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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
CHAPTER 8 138 DIVORCE AND DROWNING John Jacob Astor IV of the Astoria was a man of many interests. He wrote science fiction, patented several inventions and served as an officer in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Astor divorced his wife Ava and in 1911, at the age of 47, married a pretty and well-bred 18-year-old, Madeleine Talmadge Force. Such a scandal erupted that the pair escaped New York for an extended honeymoon in Europe and Egypt. While travelling, Madeleine became pregnant and, wanting the child born in the United States, they booked first-class on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Astor was the richest person on the ship. As the ship began to sink, some hours after hitting an iceberg, Astor helped his wife into a lifeboat, but was not permitted to join her. While the band played 'Nearer My God to Thee,' Astor reportedly stood back, asked for the life-boat number, lit a cigarette and tossed his gloves to Madeleine. His body was later retrieved, and buried at Trinity Church Cemetery, New York City. A NEW TEAM TAKES OVER As New York continued to grow, the Waldorf= Astoria maintained its prestige but began to be trapped by its midtown location. The life of the city was moving ever further north and, by 1910, the magnificent Plaza Hotel (1907) -- also designed by Hardenbergh on 59th Street -- was enjoying the many advantages of its 'close-to-the-action' location. The hotel then encountered a crisis much closer to home: the death, in 1916, of George Boldt. His son, George Jr, ran the hotel for the next three years, but he had little interest in the business. Fortunately Oscar was still presenting his 'face' to the public and Boldt's secretary, Augustus Nolle, provided some management back-up. The original Waldorf=Astoria was ultimately demolished in 1929 to make way for the Empire State Building. Two years later, a new Waldorf=Astoria opened on Park Avenue at 50th Street. The architects were Leonard Schultze and S. Fullarton Weaver, leaders in a new form of so- called 'apartment hotel.' A combination of new forms of technology supporting the skyscraper format, and a major civic design project in the centre of Manhattan set the scene for a magnificent new interpretation of everything the name Waldorf=Astoria represented. Harlem's Waldorf The Hotel Theresa opened in 1913 at Seventh Avenue far uptown between 125 and 126 Streets. Such was its quality, it became known as the 'Waldorf=Astoria of Harlem'. An early example of desegregation in the American hotel industry, the Theresa opened its rooms to blacks in 1940. By now there were renowned black celebrities and the Theresa was frequented by Louis Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Lena Horne and Dinah Washington. Boxer Joe Louis celebrated his victories there. In September 1960, Fidel Castro chose to relocate to the Hotel Theresa after refusing to pay a US$10,000 bond at the Shelburne Hotel on Lexington Avenue. The deposit had been requested to cover any potential damage after Castro arrived with an entourage of 90 people, 500 pieces of luggage, chickens and other produce. Castro was in New York for what was expected to be a very heated session of the United Nation's General Assembly. The 'Cuban Missile Crisis' was soon to follow. On 20 September, the day after the Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev arrived in New York for the same meeting, he visited Castro at the Theresa and later made a speech in support of Cuban interests on its stairs. Rioting broke out in the politically-divided crowd, complicated by scu es between Russian security guards and police, some on horseback. Now known as Theresa Towers, the hotel closed its doors in 1966 was turned into o ce space in 1971, and designated an o cial city landmark in 1991.