Panic at the Waldorf Astoria
The most popular hotel in New York, preferred by several US presidents, faces a future reform with uncertain future.
Part of New York society have the nerves in the skin surface, and no, this time does not seem that the President Trump is behind of this concern citizen, this time is the reform of the most popular Hotel of United States of America, with illustrious traditions as to be the host of all the Presidents of the country, except Barack Obama that he declined to stay on it for security reasons… in 2015, when the hotel was bought by the Chinese firm Anbang Insurance Group, the operation was carried on 6 October of the year 2014 by 1.95 billion dollars (about 1.86 billion euros).
The Chinese mega-group of insurance surprised with the notice, the last year, of its intentions of carrying out a profound reform for disappear a big part of its rooms by luxury residences, we must remember that the Hotel is now in the expert hands of the Hilton. Specifically, the idea is to move from 1.413 rooms that currently owns to 840 of the future hotel, the remaining 573 will be converted in 321 new apartments of high level, of the floor 14 to the 47.
Fulfilling with its word, Anbang has proceeded to close the doors of the iconic building the first day of the month of March, and the alarms between the most conservative (architectural and historically speaking) has infected to part of society. Indeed, a representative of the company has informed to the media that they will work with experts in heritage and the Committee for Preservation of Monuments (last resort which should monitor that the reform proposal sticks to the rules).
The building was built in 1931, so has ceased to serve as a Hotel to the 86 years of its inauguration. Although the plans of the Chinese insurance giant, which is not known clearly who is the head of decision-making (the New York Times published that its directive dome is very opaque because of Chinese laws that promote these consortiums between publics and privates), have not been clearly exposed, they insist that know the historical value of the property and that they will treat it with respect.
For who does not know it, the Waldorf Astoria is located at 301 Park Avenue just 15 minutes walking from the Central Park. It reaches 190 meters in height, consists of 47 storeys high and was designed by Schultze & Weaver architecture Studio in a resounding Art Deco style. The history of this building, however, began much earlier, in 1897, with the merger of two hotels, the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel, very near each other. When these two hotels were demolished to build the Empire State Building (oh, oh), their owners moved it to the current location, making, incidentally, the highest and the largest Hotel of the World, title which it would held for more than thirty years.
In the hotel have slept almost all artistic icons with international relevance, such as Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, or Burt Reynolds. Characters that marked time and that even today are idolized. Many series fans will remember their scenarios in Law and Order, Sex in New York, Will and Grace and the fantastic series of The Sopranos. And in feature films we can see the Hotel in Essence of Woman, Whims of Destiny, Serendipity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith or The Big Scam.
The more cautious are quiet by the facade of the building, which has been declared as emblematic monument of the city in 1993, in other words, cannot be altered it and the urban horizon will continue counting with your presence. The problem is that its interior does not have any legal protection, and the lovers of the past are very worried with that the new reform will damage the Grand Dance Room or the spectacular mosaic from the entrance facing Park Avenue, with 148,000 pieces of marble (Who will have counted it?).
The marble is one of the materials star of the property, imported at the time from Belgium and Italy, the exquisite beauty of this material, as well as its easy work, make it suitable for any ornamentation, especially the sculpture. Although we should be grateful that the building is perpetuated in time to another Rocky source material: the limestone. 23,000 cubic meters of this stone covering the skyscrapers, protecting it from bad weather as only it knows. As a curiosity the envelope of limestone is anchored to walls perimeter of terracotta, reducing the weight and the economic impact. The steel superstructure, performed by the Thompson-Starrett, weighs 27,100 tons, nothing… nothing.
The new owners want to give to the building a commercial space, a new restaurant and a fitness centre, from here I would encourage them also to find space for an indoor pool (and there is no reason for not having one in any skyscrapers), the water is the best source of life and fun. However, many people are aware that the Hotel needs a restoration, several tenants have complained about the state of the some parts, furniture and damaged cladding and a worn image due to the unforgivable over time.
In the memory of many New Yorkers weighs not only the input and output of national and international celebrities from the Hotel, also weighs the dances every weekend, countless weddings and celebrations that has been a mute witness, the conferences of major social importance or the huge number of tourists who have booked there by its enormous fame. In the memory of many, also, two waiters who smile on a metal beam while serving to two operatives, all, suspended in the air thanks to cables that come down from a pulley.