Iwalked New York City's Waldorfastoria - The Waldorf=Astoria is a name synonymous with class, culture, and history within the New York City hotel scene. It is probably for this reason that every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has stayed here. Other famous tenants have included Nikola Tesla, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, Gregory Peck, Douglas MacArthur, Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Marilyn Monroe, and Paris Hilton. The Waldorf was also the site of the first Tony Awards in April 6, 1947. And in surprising fashion, the New York Dolls played a Halloween show here in 1973 in the hotel’s ballroom.
The origins of the WaldorfastoriaThe origins of the Waldorf=Astoria may be traced to March 13, 1893 when millionaire William Waldorf Astor built the thirteen-story Waldorf Hotel on the site of his former mansion near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and East 33rd Street. The building was designed by famed apartment and hotel architect Henry Hardenbergh who was already well known for his work on the Dakota and whom would go on to also design the Plaza Hotel near Central Park. The site for the Waldorf was supposedly chosen as an intentional annoyance to Astor’s aunt, Caroline Astor. Caroline was an elite socialite who threw lavish parties for New York’s cream of the crop that were dubbed “the famous 400” based upon the number that would fit into her ballroom where she often liked to entertain. Knowing the proximity of a hotel adjacent to her residence would cause Caroline angst was fuel enough for William to proceed with development of his hotel. William’s feud with Caroline was reportedly so fierce that it eventually led him to move to England, and sadly he only was able to visit his hotel once in his lifetime.
Four years after completion of the Waldorf, William’s cousin John Jacob Astor IV (who would meet an untimely demise aboard the Titanic in 1912) built an adjoining seventeen-story hotel which he dubbed the Astoria. The Astoria was completed and actually connected to the neighboring Waldorf (via Peacock Alley) on November 1, 1897. The union and equality of these two historic hotels was symbolized within the new name, Waldorf=Astoria (with a double-hyphen in between).
The Waldorf=Astoria maintained its residency at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and East 33rd Street until it was relocated for erection of the world’s largest skyscraper, the Empire State Building. The Waldorf, in turn, constructed a new Art Deco hotel at its current locale along Park Avenue which opened on September 30, 1931. The new building was designed by the firm of Schultze & Weaver (whom also designed the Sherry-Netherland Hotel) to be the largest hotel in the world at the time. The result was a forty-seven foot skyscraper with two six hundred twenty-seven foot towers. Amidst the towers were some 2,200 rooms (although in recent years this number has been reduced to approximately 1,800) and a four-story Grand Ballroom. The hotel has since been modified to include 113 apartments that have their own private entrance along East 50th Street. In 1949, the Waldorf=Astoria was acquired by Conrad Hilton and has been a part of the Hilton brand ever since.
Unique Features WaldorfastoriaSome other unique features of the Waldorf=Astoria if you wish to explore inside and out include a lobby clock that was built for the Chicago World Fair in 1893. This eight-faced clock formerly resided within the original Waldorf Hotel and was brought over during the hotel’s relocation. Perhaps even more convenient is the sculpture situated just atop the hotel’s Park Avenue entrance. This angelic-like sculpture, titled Spirit of Achievement, was the work of Nina Saemundsson. Saemundsson’s work was chosen amongst some four hundred other competitors. Lastly, for a more comprehensive look into the building’s interior, the hotel does offer both self-guided and guided tours. Guided “Landmark Tours”, inclusive with lunch at the trendy Peacock Alley restaurant inside, currently run for $50.
Famous movies which have been filmed in part at the Waldorf=Astoria include the 1945 Ginger Rogers Weekend at the Waldorf, the 1998 Eddie Murphy comedy Coming To America, the 2001 Royal Tenanbaums, the 2002 Jennifer Lopez film Maid In Manhattan (where the hotel is referred to as The Beresford Hotel), and probably most recognized via the 1992 Scent of a Women. In this movie Chris O’Donnell aids a blind Al Pacino on a series of adventures during what Pacino’s character plans as his final days. And while not featured within any of the Muppet movies, who can forget the loveable hecklers Statler and Waldorf who were both named after the former Statler Hotel (now recognized as the Hotel Pennsylvania) and current Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. -iwalkedaudiotours-