Nancy Trejos , USA TODAY
The final guests at the Waldorf Astoria New York, one of the most iconic hotels in the city, will check out at noon today. The hotel will shut down for the next two to three years for a multi-year renovation.
It’s been an official New York City landmark since 1993, 100 years after its opening, a residence for royalty and celebrities including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, a playground for the elite of New York and beyond. The 625-foot, 47-floor Art Deco building occupies an entire block of prime real estate on Park Avenue.
Today, it will close its doors for a top-to-bottom renovation that will preserve its historic charm yet modernize it for a world in which hospitality no longer entails just charming service.
“The Waldorf Astoria New York is where our brand’s story began. Restoring this hotel to its place as the most luxurious hotel in New York is a key priority for the Waldorf Astoria brand,” says John Vanderslice, global head of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.
Millionaire William Waldorf Astor opened the 13-story Waldorf Hotel on the site of his former mansion on 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue. It had electricity and private bathrooms—novelties at the time.
Four years later, his equally rich cousin John Jacob Astor IV built the 17-story Astoria Hotel next door.
In 1929, both closed down and moved uptown 15 blocks to its current location on 49th street and Park Avenue. It re-opened in 1931.
Mclean, Va.-based mega-hotel giant Hilton Worldwide eventually took it over. But in 2014, Hilton sold it to Anbang, a China-based insurance company, for $1.95 billion.
“The Waldorf Astoria New York is part of the fabric of New York City,” Anbang said in a written statement this week. “As stewards of this iconic landmark and its historic legacy, we are committed to restoring its public spaces to their original beauty, ensuring that the hotel retains its rightful place as a premier focal point for the city and a premier destination for the world.”
Part of the deal was that the hotel would undergo a much-needed renovation. Hilton made an agreement to manage the property for another 100 years. The hotel includes the popular Peacock Alley bar, the Bull and Bear steakhouse, and the upscale Chinese eatery La Chine.
Hilton says that initial construction will be limited to areas of the hotel that are not landmarked or designated for potential landmark status. A public review process for those spaces is ongoing.
Michael Romei, Chef Concierge of the Waldorf Towers, which include private residences, has been at the hotel for 23 years. In that time, he has met countless dignitaries and celebrities.
“We will have more technology, more sophistication,” he says. “It’s going to be a super luxury landmark in the city. It always will be.”