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.