New York’s Iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel Has Closed; Behold These Then & Now Photos

Mar 2, 2017

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The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, one of New York City’s most iconic and historical hotel landmarks, closed this week for a multi-year renovation that will convert many of the rooms into condominiums by 2020. As a brief homage, we’re taking a look back at the property through the years.

At left: The 33rd Street entrance of the first Waldorf Astoria. At right: the Park Avenue entrance today. Images courtesy of the Library of Congress and Waldorf Astoria.
At left: The 33rd Street entrance of the first Waldorf Astoria. At right: the Park Avenue entrance today. Images courtesy of the Library of Congress and Waldorf Astoria.

The Waldorf Astoria actually started out as two different hotels: The Waldorf Hotel, built in 1893 and the Astor Hotel, built in 1897. These buildings — connected by a bridge called Peacock Alley, now the name of one of the hotel’s three main restaurants — were situated on the site where the Empire State Building now stands. Demolished in 1929 in order to make room for the Empire State Building’s construction, a new Waldorf Astoria was completed on Park Avenue in 1931 (it was actually the world’s tallest building from 1931 until 1963). Part of the building is named the Waldorf Towers, consisting of suites, many of which are rented out to tenants.

The Guest Rooms

While the rooms had clearly been updated, there were still regal touches of old-school decor. Heavy drapes, touches of gold and fringe and antique-style dressing tables, mirrors and benches are some of the items that seem to reflect the hotel’s origins. While it’s not clear how much rates were when the hotel opened, according to this article by the New York Post, in 1955, you could get a room for just $21.

A guest room from 1902 and a guest room in recent years.
A guest room from 1902 and a guest room in recent years.
Another guest room from 1897 and one in the modern era.
Another guest room from 1897 and one in the modern era.

Dining

The Waldorf Astoria was reportedly the first hotel to offer room service and to hire female chefs — the first woman was hired as a chef in 1931. The signature dish of the hotel, the Waldorf Salad, was created in the 1890s; back in the 1950s, the price was close to just $1. The hotel’s three most luxe restaurants (featured below) served more than 100 pounds of caviar per year.

The Astoria Restaurant in 1897  and the Peacock Alley Restaurant before the closing.
The Astoria Restaurant in 1897 and the Peacock Alley Restaurant before the closing.
The Palm Garden Dining Room in 1902 and the Oscar Brasserie before the closing.
The Palm Garden Dining Room in 1902 and the Oscar Brasserie in recent years.
The Astor Dining Room in 1902 and the Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse before the closing.
The Astor Dining Room in 1902 and a more recent look at the Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse.

Around the Hotel

There’s actually a piece of the New York City subway in this historic building; the hotel has its own railway platform, Track 61, which is connected to Grand Central Station. The platform was once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur, among others.

The hallways (date unknown) and the hallways in recent times.
The hallways (date unknown) and the hallways in recent times.
The reception desk in 1897 and the Waldorf Towers front desk before the closing.
The reception desk in 1897 and the Waldorf Towers front desk before the hotel closed.

Special Events

The Waldorf Astoria had always been known for hosting over-the-top, memorable events for all sorts of occasions.

A Guy Laroche fashion show in 1973 and prep for couture fashion shows in 2012.
A Guy Laroche fashion show in 1973 and prep for couture fashion shows in 2012.
A Lincoln dinner in 1910 and a Rita Hayworth gala in 2013.
A Lincoln dinner in 1910 and a Rita Hayworth gala in 2013.

Have you ever stayed at this iconic property? Share in the comments section below.

Featured images of the hotel’s foyer in 1933 and today — and all other photos — courtesy of the Library of Congress (left) and the Waldorf Astoria (right).

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