Meet Me At The Hyphen…

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

The hotel's name with a single hyphen is engraved and gilded over the entrance.

The hotel's name with a single hyphen is engraved and gilded over the entrance.

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 hotel's name with the double hyphen on the awning over the Park Avenue entrance.

The hotel's name with the double hyphen on the awning over the Park Avenue entrance.

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.

Outside the combined hotels, you can see where the shorter Waldorf ends and the taller Astoria floors begin.

Outside the combined hotels, you can see where the shorter Waldorf ends
and the taller Astoria floors begin. The streets look pretty calm too.

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.

Famous Residents

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.

Famous Events

  • The original Waldorf-Astoria was used in the investigation into the Titanic sinking.
  • 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.
  • In 1954, Israeli statesman and archaeologist Yigael Yadin met secretly with the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Mar Samuel in the basement of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to negotiate the purchase of four Dead Sea Scrolls for Israel. Yadin paid $250,000 for all four.
  • From 1960 until 1978, Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians televised their annual New Years Eve show live (in the Eastern and Central time zones) from the Grand Ballroom.
  • 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 1 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 NASCAR Sprint Cup end-of-season awards banquet has been held at the Waldorf-Astoria every year since 1981, 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 is reserved for the Series Champion.
  • The annual International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria is held to formally introduce young high society women.
  • On May 1, 2004, the Waldorf-Astoria was the venue for the Grand Europe Ball, a historic black-tie charitable affair co-chaired by Archduke Georg of Austria-Hungary which celebrated the Enlargement of the European Union.
  • The Bronx High School of Science, Stuyvesant High School, Xaverian High School and Syosset High School traditionally hold their Senior Proms in the grand ballroom of the hotel. Regis High School in Manhattan and most recently The Bronx High School of Science holds their annual Senior Prom at the Waldorf’s Starlight Ballroom. Pelham Memorial High School has also held their prom in the Starlight Ballroom.
  • New York University holds 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.
  • The Bette Midler’s 2nd Annual Hulaween Gala made to benefit the New York Restoration Project will be held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 31. With singer Gloria Estefan as the headliner, and others acts such Kathy Griffin and Michael Koors.

a Phi Gamma Delta fraternal function in 1908

A glimpse inside the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom : a Phi Gamma Delta fraternal function in 1908

References In Popular Culture

  • Waldorf salad — a salad consisting of apple, nuts (especially walnuts), celery, and mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-based dressing — was first created in 1896 at the Waldorf in New York by Oscar Tschirky, who was the maître d’hôtel.
  • In the 1970 movie The Out-of-Towners, Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis make their way to the Waldorf-Astoria on foot past tons of garbage in a torrential downpour, to discover their reservation – guaranteed for a 10:00pm arrival – has been given away, and the hotel – like every other one in the city – is booked to capacity due to the strikes.
  • In the 1988 movie Coming To America the king of Zamunda (played by James Earl Jones) and his family stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria; one joke in the movie showed the King “punishing” Semi, the prince’s servant, by ordering him to confine himself to the hotel’s royal suite.
  • The 1978 musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin features the song Lounging at the Waldorf, about the hotel’s past as a whites-only club and hotel for high society.
  • In the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman, Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino) and his traveling companion Charles Simms (Chris O’Donnell) stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria.
  • In the 2001 film Serendipity, a number of scenes take place between the two main characters in the Waldorf-Astoria.
  • In the 2002 movie Hart’s War one of the characters makes the sarcasm of comparing the POW camp to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
  • Statler & Waldorf, a pair of Muppet characters, are named after posh New York City hotels, the Statler Hotel and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Waldorf’s wife, Astoria, looks like Statler in drag.
  • The 2002 film Maid in Manhattan takes place at the Waldorf-Astoria, but the hotel is renamed The Beresford Hotel in the movie.
  • Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova exits out of the hotel in the 2006 Nike commercial Pretty.
  • The exterior of the hotel appears in the video game True Crime: New York City.
  • In the 2006 movie The Pink Panther, Beyoncé Knowles’ character Xania stays in the hotel during her trip to New York.
  • In Neal Shusterman’s novel Everlost, the Waldorf=Astoria is a “Forever Place,” which Allie stops by, only to leave quickly because the desertedness of it gives her the creeps.
  • In one episode of Johnny Bravo, Johnny decided to spend a night at the Waldorf-Histeria without paying because he thought time in world suddenly stood still and that no one would mind whatever he does.
  • In the Young Adult novel series Gossip Girl, One of the main protagonists is named Blair Waldorf.
  • Langston Hughes wrote a poem advertising the hotel in “Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria.”

Waldorf Schools

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!

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