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Waldorf Astoria NYC Closing Walkthrough

On a recent New York City business trip, I stayed at the Doubletree Metropolitan (review forthcoming) at Lexington Avenue and East 51st. A colleague mentioned to me that the neighboring hotel, the historic Waldorf Astoria, would be closing on February 28, 2017. This immediately brought back a flood of great memories for me, and we were amazed to share similar stories of our experiences staying at the grand old property. I knew at once that I had to make one last visit and take some photos to supplement my memories.

This is not is a history of the Waldorf (of course you can find one version of that at Wikipedia). Nor is it a news account of the closing or the expected re-opening under a different format (you can do a web search for that). But suffice to say that the property will never be the same, for better or worse.

My Experiences

Waldorf Astoria NYC Closing Walkthrough
Stairway up to lobby from Park Avenue entrance

On one of my first business trips to the big city (as a young, barely-traveled, west-coast investment professional), I took my wife with me for a conference at the New York Palace Hotel. With my company not being willing to foot the bill for a stay there, we searched for a cheap neighboring hotel and were shocked that the Waldorf wasn’t too unreasonable. So we excitedly booked our stay there.

My memory of our stay is fuzzy, other than a room change (due to a sewer odor in the bathroom) into a nice little suite with a non-functioning fireplace (if I recall correctly!). Other than that, as reviewers of the hotel often say, the property is enormous and the rooms have probably been a bit dated for many years.

Waldorf Astoria NYC Closing Walkthrough
Main lobby

I’m glad to have had that experience, as I’ve rarely found the Waldorf to be a good value in subsequent years. But I still find myself, nearly every time I’m in the neighborhood, visiting the property. The funny thing is that, often times, it is simply a dry and warm option to cut across a long NYC block indoors! Each time, however, memories come flooding back, as I take in the historic lobby area one more time.

As I mentioned, my colleague and I had similar memories of cutting through, as well as parking ourselves in a lobby chair on occasion (to get some work done or pass time) or visiting the shoe shine stand. Another funny thing is, as I stood out on Park Avenue in the median (standing awkwardly on a ledge!) to take a photo of the main entrance, my colleague happened to walk by (by chance!) and laugh at me for my efforts.

My Last Visit in Photos

Waldorf Astoria NYC Closing Walkthrough
A peak inside the Bull and Bear restaurant

As I mentioned, this is not intended to be a history of the property. But for my last visit, I decided to do some amateur photography to capture things “as they were” before the Waldorf closes. As you will see, as you look through the photo in this post and in the gallery below, there has been a lot of history through the years. Whether or not you’ve been there before, hopefully you enjoy one last look through the public areas of the hotel. From the main Park Avenue entrance, to the staircase in the entry area, to the cases of memorabilia just outside the lobby near the elevators, to the wood-paneled lobby itself, to the nondescript rear entry from Lexington Avenue by the Bull and Bear restaurant.

Your Experiences?

Please share your experiences in the comments below. And, if you’re like me, and didn’t know about the closing until recently (or now!), maybe this gives you time for one more visit of your own.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Stayed here when I used to work for Hilton, stayed here due to historical value and it was very excited about it and all my friends were in awe that I can stay in such hotel. Now looking back, glad I did as the new mgt is changing its original core of Waldorf.

  2. My husband stayed here in the 1960’s with his Grandmother, and had a room overlooking Park Avenue. A few years ago we snagged a deal to stay there. I (hopingly) mentioned that my husband had stayed here so many years ago overlooking Park Ave. and sure enough, we were upgraded to a corner room with the same view!! It never hurts to ask (or hint!).

  3. My daughter-in-law took my grandson from Chicago to NYC on Amtrak (he’s a train nut!) for his 10th birthday last August, to climb up in the Statue of Liberty. They stayed 2 nights at the Waldorf Astoria. I met them there for breakfast — they had lavish corner suite, which Robert proudly showed me around. We enjoyed impeccable service in the lobby restaurant, and then hailed a pedi-cab for a wild ride to Times Square. It was an unforgettable morning.

  4. Visited the Waldorf for 5 nights last October/November, the experience was wonderful. So elegant but a bit dated in some areas, however the opportunity to stay there was too good to miss as I knew it was closing this year. Our room was fine, the service good, we had a room service dinner one evening, which of course included the famous Waldorf Salad. The atmosphere in the lobby was one of peace and quiet where we could have a drink and wind down after a busy day of sightseeing. Glad we chose the Waldorf for our first visit to NYC, as my daughter said when we booked our trip, “if you’re going to New York you should stay in the best hotel”. Wonderful memories.

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments so far. Love the personal stories and memories. This is exactly why I shot these photos and told my brief story. Hopefully the Waldorf comes back in a few years and retains some of it’s history. But it will clearly never be the same.

    Hope people enjoy one last look at the public areas, and I look forward to hearing more stories.

  6. I stayed in the Waldorf four years ago, for one week to celebrate my 40th birthday and my first trip to NYC to experience Thanksgiving and see Santa at Macy’s! Never too old to Believe It was a long held dream to stay there and it didn’t disappoint. Our room had a lovely view of the Chrysler building.Yes parts were a bit dated but the history and the grandeur that it oozed were amazing. Especially the ladies toilet at the top of the stairs of the Park Avenue entrance, never seen anything like it! Staff were very helpful and it was a fantastic experience, even saw Stephen Fry in the lobby , and was so overwhelmed I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him! My mum and I took ourselves on a tour of the floors, absolutely stunning decor and fantastic to see all the places you had only seen in pictures. We went back to NYC two years ago and made many a trip from Lexington through to Park Avenue, even paying a visit to those wonderful toilets!! So glad we did as it will be well under reconstruction when we go back in November. Privaliged and honoured to have seen it in all it’s glory, just so sad that this historic place will loose its soul , and future tourists will miss out on an undoubtedly unique building and experience.

  7. Falling in love with my wife on our first date to see Manhattan Transfer in the Empire Room and knowing enough to stay after the show and be the only couple in the room while the band played for an hour to our requests! We fell into a magic love that is still growing and we keep dancing 41 years later.
    My daughter’s wonderful wedding reception in the Starlight Room!
    Joyous New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Grand Ballroom to the live orchestras and TV broadcasts!
    My wife’s brilliant idea to do a live broadcast from the Bull & Bear Bar on the FOX Business Network.
    The elaborate Sunday Champagne Brunch Buffets in the Main Lobby!
    Meeting the most interesting people while enjoying cocktails in Peacock Alley!

    The Waldorf-Astoria has been a part of my life’s history and has given me so many grand memories.

    Living just a couple of blocks away on East 50th Street I was there for something almost every week. Even when I was walking to the Westside I would make a point of walking through the Waldorf just becasue it was so beautiful, entering on Lexington Avenue, up the escalator, through the magnificent lobby, past the beautifully ornate clock, and down the steps to exit on Park Avenue. All the while inhaling the unique Art Deco architecture and decor. I enjoyed the Waldorf Astoria and always will!!

    • Thanks, Bart. Very cool to hear your memories as a regular! I’m jealous. Also feel bad for you to be losing a beloved neighbor. Love your description of the Lex-to-Park cut-through! That will be my lasting memory, and why I stopped to take these photos.

      Suzanne – love your comments as a single-time hotel guest, just as myself.

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