THE ASTOR HOUSE
Built in 1836, the Astor House was the first luxury hotel in New York City
and the best known hotel in the United States
It was located at Broadway and Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan
What was it like?
A London newspaper called it “A model of architectural beauty and of massive grandeur, luxurious and elegant in its appointments.”
The exterior was made of Quincy Granite – a bluish stone
The entry was Greek Revival style
Inside the floors were blue and white mosaic marble
The furniture was custom made in black walnut
Marble columns resembled a Roman temple
WHAT AMENITIES DID THE HOTEL OFFER?
- 309 Rooms on 5 stories
- One featured a Chinese bridal bed carved of ivory with inlaid wood that was said to have originally cost $2,500
- Servant’s rooms on the 6th floor
- An innovative system of bells
- Individualized door locks
HOT AND COLD RUNNING WATER
FANCY DINING ROOMS
There was a French chef
A new menu was printed daily on their own printing press
Gentlemen guests had a grand dining room 108 feet long
There were small elegant dining rooms for women and their male escorts
Women were not allowed into main dining rooms unaccompanied in order to discourage prostitutes
DIVERSE PUBLIC AREAS
Barbers & Hairdressers
Tailors & Boot Makers
In 1852, an elliptical, cast-iron and glass rotunda was added to the courtyard
It had a richly carved bar
The Astor House’s ‘free lunch” was served here for many years
WHO BUILT THE ASTOR HOUSE?
John Jacob Astor I came to America from Waldorf, Germany in 1783 when he was 20 years old, with hardly any education.
He got a job cleaning rabbit and beaver pelts on the waterfront in New York City.
He made an enormous amount of money in the fur trade and then the China Trade, becoming the wealthiest man in the United States – the nation’s first multi-millionaire.
He used the money to buy up land in Manhattan, leasing it to developers and collecting rent.
The Astor House was the only building he built.
John Jacob Astor amassed a fortune of $20 million – today that would be $660 million.
The hotel was demolished in 1913 to the dismay of many New Yorkers.
The Future Astors in New York City
The Astors at one time owned thousands of buildings and miles of riverfront property in New York.
When their fathers died in the 1890’s John Jacob “Jack” Astor IV and his cousin William Waldorf Astor split a fortune of what would be $6 billion today.
They had lavish mansions next to each other on Fifth Avenue, but did not like one another.
William decided to destroy his mansion and construct the grandest hotel of the time right next to his cousin and his socialite mother. The Hotel was named the Waldorf.
Jack and his mother were furious. They moved out, tore down their mansion and considered putting a horse stable there, but instead he decided to build a much bigger hotel.
A truce was reached, the two hotels were connected by a corridor and the Waldorf-Astoria was born, extremely grand and as opulent as a European palace.
Jack was very bright with an engineering mind, had several inventions, and wrote a science fiction novel that predicted some future events that have come to pass.
He also built the St. Regis Hotel – at the time the tallest hotel in the world at 18 stories.
He and his wife divorced and in his mid-forties he married a 17-year old girl, Madeleine Talmage Force, which caused controversy among his friends and family.
They traveled in Europe for a few years, Madeleine was pregnant, and in 1912 they decided to take the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic back to New York in style. Madeleine survived in a lifeboat, but Jack Astor went down with the ship.
He was greatly mourned in New York City.