The Waldorf Astoria

The famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, seen above after opening in 1931,  is undergoing a conversion and restoration by the Chinese Anbang Insurance Group who plan on converting the building into 375 condos and 350 hotel rooms. The hotel has been closed since 2017.

The original Waldorf Astoria were two separate but adjoining hotels on 5th Ave and 34th Street, built by two competitive cousins in the Astor family. The hotels closed in 1929 were demolished to make way for the Empire State Building.

Investors including the New York Central Railroad developable the newly created land above the Grand Central rail yards and chose the block bounded between Park, Lexington, 49th and 50th streets for a new hotel, purchasing the Waldorf-Astoria name for $1 dollar!

The Art Deco hotel opened in 1931 with 1,416 rooms, none of which are exactly the same. The tallest and largest hotel of its time, the Waldorf Astoria's most famous room was the 2,245 square foot,  3-bedroom Presidential Suite, which had accommodated eight decades of U.S. Presidents, until Trump. The suite was decorated to resemble the White House with furniture reflecting a traditional Georgian style, including the personal desk of General Douglas MacArthur and one of President John F. Kennedy's rocking chairs. President FDR's train car still occupies track 61 below the hotel (see our earlier post on track 61). The building was designated a historic landmark and right before it closed the Landmarks Commission designated some of it's iconic Art Deco interiors, including Peacock Alley, the Grand Ballroom, Park Avenue lobby, and the Astor Gallery.