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21 March 2019Meet me at the Waldorf

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Meet me at the Waldorf Mary Alexander Thursday 21 March 2019

This is the intriguing story of two iconic New York hotels and the creators, designers, and celebrities who met, feasted and lived there. Few realise that the glamorous art deco Waldorf-Astoria hotel on Park Avenue, New York ‘home in New York to the stars’, had an equally iconic predecessor, the old Waldorf-Astoria on Fifth Avenue at 34th Street, where liveried footmen wore eighteenth century style breeches.


Built in the 1890s by the feuding Astor cousins at the height of the Gilded Age, in its day, the old Waldorf-Astoria on Fifth Avenue had been the place to meet and be seen, where high society paraded in the latest Parisian fashions in Peacock Alley. Business tycoons, entrepreneurs and acquisitive art collectors such as J P Morgan and Henry Clay Frick met there to ‘do deals’ - finance or art. In 1929 in true New York style, it was sold and torn down to make way for the Empire State building.


Moving uptown and reflecting the relentless climb up the social grid of Manhattan, the glamorous new Waldorf-Astoria on Park Avenue was built at the height of the Depression and was famous before it opened. At Christmas and New Year, the world tuned into the celebrations from the famous Starlight Room with its roof open to the skies. Its glittering ‘Jazz Age’ interiors were created by leading European designers, artists and sculptors. Celebrity guests included Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cole Porter, and Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes.

This lecture recreates the stunning interiors of both hotels and the personalities who created and enjoyed them.


Mary has thirty years' experience as a lecturer, with a BA in History and History of Art and a MA with distinction in History of Art from University College London. Experience includes public lectures in museums, tutoring for the Open University, visiting lecturer at Christie's Education in London, museum curator at Platt Hall, the Gallery of Costume, Manchester. Now a freelance lecturer and author of various articles on design and visual awareness issues, her background combines an unusual blend of academic and visual communications skills.

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