The Waldorf Astoria Hotel has been a piece of Manhattan history since it opened its doors in 1931. When the news broke last year that the hotel would be closing its doors for renovations, it seemed like very few people took it seriously. This is in sharp contrast to when The Plaza Hotel made the announcement, in 2004, that it was going to be downsizing to a smaller amount of hotel rooms and opening up condos in place of the hotel rooms, which is what the Waldorf Astoria is planning on doing as well. On March 2nd, the hotel closed its doors for a four-year renovation process.
Since its opening in 1931, the hotel has been a regular stop for foreign dignitaries, royalty, celebrities, and corporate moguls. There have also been long-term residents living there, such as former United States president Herbert Hoover and United States general Douglas MacArthur. The current location of the hotel, on Park Avenue in between 49th and 50th Street on the East Side, is actually the second location of the hotel. The hotel was originally located on the corner of 5th Avenue and 33rd Street.
So many people have walked through its door, which intrigued me on my first and only visit to the hotel. The grace and class of the hotel was evident from the first step inside. I wanted to know more about the hotel and the history. To discover stories and first impressions of the hotel, I asked fellow college students and family friends about their thoughts on the hotel.
“I didn’t feel like I was being transported to another time, but just to another realm of wealth,” Michelle Hoch, a freshman at Stern College for Women, shared. “For me, it was not so much that I was being transported through time but more transported to a pseudo-world where I was playing adult for the night,” Lydia Wiener, a college freshman in Vermont told me when recalling her impression of the grand ballroom on prom night.
“My parents spent their wedding night there sixty years ago. [The] rate was $20 per night. My dad, who saves everything, returned fifty years later with his receipt and cancelled check. They honored the $20 rate for his fiftieth anniversary. For his 60th anniversary they returned to the Waldorf and for $20 they were upgraded to a suite with free drinks and many gifts,” Allison Fixler, another Waldorf guest, said.
Eric Deutsch, a 26-year-old Long Island native, remembered his first time at the hotel. “[In] late 2006—my first time at the hotel—I was a senior in high school. I went there for auditions for Teen Jeopardy after passing the online test, which meant about 30, very awkward high school students from the tri-state area and Jeopardy producers screen-testing the whole batch of us. My impression of the lobby, upon entering, was being taken slightly aback by how clean and orderly everything was. The lobby was almost distractingly clean for a city that seems to sometimes pride itself on being a bit grungy and hectic. It was a serene oasis in an otherwise anxious city.”
Clearly, the Waldorf Astoria has made its mark on many guests of different ages in the decades since its opening. From proms to weddings, the Waldorf Astoria holds a special place in people’s memories, and it will be dearly missed during its closing.