Backstory and Context
In 1893, William Waldorf Astor opened the Waldorf Hotel on the site of his mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The 13-story hotel was designed by an architect named Henry Hardenburgh. In 1897, The Waldorf Hotel was combined with the Astoria Hotel, which was a 17-story building owned by Waldorf’s cousin John Jacob Astor IV. On April 15, 1912, John Jacob Astor IV died on the Titanic along with more than 2,000 other people, and William Waldorf Astor passed away in October of 1919 in England, where he moved to in 1893. With the death of both owners the first Waldorf-Astoria closed in 1929. The building was torn down and sold to the developers of the Empire State Building.
The current Waldorf-Astoria, which was the second hotel built under this name, was opened on October 1, 1931, on the current site where it stands today on Park Avenue. It is one of the world’s largest and tallest hotels. When the new hotel was opened, President Herbert Hoover made a radio broadcast from the White House, which gave great regards to the Waldorf Astoria. He stated that “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…” Many people heard the President’s radio broadcast and were impressed with the high standards that the Waldorf possessed.
In 1945, a motion picture was made about the hotel. It was called “Weekend at The Waldorf.” It was filmed inside the hotel. The film was ranked 7th in the box office and brought in more than $4,000,000. On October 12, 1949, Conrad Hilton took control of the Waldorf-Astoria with the ambition to add the Waldorf to his hotel collection.
Many famous people have stayed and lived in the Waldorf-Astoria. Some of these famous people include Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth II, Madonna, and J K Rowling. Marilyn Monroe lived in the hotel for $1,000 per week in 1955. explaining that she moved to the Waldorf-Astoria to get away from her crazy life in Hollywood.
The Waldorf-Astoria was named a New York City landmark in 1993 along with the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. Today the hotel offers historical tours, a gift shop, valet parking, a theater, and tour desk.
Satow, Julie. Chasing Waldorf’s History as It Becomes History Itself. The New York Times. 7/22/16. Accessed Web, 5/6/17. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/24/nyregion/chasing-waldorfs-history-as-it-becomes-history-itself.html.