Architects' and Builders' Magazine
American Buildings Survey
Located between 44th and 45th Streets on Broadway, the Hotel Astor, along with the Times Building, brought New Yorkers, as well as the world, in droves to Longacre (soon to be Times) Square. At a cost of $7,000,000 William Waldorf Astor built the 35,000 square foot hotel which was designed by the architectural firm of Clinton & Russell and was constructed by John Downey. The building proper was in the French Renaissance style, carried out in red brick and limestone with a Mansard roof made from copper and green slate. Like a Victorian parlor writ large the Hotel was chock-a-block full of curios, design features and stylistic knock-offs that ranged in theme from Chinese to German Volk, from Louis XVI to Art Nouveau, from WASP American to Native American. It was truly, as their motto stated, the culmination of years of artistic study.
It was, alas, perhaps too great of a culmination, for the Hotel was the epitome of an age that was soon to end, an end summed up by Virginia Woolf when she wrote, "On or about December 1910 human character changed." Socialism, communism and eventual war would deconstruct the world of the luxurious European spas and resorts that the Hotel Astor was meant to approximate, and an initially unfazed America would succumb to its own revolution created by the machine. Clinton and Russell had been the Astor family architects for years, but their Waldorf-Astoria Hotel would last just over 30 years before being razed and replaced with the Empire State Building, the Hotel Astor would last only twice that long before being replaced with a 50-story office building, and the young architect William Van Alen would go from working on the Hotel Astor team to defining an age with his Chrysler Building some 20-odd years later.
Ironically enough, however, though the Hotel Astor became an anomaly of sorts—and definitely would have been one in the Times Square of the 1970s and 80s—it seems as if the Astor would fit perfectly into today's rennovated Times Square: an upscale B&B set down between The Gap and The Disney Store, like something one would find at the Epcot Center or in the "family-friendly" Las Vegas of recent years. Many of the rooms would most likely change—the Yacht Rooms replaced by Extreme Sports Rooms, the L'Orangerie replaced by an African Hall, the Large Ballroom replaced by a Euro Disco—but very little else of the ideology behind the Astor would change or has changed.