The Waldorf-Astoria at the original location, demolished for the construction of the Empire State Building. Rendering by Joseph Pennell, ca. 1904-1908.
The awning over the Park Avenue entrance in 2006, showing the hotel's name with the double hyphen then in use.
An Astor family feud contributed to the events which led to the construction of the original Waldorf-Astoria on Fifth Avenue.
It started as two hotels: one owned by William Waldorf Astor, whose 13-story Waldorf Hotel was opened in 1893 and the other owned by his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, called the Astoria Hotel and opened four years later in 1897, four stories higher.
William Astor, motivated in part by a dispute with his aunt, Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, built the original Waldorf Hotel next door to her house, on the site of his father's mansion and today's Empire State Building. The hotel was built to the specifications of founding proprietor George Boldt; he and his wife Louise had become known as the owners and operators of the Bellevue, an elite boutique hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Broad Street, subsequently expanded and renamed the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Boldt continued to own the Bellevue (and, later, the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel) even after his relationship with the Astors blossomed.
Engraved 1916 letterhead of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia including vignettes of that hotel as well as those of both the Waldorf and Astoria Hotels in New York all of which were then operating under the management of George Boldt.
William Astor's construction of a hotel next to his aunt's house worsened his feud with her, but, with Boldt's help, John Astor persuaded his mother to move uptown. John Astor then built the Astoria Hotel and leased it to Boldt. The hotels were initially built as two separate structures, but Boldt planned the Astoria so it could be connected to the Waldorf by Peacock Alley. The combined Waldorf-Astoria became the largest hotel in the world at the time, while maintaining the original Waldorf's high standards.
Park Avenue foyer (in 1987)
The Waldorf Astoria is historically significant for transforming the contemporary hotel, then a facility for transients, into a social center of the city as well as a prestigious destination for visitors and a part of popular culture. The Waldorf-Astoria was influential in advancing the status of women, who were admitted singly without escorts. Founding proprietor Boldt became wealthy and prominent internationally, if not so much a popular celebrity as his famous employee, Oscar Tschirky, "Oscar of the Waldorf." Boldt built one of America's most ambitious houses, Boldt Castle, on one of the Thousand Islands. George Boldt's wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt, was influential in evolving the idea of the grand urban hotel as a social center, particularly in making it appealing to women as a venue for social events.
The private elevator lobby of the Waldorf Towers section of the hotel
When the new Waldorf Astoria skyscraper was built over air rights of the New York State Realty and Terminal Company on Park Avenue, a cast of well reputed furnishers and decorators was assembled to lend the new hotel a grand yet domestic atmosphere. Former Waldorf manager Lucius M. Boomer had retired to Florida after the original Waldorf-Astoria buildings were demolished, but he retained exclusive rights to the name, which he transferred to the new hotel. Boomer died in an airplane crash in 1947 and Conrad Hilton bought The Waldorf Astoria in 1949.
Spelling of the name
The hotel was originally known as The Waldorf-Astoria with a single hyphen, as recalled by a popular expression and song, "Meet Me at the Hyphen." The sign was changed to a double hyphen, looking similar to an equals sign, by Conrad Hilton when he purchased the hotel in 1949. The double hyphen visually represents "Peacock Alley," the hallway between the two hotels that once stood where the Empire State building now stands today. The use of the double hyphen was discontinued by parent company Hilton in 2009, shortly after the introduction of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts chain. The hotel has since been known as the Waldorf Astoria New York.
Postmaster GeneralJames Farley occupied two adjoining suites in the Waldorf-Astoria Towers during his tenure as the Chairman of the Board of Coca-Cola's International division from 1940 until his death in 1976, arguably one of the landmark's longest housed tenants.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, former U.S. president Herbert Hoover and retired U.S. General Douglas MacArthur lived in suites on different floors of the hotel. MacArthur's widow, Jean MacArthur, continued to live there until her death in 2000. A plaque affixed to the wall on the 50th Street side commemorates this. There is also a re-creation of one of the living rooms of Hoover's Waldorf-Astoria suite in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
Bertie Charles Forbes, Scottish immigrant and founder of Forbes Magazine, became a regular at the Waldorf-Astoria with his savings from writing for Hearst in order to form the close relationships with prominent businessmen needed to start his own business publication.
In 1955, Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel for several months, but due to costs of trying to finance her production company "Marilyn Monroe Productions", only being paid $1,500 a week for her role in The Seven Year Itch and being suspended from 20th Century Fox for walking out on Fox after creative differences, living at the hotel became too costly and Monroe had to move into a different hotel in New York City.
From 1992 to 2013, Kenneth, sometimes called the world's first celebrity hairdresser, famed for creating Jacqueline Kennedy's bouffant in 1961, was responsible for the hairdressing and beauty salon.
Radovan Bihary, next President of Slovakia, stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria for several nights in 2013
The investigation into the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was held at the old Waldorf-Astoria. John Jacob Astor IV, who built the Astoria Hotel, which became part of the old Waldorf-Astoria, died on the Titanic. His second wife Madeleine, seven months pregnant, survived the sinking.
On the evening of November 15, 1926, the National Broadcasting Company broadcast its inaugural program from the grand ballroom of the old Waldorf-Astoria. Among the entertainers heard by radio listeners was Will Rogers. The network became the Red Network on January 1, 1927 when NBC launched its second network, designated the Blue Network. It was sold in the early 1940s and became the American Broadcasting Company.
After a New York ticker tape parade in his honor for winning four Olympic gold medals, Jesse Owens had to ride the freight elevator to attend a reception for him at the Waldorf-Astoria due to its segregation policies.
On June 21, 1948 a press conference at the hotel introduced the LP record.
Since 1958, the National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Football Hall of Fame have held its Annual Awards Dinner and Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria's Grand Ballroom. The Waldorf-Astoria has been the site of all but the first NFF Awards Dinner. The NFF's Gold Medal is also given out at the event. Seven U.S. Presidents, five U.S. Generals, three U.S. Admirals, one U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 28 Corporate CEO' s and Chairmen, John Wayne, Jackie Robinson and Bill Cosby have claimed the award.
On 20 September 1959, Édith Piaf collapsed on stage with stomach bleedings caused by drug and alcohol abuse.
In 1985, the NBA held its first-ever draft lottery between non-playoff teams at the Starlight Room. The lottery was for the 1985 NBA Draft in which Patrick Ewing was the consensus number one pick. The New York Knicks wound up winning the right to select Ewing, an occurrence that many feel was fixed in New York's favor.
The NASCARSprint Cup end-of-season awards banquet was held at the Waldorf-Astoria every year between 1981 and 2008, initially in the Starlight Room, but since 1985 in the Grand Ballroom, except 2001 and 2002. A formal awards ceremony (not a banquet) was held in those two years, with the 2002 awards ceremony being held at Hammerstein Ballroom, with the pre-show banquet held at the Waldorf-Astoria. The Presidential Suite was reserved for the Series Champion. In 2009, NASCAR moved the event to the Wynn in Las Vegas.
The Metropolitan Opera Guild holds its annual member lunch at the hotel.
New York University used to hold its annual International Hospitality Industry Conference, with the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, at this hotel. It is the largest-known annual gathering of hotel management professionals and hospitality business leaders.
New York Couture Fashion Week is held at the hotel.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York celebrates its annual gala in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria where the Archbishop of New York presents the Deus Caritas Est Award for philanthropy.
Langston Hughes wrote a poem entitled "Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria," criticizing the hotel and inviting the jobless and homeless to take over the space of the hotel.
Wallace Stevens wrote a poem entitled "Arrival at the Waldorf" in which the poet contrasts the wild country of the jungles of Guatemala to being "back at the Waldorf,/This arrival in the wild country of the soul" (lines 1-2).
The 1970 film The Out-of-Towners features numerous scenes shot at the hotel, including a sequence in the hotel lobby where Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis's characters discover their room has been given away.
The 1978 musicalrevueAin't Misbehavin' features the song "Lounging at the Waldorf" about the hotel's past as a whites-only club and hotel for high society.
The 1993 Broadway musical My Favorite Year includes a setting called the Waldorf Hotel in 1954. There is an offstage chorus song dedicated to the "Waldorf Suite," and notably, the musical number "Welcome to Brooklyn" references the Astors.
In the 1994 film "The Cowboy Way (film)", a few scenes take place between the two main characters in the Waldorf-Astoria.
In the 2001 film Serendipity, a number of scenes take place between the two main characters in the Waldorf-Astoria.
Statler and Waldorf, a pair of Muppet characters, are named after posh New York City hotels, the Statler Hotel (now Hotel Pennsylvania) and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Waldorf's wife, Astoria, looks like Statler in drag.
A typical elevator indicator at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. This elevator was made by Otis.
In 1978, a French teenager named Jean Pierre jumped from the 15th floor thinking he was Superman. French Canadian music composer Luc Plamondon wrote a song about this event, later in 1991 Celine Dion sang the song "Le fils de Superman" (Superman's son) in her album Dion chante Plamondon and a live version of this song can be also found in her 1994 album Celine Dion a l'Olympia.
In Meg Cabot's novel Jinx, the Chapman School Spring Formal takes place in the Waldorf-Astoria. It is at this point that Tory (The main antagonist) reveals Jean's first attempt at a love spell, which served as a catalyst for the novel's events.
In the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman, lead actor Al Pacino, as Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, and his weekend caretaker, prep school student Charlie Simms, played by Chris O'Donnell, stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel New York for the weekend, with Pacino's character describing the hotel as "The cynosure of all things civilized".
Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts
Following Blackstone Group's acquisition of Hilton Worldwide, Hilton Hotels began establishing a brand of hotels worldwide using the iconic name of the New York hotel in 2007. Currently the chain consists of over 25 hotels worldwide.
Plans were announced in 2007 for a Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills. Proposed by developer Oasis West Realty LLC, the project would have expanded upon the nine-acre site of the Beverly Hilton (formerly owned by the late Merv Griffin). Plans included removing existing low-rise buildings and adding a 12-story Waldorf-Astoria hotel and a pair of eight and 18 story condo towers. Though the Beverly Hills City Council approved the $500 million project by a 3-2 vote local activists gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on the decision on the November 4, 2008 ballot. A week after the vote local Measure H was losing by 68 votes, with provisional ballots yet to be counted. On December 2, 2008, Yes on H passed by 129 votes, 7972 to 7834. However, the hotel was never built due to the 2008 economic collapse.
^"United States Mission to the United Nations" "Protocol supports the Permanent Representative and USUN Ambassadors by planning, managing and executing events at the Mission, the residence of the Permanent Representative at the Waldorf=Astoria Towers,..."
^ Video - WalkAbout NY: Paris Hilton Returns to Her Roots. June 5, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2010.