New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel is shutting its doors at the end of February for an overhaul that will change the face of the more than 85-year-old art deco landmark.
It opened in its current Park Avenue location in October 1931, as the world’s tallest hotel. The Waldorf Astoria’s guestrooms and ballrooms have has hosted US presidents, international leaders, celebrities, royalty (of Hollywood and actual monarchs) and business leaders, from Herbert Hoover to Marilyn Monroe to Jack Ma.
The hotel’s Grand Ballroom has been the site of a 1950s car show, dozens of debutante balls and less glamorous events like agriculture investing conferences featuring panelists on the marijuana business. Its secret passageways include a little-known railway that connected to Grand Central Station. This was reportedly used to transport US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was trying to keep his polio out of public view.
For decades, the Waldorf Astoria was the epitome of luxury and it was one of the first hotels to offer 24-hour room service. Its kitchen gave the world red velvet cupcakes, eggs Benedict and of course, the Waldorf salad (paywall), and has more recently served up alligator and tarantulas.
Conrad Hilton won a contract to buy the hotel in 1949. Hilton Worldwide sold the property $1.95 billion in 2014 to China’s Anbang Insurance Group. The property is expected to be closed for at least two years for much-needed repairs and a restructuring that could include more permanent residences, which will likely be sold as condominiums.
Here is a look at the Waldorf Astoria though the years, including some of its most famous guests.