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The Waldorf Astoria is Full of History — and Hidden Places

Oct. 01, 2016
3 min read
The Waldorf Astoria is Full of History — and Hidden Places
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On October 1, 1931, New York City’s Waldorf Astoria opened its doors to the public. In the 85 years since, the Park Avenue landmark has managed to entice some of the world’s most powerful people to spend the night, including every single sitting president since Herbert Hoover. High-powered lodgers are a fact of life at the Waldorf, and something the building is well equipped to handle. From secret railroads to secret service outposts, this landmark New York City hotel is full of little-known features, many of which have been hiding in plain sight for decades.

On the occasion of the Waldorf’s 85th birthday, Bloomberg got a rare chance to take a behind-the-scenes peek at some of the places that very few guests — nope, not even the most important ones — have ever gotten to see:

A private extension of Grand Central Station, which was built in the 1930s for Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a way to help him keep his polio diagnosis from the public, and included a customized locomotive that allowed FDR — and his presidential limousine — to travel between New York and Washington, D.C.

Though the train has long since been abandoned, the station — which makes use of diesel locomotives in the event that electricity isn’t available — is still in use today. “It takes seven minutes to get from here to JFK,” Grand Central Station historian Daniel Brucker told the news outlet. Bloomberg staff were also able to snap a picture of the above-ground exit, located on 49th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.

And if POTUS happens to be attending an event at the hotel’s grand ballroom? Well, it’s designed so that 38 secret service or other law enforcement agents can keep an eye on things without being detected — the “coolest perch,” according to Bloomberg, is the one in the ballroom’s audio control room.

While it’s hardly a secret that the hotel features two separate lobby entrances — one on Park Avenue, the other on Lexington — the dual doors weren’t built simply for convenience. The Park Avenue entrance was intended to be used by women and families, while the Lexington lobby, because it was closer to the cigar lounge, was intended for businessmen.

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Also: there’s a third entrance. It’s on 49th Street and is for VIPs and residents only (since it leads directly into the Tower Suites). La Chine, the hotel’s signature restaurant, has not one but two secret entrances — which might explain why you never bumped into the Obamas the last time you stayed at the Waldorf.

H/T: Bloomberg

Featured image by Image courtesy of Gordon Bell /