Arguably New York City’s most famous and celebrated hotel along with the Plaza Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel boasts a very intriguing history. The hotel was groundbreaking in several ways when it first opened back in 1931 and has been known for decades for its prestige and association with society’s elite and famous. Though now undergoing a partial transformation into a residential building, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel remains a key cultural and architectural landmark in New York City.
Most people, however, don’t realize just how much history the hotel has. Few know that a world-famous landmark now occupies the original location of the hotel or can name the important social events that have taken place there over the years. Here’s a quick look at the hidden history of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The original location for the hotel was located several blocks downtown at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. Opened in 1893 by the wealthy Astor family, the lavish hotel soon became known as the epicenter of the city’s social elite and often hosted prestigious parties and events. In the early 20th century, however, the hotel faced new competition from other luxury hotels and fell out of favor with the upper crust of New York City society. It was sold in 1929 and soon demolished to make way for another New York City landmark: The Empire State Building.
The new location for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, designed in the glamorous Art Deco style, was opened further uptown along Park Avenue in 1931. The largest and tallest hotel in the entire world when it opened, it was unrivaled in its opulence and prestige. As with the original hotel, the new Waldorf Astoria soon became known as a hub for the city’s high society and world-famous celebrities.
A number of notable events have occurred in the hotel over the years, including a 1946 conference featuring representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union to discuss the fate of Eastern Europe after World War II, a 1948 news conference to introduce LP records to the world and several April in Paris Balls attended by famous figures like John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich. The hotel is also notable for being the birthplace of the Waldorf Salad and has hosted many celebrities and world leaders over the years, including Queen Elizabeth II, the Dalai Lama, Dwight Eisenhower, Vince Lombardi, John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn and almost every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover. It also holds the residency of the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
With its rich history, striking architecture and reputation for glamour and prestige, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel is known as one of the world’s most celebrated hotels. Though undergoing major changes, nothing can take away from its impactful history and special place in New York City.