Plaza Hotel

Known Name(s)

Plaza Hotel


1757 Church Norfolk, VA

Establishment Type(s)


Physical Status


Detailed History

In 1940 Bonnie Estelle McEachin opened a 12-room hotel near the Booker T. Theatre. It was so popular that she opened a new hotel, the Plaza, on a different site 6 months later with twice as many rooms. All African-American entertainers stayes at the Plaza, even if they were performing 50 miles away. Duke Ellington ordered steaks sent there from New York. Some songs were written at the Plaza, including "Yakkity Yak" by the Four Coasters. The Plaza was demolished in the mid-1950s, after the neighborhood's post-WWII decline.

In 1955, the Nation-Wide Hotel Association (NHA) named Ms. McEachin "Woman of the Year" at their second annual convention, held in Detroit. Ms. McEachin was also re-elected as a vice president of the organization. (Source: "1955 Hotel Men of the Year," Afro-American, November 19, 1955, page. A3).

Ms. McEachin's daughter provided the following information on her mother and the founding of the Plaza. She also provided the period photos. Many thanks!:

Born June 6, 1909, a poor country girl from Rose Hill, NC, Bonnie was taken out of school to work with her mother in the kitchen while her siblings picked cotton. Noticing Bonnie's brilliant business mind, it was not long before she was doing the banking for the family and learning all she could. Coming to Norfolk with her two small children on March 5, 1935, Bonnie didnt know that the train conductor that kept a close eye on her and her children would one day own what many of you may know as Belo Supermarket but he named the grocery chain after her, Bonnie Belo Supermarkets. Bonnie wanted so much for her family and she strived to make it better for all she encountered. On April 11, 1947, my mother, Bonnie Estelle McEachin opened her first business venture, The Shalimar Grill in Norfolk, VA on the corner of Kent and Monticello Ave. This establishment was the first steps to her next two ventures that would cater to all races and turn no one away. After moving over to Church St where all the happenings were for blacks, Bonnie opened her 2nd venue in 1950, The Plaza House, which consisted of 12 rooms, a kitchen and restrooms. This was the cornerstone for the entertainers who would then flood through Norfolk with the melodic sounds of jazz, blues and a little pop too. With the overwhelming hospitality, Bonnie provided and with her charming smile and personality, word quickly spread that her place cater to everyone. This led to the purchase of the old Prince George Hotel at the corner of Church & 18th Streets. Before long, Bonnie and her husband, Graham moved down the block into what became the Plaza Hotel in 1953, a "home away from home". Every entertainer from Redd Foxx, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Count Basie, Dinah Washington, Moms Mabley, Ella Fitzgerald, Ruth Brown, Jackie Wilson and many others would stay at the Plaza during their time in Norfolk. Some would even stay up all night long, recording or writing songs right in the dining room where the baby grand piano and Hammond organ were on a small stage area. Everybody knew "Bonnie's Place" the Plaza Hotel. In 1955, Bonnie was named the Hotel Woman of the Year by the Nationwide Hotel Association, a black association in which she served as the 1st Vice President and in 1962, Bonnie was named one of the Nation's 10 Best Dressed Women in the world by the Amsterdam News, a black owned newspaper in New York City. Bonnie's creativity, style, grace, personality and beauty also turned heads as she was always looking to helping her people strive for the better things in life. Not being introduced to racism until coming to Norfolk, she was determined to do what she could to help everyone. The Plaza was also known to sponsor and host Valentine's Day and birthday parties for the children in the community, host circus trips and encouraging sports in school by awarding young black tennis players with the Bonnie McEachin tennis trophy each year. Now I could go on and on because this moment in Black History means the world to me. Even though all this too place before I was born, I was eager to hear it as a child and absorb every bit of it in. I knew as a child, my mother was "somebody special ". It just wasn't until I got older, I realized how special she was and how people respected her. She was a trailblazer, a trendsetter, a mover and a shaker, she was my Mom. Remember we are all special in our own unique way, God made each one of us. Don't ever feel like you have nothing to contribute because you do! God has his purpose for us all. Thank you for allowing me to share just a little bit of my Black History with you. God bless!❤💯🙌🏾

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