It’s the end of an era. The fabled Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue closes today, to be turned into multi-million-dollar condos by its new owners, the Chinese company Anbang.
The Grand Ballroom, a glittering gold-trimmed space, and restaurants that hopefully include Peacock Alley in the lobby, will reopen after the renovation is complete, in a year or two. Also, 100 or so of the 1,400 rooms will be available as traditional hotel rooms after the renovation.
But new owners Anbang have not shared details, even as the demolition crews move in tonight, including whether the elegant marble lobby will be preserved.
The Waldorf, as we New Yorkers called it, has a rich history.
Since it opened 86 years ago, its suites have hosted every US president since Herbert Hoover.
Hollywood legends including Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, and Frank Sinatra have all stayed here.
Queen Elizabeth, Senator John F. Kennedy, Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier of Monaco, Marilyn Monroe and Muhammed Ali attended events here.
The Waldorf salad was invented here. So were red velvet cupcakes.
It was the first hotel in the world to offer room service 24/7.
The city’s fanciest New Year’s Eve parties were held here, with the Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians band playing for attendees and people around the world listening on the radio.
Thousands of people have gotten married here, and celebrated other important events here.
See wonderful historic photos of the Waldorf-Astoria in this photo essay by Business Insider
Last year the hotel celebrated its 85th anniversary, but it will close for at least two years for renovations on February 28.
Conrad Hilton bought the building in 1949 for $3 million. Hilton Worldwide sold the Waldorf in 2014 to Anbang for $1.95 billion.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has been working with Anbang to preserve parts of the interior, and Anbang agreed to comply, according to Bloomberg.
But, again, no details have been made public, including which hotel company will manage the 100-or-so rooms and suites expected to be available for rent, or the restaurants.
When the equally fabled Plaza Hotel was turned into condos around a decade ago, Fairmont took over management of the 100-or-so rooms and suites available for rent.
BTW – The Waldorf Astoria was named for its original owners, the Astor family, immigrants from Germany who made it rich in the United States.
They came from a small town in Bavaria named Waldorf, hence the name. My maternal grandmother also was born in Waldorf, Germany. When I was a child, she told me her sister worked as a housekeeper for the Astors.