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A look back at the Waldorf Astoria

HomeNews hubTravel NewsA look back at the Waldorf Astoria

This iconic New York landmark will soon be closing its doors due to planned renovations. Conrad Hilton acquired the Waldorf Astoria for $3 million in 1949 and Hilton Worldwide has owned the property until selling it to Anbang back in 2014. The 1,400+ room hotel will close next month as Anbang has plans to convert the majority of the rooms into luxury condominiums. The building is due to reopen with a much smaller hotel in a few years’ time.

With the upcoming closure we take a look back through history and reveal our favorite Waldorf Astoria trivia facts!

  1. The most requested suite at the Waldorf is The Presidential Suite—it's where every President has stayed. When a president stays there, the hotel actually has customized bulletproof glass installed.
  2. There's an underground railroad that runs from Grand Central Terminal to the fourth floor of the hotel basement. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the sitting president, that's how they would bring him in because many people didn't know he was in a wheelchair.
  3. Back in the 1930s the hotel was the first to offer 24 hour room service!
  4. The original hotel (that was torn down to make room for the Empire State Building) was built out of a family feud. In 1893, William Waldorf Astor opened a 13-story hotel at Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street called the Waldorf. Four years later, in an effort to show-up his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV (who later died on the Titanic) opened a 17-story hotel named the Astoria next door. Soon, they dropped their competitive spirits and connected the hotels with a corridor forming the Waldorf=Astoria (the equal sign, symbolizing the bridge, was later swapped for a dash).
  5. The hotel once had a VIP guest insist that their toilet be raised by one-centimeter… they complied and the toilet was raised.
  6. Over the years, several movies have been filmed inside the Waldorf Astoria, starting in 1945 with "Week-End at the Waldorf." It grossed over $4 million and ranked seventh at the box office that year.
  7. In 2012, the hotel announced an amnesty period where any stolen item could be returned without penalty. The grace gave way to loads of treasures, from Do Not Disturb signs and ashtrays to complete sets of china and cutlery.
  8. Many major events have been thrown in the hotel's Grand Ballroom, a four-story, two-tier room that can host 1,500 guests under its 44-foot ceiling. Here's a shot from the National Republican Club's Lincoln Day Dinner of 1933, when Hoover gave what he considered the farewell speech of his administration.
  9. The largest suite, The Cole Porter, where Porter lived for 25 years and wrote a number of songs in, still has his piano in. The suite is 4,300 square feet and is rented on a monthly basis, prices start at a modest $150,000.
  10. The Porter Suite also played home to Frank and Barbara Sinatra from 1964 till 1988. Rumor states that they etched their initials into the bathroom door but the door was apparently removed during renovations, and its whereabouts are unknown.