Meet Me At The Hyphen…
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is a famously luxurious hotel in New York. It has been housed in two historic landmark buildings in New York City. The first, designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, was on the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building. The present building at 301 Park Avenue in Manhattan is a 47 story, 625 ft. (191 m) Art Deco landmark, designed by architects Schultze and Weaver and dating from 1931. The hotel is the flagship of the The Waldorf=Astoria Collection, a chain of upscale hotels spun out of the Hilton Hotels and Conrad Hotels chains, as well as some new hotels.
The name, Waldorf=Astoria, now officially appears with a double hyphen, but originally the single hyphen was employed, as recalled by a popular expression and song, “Meet Me at the Hyphen.”
The modern hotel has three American and classic European restaurants, and a beauty parlor located off the main lobby. Several boutiques surround the distinctive lobby, which has won awards for its restoration to the original period character. An even more luxurious, virtual “hotel within a hotel” in its upper section is known as The Waldorf Towers operated by Conrad Hotels & Resorts.
The hotel has its own railway platform as part of Grand Central Terminal, used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, and Douglas MacArthur, among others. An elevator large enough for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s car provides access to the platform.
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 and four stories higher.
William Astor, motivated in part by a dispute with his aunt, built the original Waldorf Hotel next door to her home, 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.
William Astor’s construction of a hotel next to his aunt’s home worsened his feud with her, but, with Boldt’s help, John Astor persuaded his aunt to move uptown. John Astor then built the Astoria Hotel and leased it to Boldt. Initially foreseen as two separate entities, Boldt had planned the new structure so that it could be connected to the old by means that became known as Peacock Alley. The combined Waldorf-Astoria became the largest hotel in the world at the time, while maintaining the original Waldorf’s high standards.
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. The Waldorf=Astoria was influential in advancing the status of women, who were admitted singly without escorts. Founding proprietor, George C. 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 American’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.
When the new skyscraping Waldorf-Astoria was built on Park Avenue, under the guidance of Lucius Boomer, the manager of the old Waldorf, a cast of furnishers and decorators with good reputations was assembled, to give it a grand yet domestic atmosphere. Boomer retired to Florida after the old Waldorf Astoria was demolished, but he had retained exclusive rights to use the name “Waldorf-Astoria”, which he transferred to the new hotel. He died in an airplane crash in 1947, and Conrad Hilton bought the Waldorf Astoria in 1949.
In 2006 Hilton Hotels announced plans to build a second Waldorf-Astoria near Walt Disney World in Florida, and in 2007, plans were announced that another Waldorf=Astoria will be built in Beverly Hills, where Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard cross. A combination hotel and condominium Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and Residence Tower has been announced by third parties to be developed for Hilton in Chicago.
On August 24, 2007, Dimension Development Company of Natchitoches, Louisiana announced the purchase of the New Orleans Fairmont Hotel and plans to convert the hotel into a Waldorf Astoria. It was not immediately known whether the name would be changed to Waldorf Astoria or whether it would revert to its former name, The Roosevelt with the tagline, a Waldorf Astoria Collection Hotel. In the 1940s, 50s and 60s, The Roosevelt was home to the World Famous “Blue Room” which brought–for the first time–the best Hollywood and Las Vegas talent to the Deep South on a regular basis.
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. A plaque affixed to the wall on the 49th Street side commemorates this. There is also a recreation of one of the living room of Hoover’s Waldorf-Astoria suite in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
Around the time of World War I, inventor Nikola Tesla lived in the earlier Waldorf-Astoria.
Gangsters Frank Costello, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Charles “Lucky” Luciano (room 39c) once lived in the Waldorf-Astoria.
Cole Porter and Linda Lee Thomas had an apartment in the Waldorf Towers, where she died in 1954. Porter’s 1934 song “You’re the Top,” contains the lyric, “You’re the top, you’re a Waldorf salad…”
In the 1950s Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel, but never stayed any longer than a few months.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright lived in the Waldorf Astoria Towers during her tenure as the United State’s Ambassador to the United Nations.
References In Popular Culture
Although no official connection exists between the hotel and the schools — the schools themselves gained their name from this hotel. In 1919, the first Waldorf school opened in response to a request by Emil Molt — the owner and managing director of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart — who was seeking a progressive educational system for the children of the workers in this factory.
There is no connection between the hotel and the “Waldorf” schools. The schools were named after a little village in the Rhineland, Germany, near Bonn. Rudolf Steiner gave the ideas for a school system that is not based on a fixed curriculum but on the individual demands of children. The first “Waldorf-Schule” was opened in Waldorf and there is even a university/ academy in Walberberg, another village in this community, called “Alanus-Hochschule”.
Want To Read More About The Story Of The Waldorf-Astoria? Click Here To Read A Series Of Articles Written In 1931 About The Waldorf, As It Happened!