The Waldorf Astoria has earned its reputation as a hot scene for society’s elite over the course of a hundred-plus years operating in New York City, with icons from Queen Elizabeth II to Elizabeth Taylor enjoying stays at the midtown Manhattan fixture. The establishment claims that every US president from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama stayed in its presidential suite, rock band The Who reportedly earned a lifetime ban following a debauched 1968 visit (though they must’ve gotten back in the hotel’s good graces at some point, later performing at the 1990 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the Waldorf), and Paris Hilton lived there throughout her childhood in the ’80s and ’90s.
Originating as side-by-side establishments founded by rival members of the same family, cousins John Jacob Astor IV and William Waldorf Astor joined forces to create the Waldorf Astoria in 1897. In addition to merging names, they connected the two German Renaissance–style buildings with a 300-foot marble corridor known as Peacock Alley. The hotel was forced to relocate from its spot on swanky Fifth Avenue when both wings were razed to make way for the Empire State Building, reopening two years later in 1931 on nearby Park Avenue. Designed by architecture firm Schultze and Weaver, the 47-story new build was constructed in the Art Deco style and was known as the largest luxury hotel in the world at the time. President Hoover offered his early approval via radio broadcast from the White House, describing the debut as “an event in the advancement of hotels,” and declaring it “an exhibition of courage and confidence to the whole nation.”
Hoover wouldn’t be the only big name to award the hotel a seal of approval; the Waldorf Astoria counted enough celebrity regulars in its guestbook that several suites would go on to be named for the prominent cultural figure who had stayed there, including the likes of Cole Porter and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. In 2017, the hotel shut down for large-scale renovations and is currently projected to reopen in late 2024. The architecture teams at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; alongside Building Conservation Associates, Inc; and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners LLC are charged with reimagining the landmark establishment, with plans to update its interiors and offer luxury condominiums starting from $1.8 million—a price tag fit for the hallowed halls once walked by Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. Read about the biggest names to have checked in at the Waldorf Astoria below.
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