Fascinating vintage images from 1899 to 1920 of the original Waldorf Astoria in New York City, which was built as a result of eccentric one-upmanship between two very rich cousins…
- The Waldorf Astoria was originally two separate adjacent properties – the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel
- They merged in 1897 – a 300ft marble hallway was built to connect them, known as ‘Peacock Alley’
- The new hotel became known as the number one place to host grand banquets and balls in New York City
- It was demolished in 1929 and a new version was built at 301 Park Avenue, where it can be found today
- President Hoover mentioned the new hotel in a White House broadcast, saying it was a measure of U.S power
The original Waldorf Astoria was regarded as one of the most luxurious hotels in New York City after it opened in 1897.
And these vintage black and white pictures that were snapped between 1899 and 1920 show exactly why it earned that reputation.
Many of the fascinating images featured in a brochure advertising the hotel and show its grand entrances where guests would arrive on horse-drawn carriages, its stunning suites filled with luxurious furniture, its themed bedrooms and its huge restaurants and ballrooms.
The Waldorf Astoria was the result of the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel merging in 1897 to become the Waldorf Astoria. They were connected by a 300ft corridor. This is the grand Red Room in the Waldorf half of the property in 1903. The image is one of many that appeared in a 1903 brochure about the property
Very old school luxury: The grand Turkish salon inside the Waldorf part of the hotel
The Gentleman’s Cafe, pictured, in the Astoria part of the hotel was designed to look like a private members’ club
The Myrtle Room, pictured, in the Astoria part of the hotel was used as the venue for a congressional hearing into the sinking of the Titanic. John Jacob Astor IV, who built the Astoria Hotel, was among the fatalities on board the ocean liner
The swish restaurant inside the Astoria part, set up for service
The Caen Foyer, also known as the East Foyer, was located inside the Astoria part. It was the gallery access to the Myrtle Room
The Astoria Hotel was 17-storeys and built by John Jacob Astor VI in place of his huge mansion. Pictured is the grand ballroom in the Astoria half
The main entrance to the Waldorf part of the hotel was located on West 33rd Street. The Waldorf Hotel was built by William Waldorf Astor
The main entrance to the Astoria Hotel included an elaborate frosted glass and wrought iron marquee
Pictured left is William Waldorf Astor and the image on the right is of his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV
The pictures from the brochure, which was printed in 1903, have come to light after featuring on the nostalgia website clickamericana.com.
The hotel was originally two separate adjacent properties – the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel.
They were built as a result of a feud between two cousins, William Waldorf Astor and John Jacob Astor IV, who lived in neighboring mansions on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd Street and West 34th Street.
To get one over on John, William demolished his house and built the 13-story Waldorf Hotel in 1893.
The Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria, set up for a private banquet. The image was snapped in 1920
The Palm Room, pictured in 1903, was in the Astoria part of the hotel. It was deemed by many to be the most exclusive dining venue in New York
The first of the two hotels to open was the Waldorf Hotel in 1893 followed by the Astoria Hotel in 1897. Pictured is a restaurant inside the Waldorf section
The reception room of the Astor dining room, which was a private banqueting suite inside the Waldorf half. It was filled with William Waldorf Astor’s own furniture
The Astor dining room in the Waldorf half, pictured, was created to look exactly like the family dining room William Waldorf Astor had in the mansion he ended up demolishing to make way for the hotel
The Waldorf Hotel boasted a series of opulent state apartments. Pictured is the Francis I bedroom inside one of the apartments
The Waldorf State Apartments consisted of nine suites. Pictured is the Louis XVI Music Room in one of the nine suites
The ornate and luxurious drawing room inside the Waldorf State Apartments, which was named after Henry IV
The royal suite in the Astoria Hotel, pictured, occupied the corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. The bedroom is called the Louis Bedroom
The drawing room in the royal suite of the Astoria half, pictured. The Waldorf Astoria became known as the number one place to host grand banquets and balls, with businessman Andrew Carnegie regularly hosting events there
The drawing room in a Fifth Avenue corner suite inside the Astoria section. The suites were arranged to be totally private apartments
The drawing room of the royal suite in the Astoria half in a shot that was snapped in 1899, two years after the Waldorf and Astoria were connected
Much to John’s chagrin, the hotel, which he described as a ‘glorified tavern’, dwarfed his four-story dwelling.
His counter-attack was to demolish it and replace it with the even grander Astoria Hotel, which boasted 17 floors.
That opened in 1897, but in the same year the cousins settled their differences and decided to make the two hotels one entity – the Waldorf-Astoria.
A single 300ft marble hallway was built to connect them, which became known as ‘Peacock Alley’ – because aristocrats would walk up and down it while the public looked on.
The joint hotel became known as the number one place to host grand banquets and balls, with businessman Andrew Carnegie regularly hosting events there.
Times were therefore good for the two proprietors, but tragedy struck in 1912, when John was among the fatalities on board the Titanic. It’s believed that he was the richest person on board.
Four days later, in a stroke of irony, his hotel served as the venue for a congressional hearing into the sinking of the ocean liner.
Many of the bedrooms inside the Waldorf Hotel were decorated according to a theme. Pictured is the Greek bedroom
Inside the Pompeiian bedroom in the Waldorf part of the original hotel. It was decorated with an ‘Italian’ theme
A colonial-style bedroom inside the Waldorf Hotel. The Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel were connected in 1897 by a 300ft hallway that was dubbed ‘Peacock Alley’
The Empire Suite, which was located inside the Waldorf Hotel. The suite was a corner suite decorated in a ‘Napoleonic’ theme
Inside the Empire Suite’s drawing room. The Waldorf Astoria’s prestige remained unblemished until the 1920s, when some began to view it as dated
Inside the East India Suite’s drawing room, which was located inside the Waldorf part of the hotel
The property’s prestige remained unblemished until the 1920s, when some began to view it as dated.
As the decade wore on takings went down as the hotel suffered a two-pronged attack from new venues springing up that enticed the city’s socialites and prohibition.
In 1929 the hotel was demolished to make way for the Empire State Building, and the Waldorf-Astoria name was sold for $1 to Lucius Boomer, who built a new version of the hotel at 301 Park Avenue between 49th Street and 50th Street, where it can still be found today.
When it opened in 1931, the new Waldorf-Astoria was the tallest and largest hotel in the world. It soared to a height of 623ft and had 2,200 rooms.
President Herbert Hoover mentioned the ‘brand new’ hotel in a radio broadcast from the White House. ‘The opening of the new Waldorf Astoria … marks the measure of the nation’s growth in power, in comfort, and in artistry,’ he said.
He liked the hotel so much he moved in and lived there for over 30 years.
Soon after opening, the hotel introduced 24-hour room service – a first in the history of hotels. The hotel is also credited with creating dishes such as the Waldorf Salad – which gained bonus comedy fame thanks to John Cleese in Fawlty Towers – and eggs Benedict, as well as thousand island dressing.
Conrad Hilton acquired the Waldorf Astoria for $3million in 1949.
In 1993, it was designated an official New York City exterior landmark and in 2017 several interior spaces were given the same landmark status.
One of a series of bedrooms named after Louis XV that were in the Waldorf part of the hotel
One of a series of Louis XV drawing rooms. To modern eyes it looks haunted, but in 1903 it was the pinnacle of luxury
A double bedroom inside the Waldorf Hotel. The original hotel was demolished in 1929 to make way for the construction of the Empire State Building
An example of a single bedroom inside the Waldorf Hotel. Today the Waldorf Astoria is located at 301 Park Avenue
One of the double bedrooms inside the Astoria Hotel. Today there are 31 other Waldorf Astoria hotels around the globe, all inspired by the iconic New York property
When it opened in 1931, the new Waldorf Astoria was the tallest and largest hotel in the world. Pictured is a bathroom in the original property
An early undated picture of the Waldorf Astoria at its 301 Park Avenue address. It opened here in 1931
Hilton Worldwide owned the property until 2014, when it sold it to Chinese insurance group Anbang – although Hilton agreed to manage the hotel under a 100-year management agreement.
Since 2017, the hotel has been closed so a huge renovation and restoration project can take place.
The restoration is among the most complex and intensive landmark preservation efforts in New York City history. It will revive key elements of the Art Deco architecture that have been altered over time.
In addition to historic public and event spaces restored to their original intent, the Waldorf Astoria will feature new guest rooms, suites and condominiums when it reopens in 2021.
Today there are 31 other Waldorf Astoria hotels around the globe, all inspired by the iconic New York property.
New openings this year have included properties in the Maldives, Dubai and Los Cabos, Mexico.
Hilton Worldwide owned the Waldorf Astoria until 2014, when it sold it to Chinese insurance group Anbang – although Hilton agreed to manage the hotel under a 100-year management agreement
Since 2017, the hotel has been closed so a huge renovation and restoration project can take place
Pictured here is the lavish Royal Suite in the present-day version of the Waldorf Astoria. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor have stayed here
Grand: One of the overwater villas, pictured, at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, which features an infinity pool. We’re sure William and John would approve…
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