The Waldorf Astoria: a reminder of New York’s glamorous past

The current Waldorf Astoria in New York opened in 1931 at the beginning of the Great Depression. The hotel is known for reinventing the hotel industry and for its culinary innovation. Its location in mid-town Manhattan makes it the perfect place to explore the best of what New York City has to offer.

Waldorf Astoria

When many think of old New York glamour, the Waldorf Astoria comes to mind. The current hotel opened in 1931, connecting the then separate Astoria Hotel and Waldorf Hotel. The hotel is known for its luxury, for transforming the hotel industry and as such, has become an icon of New York. Commemorating this, in 1993, it became an official New York City landmark and is a Historic Hotel of America, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Originally built in 1893 and 1897, the two hotels were combined and renovated because by the 1920s, so many advancements had been made in the hotel industry that the hotels were falling behind. The project to combine and update the hotels began. The current Waldorf Astoria was financed one day before Black Tuesday in 1929 and so, it was an uplifting surprise for many when it was able to open in 1931. As President Herbert Hoover said on October 1, 1931, in a broadcast radio address from The White House over worldwide 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…”

Since its current opening, the hotel has been a force of change. It was the first hotel with room service, allowed women to stay without escorts, and was known as an unparalleled culinary innovator. The hotel became known for this culinary innovation under George Boldt, the founding proprietor, due to his maître d’hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, who was known as “Oscar of the Waldorf”. Tschirky is credited with creating the Waldorf salad and popularizing Thousand Island dressing. Some also attribute the creation of Eggs Benedict, although there are differing accounts. Due to this, the hotel is today is a gourmet destination for many and boasts three restaurants and four lounges that showcase the best of what the hotel has to offer. These range from places offering breakfast, lunch or a drink to the famous Bull and Bear Steakhouse.

Waldorf Astoria bedroom

The Waldorf Astoria then changed hands during the 1940s and 1950s until it was bought by the Hiltons, who still own it today. The hotel is also known for being one of remaining landmarks of the Art Deco style, made popular in France after World War I. There are many tours offered both through the hotel and through other groups promoting the preservation of history that highlight the unique architecture of the building. The famous clock from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair is still present in the hotel’s lobby, making that space on the city’s best-known meeting places.

Today, the hotel is known for hosting many different events for many different groups. For instance, this summer, the hotel hosted the centennial celebration of the foundation of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. Other events include, but certainly are not limited to, black tie galas hosted by New York University and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, annual member lunches for the Metropolitan Opera Guild, New York Couture Fashion Week and the International Debutante Ball. It has also hosted a number of very famous people ranging from celebrities to gangsters to politicians.

For a guest looking to recapture the glamour of old New York and also explore modern New York, the hotel’s location makes it an ideal place for this. It is located on Park Avenue between 49th and 50th street in mid-town Manhattan, with close access to many of the popular tourist sites. From the Waldorf Astoria, it is only a couple of blocks to the MetLife building, Grand Central, the famous Park Avenue tunnel, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the theatre district. Guests choose to stay here for the history, the architecture, the sites, the shopping or for any other of reasons. The Waldorf Astoria is a hotel that has it all.

Interesting facts about the Waldorf Astoria

On weekends, the Queen Bed Deluxe Guest Room is one of the cheapest rooms available at $300 while the Presidential Style Suite is one of the most expensive at $1,500, according to Elegantrooms.com.

John Jacob Astor IV, who built the Astoria Hotel, died in the sinking of the Titanic although his wife survived. The investigation into the sinking of the Titanic was held in the hotel.

The official residence of the United States’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations is located in the Waldorf Towers, a “hotel within a hotel” located on the upper floors of the Waldorf Astoria.

During the 1950s and 1960s, former US President Herbert Hover and retired US General Douglas MacArthur lived in the Waldorf Astoria, although on different floors.

Although plans were made to build a Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, Chicago and Beverly Hills, due to the economic crisis of 2008, only the one in Orlando was built, opening on 1st October 2009, 78 years to the day after the opening of the New York property.

Comments (1)

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  1. jennifer says:

    Great blog! I have been researching the Waldorf recently as my great great uncle was the assistant manager in the 1930s. It must have been an incredible period. I look forward to visiting in person.

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