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The Most Luxurious Hotels of New York City's Past

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The Hotel 38 map laid out the current most prominent hotels in New York City, but now we turn to hotels of old and look back at the incredible buildings, some long gone and some still operating today, where the world's fanciest tourists and visitors would have bunked down on trips to the city over the past two centuries. Prepare to be transported back to a time when the most lavish rooms in the city cost a dollar and running water was a huge deal amenity.

Astor House
Constructed in 1836 by John Jacob Astor, the Astor House brought a never-before-seen level of luxury to New York City and quickly became perhaps the most famous hotel in the world. Politicians like Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, and Jefferson Davis stayed there and Jefferson Davis reportedly "would stay in no other hotel." By the 1850s competitors began sprouting up, but for nearly two decades, Astor House reigned supreme.

St. Nicholas Hotel
The St. Nicholas Hotel, an enormous pure white marble structure on Broadway between Broome and Spring streets, opened its doors on January 6, 1853, officially ending Astor House's reign. The New York Times soon anointed the St. Nicholas, also New York's first building to cost $1 million in construction, the city's premier hotel, writing, "This magnificent establishment, which in extent of accommodation, completeness of arrangement, costliness and chaste elegance of decoration, and combination of all modern improvements, takes place as the Hotel par excellence of our day." By the late 19th century, though, the hotel had declined in popularity with most tourists preferring to stay farther uptown. In 1884, it closed and was demolished, save for two slivers of facade, which, incredibly, live on today as the unassuming facades of 521 and 523 Broadway.

Fifth Avenue Hotel
Long before its demise, however, the St. Nicholas was upstaged by Amos Richard Eno's Fifth Avenue Hotel, which opened six years later in 1859 and cost twice as much ($2 million) to build. Located at 200 Fifth Avenue, it was so far uptown that it was dubbed Eno's Folly and prominent New York financiers refused the opportunity to back it financially. Eno turned to Boston-based investors instead and built a lavish hotel (the first one to feature an elevator) that became "the social, cultural political hub of elite New York," according to historian Char Miller. Notable guests over the years included Ulysses S. Grant, Chester A. Arthur, Edward Prince of Wales, and many others. The hotel was demolished in 1908.

The Waldorf-Astoria
Taking the baton after the first wave of super-luxury hotels came and went was the Waldorf Astoria. Originally just the Waldorf, it constructed in 1893 by William Waldorf Astor as a way to piss off his hated aunt and was followed four years later by the adjacent Astoria, built by William's cousin, John Jacob Astor IV. The Waldorf-Astoria became the largest hotel in the world, and also had the distinction of being the first hotel to offer room service. John Jacob Astor IV also constructed the famous St. Regis Hotel, which opened in 1904, and, after multiple huge-scale renovations, remains one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

The Plaza
Possibly the world's most iconic hotel, the Plaza was constructed in 1907 and is one of only two New York City hotels (the other being the aforementioned Waldorf-Astoria) to be designated a National Historic Landmark. So that's pretty good.
· Hotels Week 2013 [Curbed]

The Plaza

768 5th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10019 Visit Website