A Family Heirloom in The Skyline Penthouse: The Betsy Chandelier
Adorned with heirlooms and souvenirs from worldly travels, The Betsy is more than just a hotel: it’s a family home. Like all family homes, ours is full of stories, and today we’d like to share one of them—a story of iconic landmarks and daring escapes, spanning three continents and three generations. It’s about one of our favorite furnishings—the chandelier that graces The Betsy’s Skyline Penthouse.
The story of the chandelier starts with Luci (pronounced Lut-zi) Zlattner, the grandfather of Lesley Goldwasser (co-owner of The Betsy, along with her husband, Jonathan Plutzik), who emigrated to southern Africa from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, after the German invasion had already begun. By the time Luci escaped in the summer of 1939, the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) was one of the only territories accepting Jewish refugees, so he settled in the town of Bulawayo, started a family, and built a home.
When the war ended, Luci returned to Europe to visit his cousins in Vienna, who had survived by hiding with an Austrian family on their farm in the countryside. A long-time lover of opera, Luci’s cousin took him to see an opera at the Vienna Opera House. As he made his way through the historic main concert hall, he noticed a striking crystal chandelier. He was so moved by this beautiful chandelier—a standout piece in an iconic building—that he decided to create a replica for his home in Africa.
Luci contacted the manufacturer and commissioned a smaller and slightly modified version of the Viennese chandelier. Once completed, he had it shipped to Bulawayo to adorn the home he built with his wife. With a double-height ceiling entryway, the chandelier became a focal point of the home—something to remind Lesley’s grandparents and family of their passion for music, travel, and fine art. “I have memories of how complicated it was to clean [the chandelier],” Lesley said as she reminisced about her grandparents’ home in Zimbabwe. “I remember how it was lowered on a pulley system from the ceiling, then carefully polished and cleaned before going back up to its resting place.”
When Luci passed away in 1961, Lesley’s grandmother moved back to Europe, and her parents moved into the home her grandparents had built. Lesley grew up marveling at the chandelier’s magical presence in the home, appreciating its stunning beauty from a young age.
Years later, during a business trip in Vienna, Lesley met up with her cousin—the daughter of her grandfather’s cousin, who had brought Luci to the opera house so long ago. She told Lesley the story of the chandelier and arranged a visit to see the original that had inspired her family’s precious heirloom. “I looked up and gasped,” Lesley said about seeing the original chandelier for the first time. “There stood this magical chandelier that looked almost identical to the one I had grown up with!”
After Lesley’s father passed and her mother had moved to the United States, Lesley’s family sold her childhood home, leaving most of its furnishings and fixtures for the new owner. The chandelier, however, Lesley couldn’t part with—she initially shipped it from Zimbabwe to her home in New York City, but in 2017, when The Betsy opened its doors, the chandelier made the journey to Miami Beach to live in the penthouse—one of the hotel’s most captivating spaces.
As you can see, our guests aren’t the only ones who come from all across the globe. The Betsy is full of stories that bring the hotel to life, making it just as much a part of the Plutzik and Goldwasser families as the heirlooms that live in it. When you’re at The Betsy, we hope you’ll make yourself at home—and we’ll continue to share our stories with you. After all, you’re always part of the family here.