The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel has been housed in two historic landmark buildings. The first, designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, was on the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building. The present building is a 47-story, 625 ft. (191 m) Art Deco designed by architects Schultze and Weaver that dates from 1931 and is now part of the The Waldorf-Astoria Collection. An even more luxurious, virtual "hotel within a hotel" in its upper section is known as The Waldorf Towers operated by Conrad Hotels & Resorts.
The name, Waldorf=Astoria, now appears with a double hyphen, but originally the single hyphen was employed, as recalled by a popular expression and song, "Meet Me at the Hyphen."
The origins of the original hotel date back to an old Astor family feud. It started as two hotels: William Waldorf Astor's 13-story Waldorf Hotel, which opened in 1893 and John Jacob Astor IV's 17-story Astoria Hotel, opened in 1897. William Astor, motivated in part by a dispute with his aunt, built the original Waldorf Hotel to the specifications of founding proprietor George Boldt, who owned the Belleveue in Philadelphia, next door to her home, on the site of his father's mansion and today's Empire State Building. John Astor then built the Astor Hotel and leased it to Boldt. Initially foreseen as two separate entities, Boldt had planned the new structure so that it could be connected to the old by means that became known as Peacock Alley. The combined Waldorf-Astoria became the largest hotel in the world at the time.
The modern reincarnation on Park Avenue, was designed by Lloyd Morgan, a partner at Schultze & Weaver, in 1929-31. The building combines a transient hotel with a pair of vertically massed residential skyscraper towers each surmounted by a crowning beacon. The building has a gray limestone base with matching gray brick above and is ornamented by street level Art Deco accents.
The Waldorf-Astoria is historically significant for transforming the contemporary hotel from a destination for transients into a social center and prestigious destination. The Waldorf-Astoria was influential in advancing the status of women, who were admitted singly without escorts. The hotel has its own platform as part of Grand Central Terminal.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, former U.S. president Herbert Hoover and retired U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, lived in suites on different floors of the hotel. This is commemorated by a plaque affixed to the 49th Street wall. A recreation of one of Hoover's living rooms is part of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The U.S. government keeps a large suite on the hotel's 42nd floor as the ambassadorial residence for its United Nations ambassador.
Waldorf salad, consisting of apple, walnuts, celery, and a mayonnaise-based dressing, was first created in 1896 here by maître d'hôtel Oscar Tschirky, "Oscar of the Waldorf"
Cole Porter and Linda Lee Thomas had an apartment in the Waldorf Towers, where she died in 1954. Porter's 1934 song "You're the Top," contains the lyric, "You're the top, you're a Waldorf salad." In the "Coming To America" the king of Zamunda and his family stayed at the hotel. In "Scent of a Woman" Lt. Col. Frank Slade and his traveling companion Charles Simms (Chris O'Donnell) stayed here. In "Serependipity" the two main characters have a number of scenes in the hotel. Statler & Waldorf, a pair of muppet characters, are named after posh New York City hotels, the Statler Hotel and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Waldorf's wife, Astoria, is Statler's sister, making the two brothers-in-law.
The Waldorf Astoria was designated a landmark by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1993.
In 2007, The Waldorf Astoria was ranked #46 on the AIA 150 America's Favorite Architecture list.