A treasured piece of the historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel will have a new home at the New-York Historical Society. After an extensive year-long restoration, the hotel’s famous 1893 World’s Fair Clock will take up temporary residence in the museum’s collection starting today, November 20, 2020. The clock is one of multiple Waldorf Astoria items the New-York Historical Society has displayed, including the John F. Kennedy Rocking Chair and Cole Porter’s Steinway piano.
Courtesy of Noë & Associates
The Waldorf Astoria’s clock stood in the lobby of the hotel for more than 125 years. It was first displayed in the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avenue. Since 1931, the clock was the centerpiece of the modern Waldorf Astoria New York on Park Avenue. The clock’s bell rang for the last time in March 2017, just before the property closed to undergo restoration and transformation into condominiums. When Waldorf Astoria New York closed, the clock, among other notable objects, was carefully secured and moved offsite for restoration. Other items from the hotel were auctioned off.
Clock in original Waldorf Astoria during a concert
The octagonal American walnut clock was made by The Goldsmiths’ and Silversmiths’ Company of London. Queen Victoria commissioned it to show off fine English craftsmanship at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, more commonly known as the Chicago World’s Fair. John Jacob Astor IV later purchased the clock for display in the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. Due to its importance, the clock was one of just a few objects preserved and moved to the hotel’s second location on Park Avenue.
Courtesy of Noë & Associates
The clock’s ornate base is decorated with bronze panels representing swimming, running, yachting, cycling, baseball, trotting, and horse jumping, along with a scene of the Brooklyn Bridge. Each relief scene is topped by a portrait medallion of notable American figures such as George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant — along with Queen Victoria. The clock features four faces, which originally showed the time in New York, Paris, Madrid, and Greenwich, England.
Image Courtesy of Optimist Consulting
Over the course of twelve months, the clock was meticulously cleaned, repaired, and restored, both inside and out. Stair Galleries, overseen by Building Conservation Associates, replicated and replaced missing ormolu elements and re-plated the clock’s repoussé panels. The clock’s chimes and movements were updated by About Time. “We assembled a best-in-class team of preservationists to oversee the restoration,” says Andrew Miller, CEO of Dajia US, owner and developer of Waldorf Astoria New York.
Clock Rendering within Reimagined Waldorf Astoria New York, Courtesy of Noë & Associates
While renovations continue inside the Waldorf Astoria, the iconic clock will be displayed at the New-York Historical Society. “I could not think of a more fitting place for the clock to reside until it returns to the hotel upon opening,” says Miller. Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO, New-York Historical adds, “This special installation at New-York Historical will provide our visitors with the opportunity to marvel at a landmark object from one of New York City’s most famous hotels and glimpse some of the elegance Waldorf Astoria guests have experienced for decades.” The new Waldorf Astoria will feature 375 luxury residences, 375 hotel rooms, suites, and restored public and event spaces. The clock will return to its main lobby to serve as a meeting place for future generations of New Yorkers.