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The Waldorf Astoria

HOTEL HISTORY

  • The hotel opened in its current location on October 1, 1931 after moving from its original site, where the Empire State Building now stands - 5th Avenue & 34th street.
  • The original Waldorf hotel was opened in 1893 by William Waldorf Astor with the help renowned architects Henry Hardenbergh.
  • Astor was one of the wealthiest and influential men of his time, but after a failed political career he was fed up with the U.S. and preparing to decamp to England, where his daughter-in-law was destined to be the very famous Lady Astor, the first female Member of Parliament.
  • His decision to tear down his Fifth Avenue mansion to build a hotel on the site as part of his departure plans met with mixed reviews. His cousin John Jacob Astor IV (who so famously went down with The Titanic) and whose mansion was next door to William Waldorf’s, was, at first, infuriated.
  • The Waldorf opened as New York’s (and arguably the world’s) grandest, most luxurious and most modern hotel with private bathrooms for most rooms and electricity throughout. The hotel was a sensation and was instrumental in changing how society entertained and socialized. The first charity ball ever held in a hotel was at The Waldorf and the hotel’s restaurants were a catalyst in making dining out a popular and fashionable social activity, as opposed to a necessity when traveling.
  • John Jacob became envious of the money the hotel was making for his cousin. Consequently, he determined to tear down his mansion to make way for the Astoria Hotel., It was built so that it could operate as an independent establishment in case relations with his cousin chilled further, but was joined to the Waldorf by a wide three-hundred foot long corridor-Peacock Alley. So The Waldorf Astoria debuted in 1897.
  • While the original Waldorf Astoria was the arguably the grandest hotel in the world in the late 1890’s, in the 1920’s with so many new technological advances being adopted, it was becoming dated. Prohibition drained down the revenues of the hotel. The action in New York had moved further uptown. The decision was made to sell the site to the developers of the Empire State building and to tear down the hotel in 1929.
  • At the time the hotel’s general manager, Lucius Boomer in what he thought was a purely sentimental gesture bought the rights to the name The Waldorf Astoria for $1… and then went to Florida for a vacation with his wife.
  • Almost as soon as the Waldorf closed, a group of financiers decided New York just wouldn’t be New York without a Waldorf Astoria and they hatched a plot to build a new and greater Waldorf. They identified the site of a railroad yard on Park Avenue as an ideal location and began negotiations to secure it. They also called Lucius Boomer in Florida to ask him to be part of their scheme and to run the new hotel. Those plans were finalized and all the financing papers signed just a day before the 1929 Stock Market crash.
  • It was built in record time, just two years, while overcoming various obstacles, not the least of which was building such a massive structure over the existing railroad tracks. Those tracks still exist and are still in use. This building essentially floats on pillars – there is no basement.
  • On Oct. 1, 1931, the new Waldorf Astoria opened as the tallest and largest hotel in the world, although it had not the greatest number of rooms. Its rooms were distinguished by their spaciousness-a quality that characterizes the entire hotel. It remains one of the largest art deco buildings in the world.
  • From the cabinet Room of the White House, president Hoover saluted the new hotel and its builders in a message broadcast over world-wide NBC network: “The opening of the new Waldorf Astoria is an event in the advancement of hotels, even in New York City. It carries great tradition in national hospitality…marks the measure of nation’s growth in power, in comfort and in artistry…an exhibition of courage and confidence to the whole nation…”
  • On October 12, 1949, Conrad Hilton acquired management rights to the Waldorf-Astoria.
  • In 1972, Hilton Hotel Corporation purchased The Waldorf=Astoria
  • In 1993, The Waldorf=Astoria became an official New York City landmark.
  • On January 31, 2006, Hilton Hotel Corp launched its Luxury Brand, The Waldorf Astoria Collection, based on the original Waldorf Astoria. 
  • In October 2014, Hilton Hotel group announced that it would be selling the Waldorf Astoria to Chinese insurer Anbang, while keeping a long-term contract to manage the property and securing financing to renovate the iconic hotel to its original splendor.
  • In February 2015, the $1.95 billion price paid by China's Anbang Insurance Group set a record for being the most expensive purchase ever of a U.S. hotel.
  • On March 1, 2017, the Waldorf Astoria officially closed its doors to the public and engaged in the renovation process.
  • Landmark Designation - New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted in March 2017 to protect the Waldorf’s lobby, grand ballroom and other public spaces. The Art Deco Society, a nonprofit is tracking the project.
  • Major liquidator company, Olde Good Things, known for rescuing treasures from other New York City landmarks, including the Plaza Hotel, John F. Kennedy International Airport and the former headquarters of the New York Times. started emptying the 42-story building.
  • Anbang Insurance Group Co. commissioned construction firm Aecom Tishman to work on the hotel conversion. The second phase of the demolition started in November 2018.
  • The hotel is expected to reopen in 2022 with about 350 condos, 350 hotel rooms and architecturally preserved public spaces.