When the political leader “Boss” Tweed was arrested in New York on corruption charges in the fall of 1871, among his many assets was a luxury hotel.

Located up the road from City Hall, the Metropolitan was a 400-room, five-story building described at its 1852 opening as a site that “fairly dazzles and bewilders the visitor, and causes him to think of the palaces of ‘Arabian Nights’ tales.” Tweed had acquired the hotel at the peak of his political power. He renovated the Italian Renaissance-style building at great expense, and he turned over management to his son, Richard.

The city’s elite patronized the hotel from day one, and it was the epicenter of business and politics in New York. Tweed held court there when managing public affairs as the head of Tammany Hall, a powerful Democratic political machine.

His downfall, however, transformed the Metropolitan into an unlikely monument to scandal. Boss Tweed had bankrupted the city by embezzling funds while building himself a vast business empire.

Today, politics is again a place to make a fortune, at least for one prominent politician. Shortly before winning the 2016 election, Donald Trump celebrated the grand opening of Trump International Hotel, down the street from the White House. In 2018 alone, the D.C. hotel generated US$40 million in revenue by drawing heavily from a clientele with government business.  […]