6. A 148,000 Piece Mosaic Was Hidden Under The Lobby Carpet for Decades
When the hotel was built, it was common practice for women and men to have separate lobbies, since it was not respectable for women to see financial transactions. The main lobby in the Waldorf Astoria was considered at that time to be the Gentlemen’s Lobby, the place where men sat and smoked their cigars, and the place where they paid the hotel bill. The ladies had their own lobby, which for decades had thick carpeting, heavy curtains covering the walls, and a drop ceiling.
But a flood in the Vanderbilt Room in 1983 required the removal of the carpets and drapes, revealing a magnificent tile floor. The 148,000 piece mosaic, named Wheel of Life, was created by French artist Louis Rigal. Intricate molding, a gold-leaf ceiling, and 13 oil murals also painted by Rigal were also uncovered. The Park Avenue lobby is one of the designated New York City interior landmarks inside the hotel. Teams at the renowned architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM,) overseen by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, are restoring the space to the 1931 vision of original building architects Schultze & Weaver.