Less than one week after the Waldorf Astoria New York shut its doors for a multi-year renovation and partial residential conversion, the hotel received new historic protection. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate spaces on the ground, first, second, and third floors as interior landmarks.
The hotel, not the first to bear the name, was designed by Schultze and Weaver and opened on October 1, 1931. The 625-foot-tall, 44-story Art Deco skyscraper – occupying the full city block bound by Park Avenue, East 50th Street, Lexington Avenue, and East 49th Street – was designated an individual (or exterior) landmark in 1993. However, until today, its interior spaces sat unprotected.
The ground floor spaces that are now protected include the Park Avenue vestibules and foyer and the Lexington Avenue vestibules and foyer. On the first floor, there are is the Park Avenue Lobby and colonnade, the West Lounge (the former Peacock Alley), the West Elevator Lobby, the Main Lobby, the Main Lobby Hall, the East Arcade, and the Lexington Avenue stairs and landing.
The Lexington Avenue stairs and landing on the second floor are now protected. On the third floor, the Lexington Avenue stairs and landing, the Grand Ballroom and balconies, the Ballroom Entrance Hall (formerly the Silver Gallery), the Ballroom Foyer, the Basildon Room, the Jade Room, the Astor Gallery, and the foyer connecting the Jade Gallery and Astor Gallery with the Lexington Avenue stairs are now designated spaces.
The fixtures and interior components of these spaces, which may include but are not limited to the wall surfaces, ceiling surfaces and floor surfaces, murals, mirrors, chandeliers, lighting fixtures, attached furnishings, doors, exterior elevator doors and grilles, railings and balustrades, decorative metalwork and attached decorative elements are also protected.
Not protected is the Starlight Roof ballroom on the 18th floor.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called the “timely” designation “really wonderful.” She said these are some of the “most renowned rooms in the city.”
Commissioner John Gustafsson, who celebrated his wedding night at the hotel, said it’s a “perfect example of an interior that should be designated.” Commissioner Frederick Bland called the designation “thrilling.” He first visited New York City as a youth while accompanying his father on a business trip and they stayed at the Waldorf. For her part, Commissioner Diana Chapin said that Art Deco is her favorite architectural style.
The hotel, part of the Hilton brand, will remain closed for as long as three years as Chinese developer Anbang Insurance Group converts the 14th through 44th floors to 321 condominiums. 840 hotels will remain on the fifth through 13th floors.
Anbang fully supports this designation. “The Waldorf Astoria New York is a landmark and an iconic hotel with unparalleled history and beautiful, irreplaceable features. Anbang knows the Waldorf Astoria’s history is a large part of what makes this hotel so unforgettable. That is why we fully supported the commissions recommendations for designation of the Waldorf Astoria’s most important public spaces and applaud the Commission on achieving landmark status for them,” it said in a statement.
“It is fitting that the Waldorf Astoria – which Conrad Hilton called ‘the greatest of them all’ – would warrant one of the most extensive interior landmark designations of any privately owned building in New York City’s history. These designations are consistent with our vision and we look forward to presenting plans for restoring these historic public and event spaces in the coming weeks.”