Top 15 Secrets of The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC

The Waldorf Astoria - Untapped Cities- AFineLyneThe Waldorf- Astoria Hotel

The famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel has a quintessential New York City-origin story. It began as a family feud and rivalry between two very wealthy cousins who shared the last name Astor. William Waldorf Astor proceeded to irritate his cousin John Jacob Astor by building a 13-story hotel on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, on a residential block where John Jacob’s mother lived. Four years later, John Jacob, in turn, built a 17-story hotel just a few feet away–and the rest is history.

15.  The Astor Hotel was Almost Called the Waldorf Schermerhorn

Waldorf Astoria 5th Avenue-Empire State Building-Vintage Photo-NYCThe original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

In 1893, William Waldorf Astor hired renowned architect Henry Hardenbergh, who would later design The Dakota apartments, to build a 13-story grand hotel on the site of what was his family mansion. At the time, it was the largest and most luxurious hotel in the world, with 450 rooms. He then hired the talented George C. Boldt to act as General Manager. Mr. Boldt, with his reputation for the highest levels of service, quickly brought to the Waldorf Hotel a reputation as a premiere hotel–the first to offer private bathrooms, room service and electricity throughout. They were also the first to offer a kids menu.

Meanwhile, John Jacob Astor IV owned the other end of the block. Four years after the construction of the Waldorf, John Jacob built a 17-story hotel within feet of the Waldorf, using the same architect. His intention was to name The Schermerhon after his mother and he approached George Boldt with the idea of managing his hotel, since George worked just feet away for his cousin. But George had a problem with the hotel name and said that he would only agree to manage it if it had a more appealing and less difficult name. John Jacob came back with the name “The Astor,” named after the fur-trapping colony in Oregon where his family was originally from.

In time–and having good business sense–it was decided that the hotels should be physically joined together by a long hallway. The combined hotels, opening in 1897, became the largest hotel in the world.

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One Response
  1. Mark Bender Reply

    Many years ago, placards in subway cards had interesting facts regarding New York. One in particular related to The Waldorf Astoria and is never mentioned these days. According to the placard,The Waldorf Astoria masonry does not actually touch the sidewalk. The building has a space of about an inch all around the building where it “almost” meets the sidewalk and was built this way to reduce vibration from the trains running under it.

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