In 1929, the rambling old Waldorf Astoria at 5th Avenue & 33rd Street came crashing down. When the Waldorf opened, in 1893, it caused a scandal. The first “commercial” property in what was then a swank residential district, it was deliberately contrived to infuriate by William Astor. You see, William hated his aunt, Caroline & Caroline lived about 20 feet to the north of his newly opened hotel. The Waldorf, which he built on the site of his father William Waldorf Astor’s house, was created to stick it to her. Why? Who knows? What we do know is all the shade (literally) cast on her house was too much. She decamped & up sprung the Astoria. Soon, despite the feud, the hotels were joined creating the now famous Waldorf Astoria moniker.

The ornate now demolished old Waldorf Astoria.

The old Waldorf Astoria ushered in a commercial transformation that would eventually lead to its demise.

Thirty years later, all that Victorian drama was nearly forgotten, its remnants trucked off for landfill. The Jazz Age was in full swing & New York was ready for something new. Seventeen blocks to the north on Park Avenue ground was being broken. A lot of ground. An entire city block. From this site rose the new Waldorf Astoria. All forty seven floors. Freed of the scandals & squabbles of 33rd Street, it would be known only for it’s majestic silhouette, lavish interiors, & impeccable service. Crowning one of its setbacks, a symbol of the new hotel & its age, was the Starlight Roof.

Post card showing the new Waldorf Astoria and Starlight Roof.

The new Waldorf Astoria soared over Park Avenue.

A floor plan for the Waldorf Astoria Starlight Roof.

An 18th floor plan showing the footprint of the Starlight Roof.

The art deco interior of the Starlight Roof with murals by Victor White

The stunning art deco decorative scheme including murals by artist Victor White.

In 1930’s America, if your venue didn’t have dancing it may as well not exist. Everything north of skid row had live entertainment & to ask your paramour to anything without it was a slap in the face. Any Hotel worth its salt had dining, dancing, & a resident orchestra. Of course, the new Waldorf Astoria wasn’t just any hotel. It was the Hotel. At least, for the moment. Its nightclub, the Starlight Roof, was perched eighteen stories above Park Avenue & commanded dazzling views of the metropolis. No expense was spared on its interiors. The menu, developed by Oscar Tschirky, was a delight. Couples rumba’d across the dance floor to Xavier Cougat & his Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra under an immense skylight covered with leaping gazelles & winged flying horses. For the fancy folks on the Upper East Side, the Starlight Roof became the go to place for date night.

 

All things must pass & so it was with the glory days of the Starlight Roof. The grandiose apartment houses that once surrounded the Waldorf Astoria succumbed to commercial development. Dancing in grand ballrooms became old hat. Rich residents moved on & rich commercial clients moved in. Prior to the hotel’s closing for renovation in February 2017 the Starlight Roof, made bland by decades of uninspired renovation, was listed as part of an “Executive Meeting Center”.

 

And now on to Ice Cream Praline! From the Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places

 

 

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