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Monday
Oct082012

Secrets of the Waldorf Astoria, New York

 

Sometimes there is a god. And on the day that the Waldorf Astoria New York had a sale, the gods were smiling and I became a believer. For nine nights, my better half and I were lucky to stay at this New York grand dame, the world's first skyscraper hotel. Yes, much of it is under construction, and yes, the rooms are a little faded, but with so much eye candy on offer it's a smorgasboard of secrets and surprises for design lovers. Let's not forget the tradition and pomp either. No shorts after 6pm in the lobby thanks ladies and gentlemen...

Image courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria website

The best way to get to grips with the 1200-room hotel - and uncover its secrets - is to book a tour, which begins from the bronzed, nine-foot clock greeting the lobby foyer. 

The tour provides a peek into some of the private spaces that only the (very) rich can afford to use, including the Starlight Roof and the Grand Ballroom. You many know that Grace Kelly held her engagement party to Prince Rainier of Monaco here, but you may not know that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor have a permanent suite on stand by, decked out in their own royal colours. Or that the composer, Cole Porter was a resident for decades, and the grand piano in the lobby's Peacock Alley bar was his, which he bequeathed to the hotel upon his death.

If you look up, you'll see these intricate ceilings that feature an Art Deco motif of a gazelle.

Image courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria websiteWe head on up to New York's homage to the Palace of Versaille's Hall of Mirrors - the Silver Corridor - a reception area where guests are greeted and dazzled by much mirror and glass.

Next up is the Grand Ballroom, which was - and still is - the place of many soirees on the New York socialite calendar. Much of it was covered up during the '60s, as part of a plan to de-glamorise the hotel, but thankfully it was restored and its Deco features allowed to revel in full glitzy glamour. For the first time here, women were allowed to host their own parties and travel unaccompanied without a man. 

The central chandelier is suspended in the Grand Ballroom, and was installed by founder, Conrad Hilton himself.

Intricate carpet detail.

The original glass light pendant in the Starlight Roof, a rooftop space that was the toast of the town. It's since been enclosed but still plays host to various gatherings.

Luckily, the hotel has documented its famous past, and we are invited to look through the museum, where this huge tome - guest book - is showcased. I was lucky enough to score a Waldorf pen when I needed to make a note, but our guide told us the hotel was planning an 'amnesty program'. It did indeed launch the amnesty in July, and is currently asking guests staying prior to the 1960s to kindly hand back its branded (stolen) treasures.

I'm ending the post with a rather unattractive image, but it represents the best part of the tour for me. It's a door that leads to a secret tunnel underneath the hotel. We had to walk around the entire hotel to find it, and I think this was it. I'd be happy to hear from anyone who knows if I'm wrong? It was designed for Franklin Roosevelt to enter and escape the hotel secretely, and contains a specially made elevator and car. There's some more images and information about it all here

 

All other images taken by me.

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Reader Comments (1)

I hear they make a mean salad!
Good to see you out and about.
MW

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Watson

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