the hail of dynamite from the very heaven itself.”
The subject of war and peace has occupied much of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s time. He has become a well-known voice in the international peace movement. In fact one of the reasons for his trip to America is to speak at the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration on May 14.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá believes that the American nation is singly positioned to lead the world to peace: “Because I find the American nation so capable of achievement, and the American government the fairest of Western governments, its systems superior to others, my wish and hope is that the banner of peace may be raised first on this continent, that the standard of the Most Great Peace may here be unfurled.”
Though he arrived in America only a few weeks ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seems to have perceived something unique in the nation and its people. He has returned every few days to the theme of America’s great potential.
“I request that you strive and supplicate with heart and soul, devoting all your energies to this end, that the banner of International Peace in reality may be unfurled here, and that American Democracy may be the cause of the cessation of warfare in all other countries.”
During the next two weeks, ‘Abdul-Bahá will speak to various peace societies on the east coast, culminating in his major address at Lake Mohonk. At the Plaza Hotel today, he made the urgent plea to all those in attendance to unite in their efforts to spread peace, something he called “one of the greatest bestowals of God.”
The Plaza Hotel, at 1553 North Clark Street in Chicago, was demolished in 1967.