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"This book preview contains selected pages from Great, Grand & Famous Hotels. If you wish to purchase the book or find out more, please go to
Hotels : Sample NY
NEW YORK: POWER & PROMINENCE GREAT, GRAND & FAMOUS HOTELS 137 MORE THAN JUST A PLACE TO STAY The effects of the Waldorf 's presence in the city ricocheted through the entire top end of the hospitality industry. Many of those loyal to other establishments were tempted to try the new Waldorf and a new mix of people from all walks of New York life were drawn together to create the Waldorf 's diverse clientele. In fact, the hotel set about changing the way New Yorkers themselves lived. Extending beyond the traditional offerings of bed and board, large public rooms were created on the lower floors for the specific use of locals. For the first time, New York's most important women had, courtesy of the Palm Room, their own place to meet. With facilities such as a grand ballroom and private dining rooms for hire, some saw an opportunity to knock Caroline Astor off her perch. It is said that Mrs Stuyvesant Fish set about her campaign with particular relish! Meanwhile, 'Oscar of the Waldorf,' as he came to be known, presided over these merged empires of hospitality and the culinary arts with a gracious air of sophisticated insouciance. By the end of 1896, just before the Astoria opened, the Waldorf had become the smartest hotel in America. CREATING THE ASTORIA 1897 Cousins, John Jacob Astor IV and William Waldorf Astor didn't like each other, but they were convinced by Bartlett and Boldt that both had much to gain by joining forces. This strategy brought architect Hardenbergh back to build Aunt Lina's Astoria. At 17 stories, the Astoria stood 65 metres tall. The combined hotels offered a total of 1000 rooms and 750 bathrooms, a 91 metre marble ground- floor corridor, a ballroom ceiling 15 metres high, and a Palm Garden Dining Room beneath a glazed dome and moulded plasterwork ceiling. Together, the combined Waldorf=Astoria offered 40 public rooms for the use of locals. The two hotels could easily be separated from each other if there were any further family squabbles. The Waldorf=Astoria never faced such a challenge and was permanently joined, as it transpired, by a celebrated corridor known as Peacock Alley. It is claimed that up to 25,000 people a day took advantage of this thoroughfare to show off their fashions or admire the finery of others. AN UNUSUAL MIX OF GUESTS Social life at the Waldorf=Astoria hit a peak in 1897 when the Bradley-Martin Ball -- fancy dress on the theme of Louis XV at Versailles -- spilt over from the Waldorf into sections of the yet to be officially opened Astoria. There was some criticism of the lavishness of this occasion. Mrs Bradley-Martin announced that the reason she had given the ball was to provide work for dressmakers, florists and caterers. If there were any further complaints, she threatened to relocate to London. Not long after, she did. OPENING NIGHT The Waldorf officially opened on 14 March 1893. With Boldt, his wife Louise and Oscar standing together at the door to greet each guest, the Waldorf's renowned 'house style' was born: there would always be a personal touch and scrupulous attention to individual needs. The evening was conceived as a charity fundraiser, and Mrs Alva Vanderbilt proved herself to be a formidable new arrival on New York's social scene by donating the music -- the New York Symphony Orchestra. Its sweet harmonies did not go unnoticed. Nor did Mrs Vanderbilt's sharp eye miss the eighteen-carat gold-plated bathroom fixtures in the private suites: "You don't have to clean them, you know," she tartly declared. Left: The dining room in the Waldorf=Astoria, 1902. Above: At the Waldorf Hotel in New York in 1921, this guest surprised everyone by opening her trunk to reveal her two pet dogs.