Goodbye to the grandiose Art Deco entrance hall, to celebrities passing by in the elevator of its “tower”: the Waldorf Astoria, one of the most prestigious New York hotels in the world, will close after 86 years of service.

From Marilyn Monroe to Grace Kelly, from US President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) to Barack Obama (2009-2017), including all the leaders of the planet who came there for the UN Annual General Assembly: he establishment, opened on October 1, 1931 on Park Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, will have seen parade in its very select suites and even in its sumptuous toilets, Art Deco to the door handles, an extraordinary list of celebrities and powerful people of the world whole.

After 86 years – this is where 24-hour room service was invented – the hotel with more than 1,400 rooms, the largest in the world when it opened, is about to undergo a lifting Major: Chinese insurance company Anbang, which bought it from the Hilton chain in 2014 for $ 1.95 billion, is launching extensive renovations from March 1, which are expected to last at least two years.

No formal plan has been communicated, but a large part of the hotel is to be converted into luxury apartments, more profitable, with a series of shops on the ground floor, leaving only a small hotel part.

Listed since 1993 on the list of emblematic monuments of the city, such as the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge, the facade is not in danger. But the interior is not classified, and some are worried to see treasures, such as the great ballroom or the immense mosaic of the entrance, signed Louis Rigal, disappear forever, despite Anbang’s promises. to work with those responsible for heritage.

“I’m very, very sad,” says Donna Karpa, 70, who came from Washington for the weekend and used to the establishment since she was five.

“When I was little, we used to come with the family every year for Christmas: we went to see the (traditional for the holidays) Rockettes show and we went skating at Rockefeller Center,” she says enthusiastically. “It’s a great place and the location is wonderful!”

“A little dated”

Sandra Thomson, a Briton from Birmingham, leaves enchanted after six days spent at the hotel with family, for more than $ 1,700 spent without regret in honor of her daughter’s 18th birthday. “We absolutely loved it: I love the architecture, everything Art Deco, the history … He’s such an icon of America, we really wanted to experience it.”

Beyond the admiration of passing customers, the 1,400 employees mainly remember the celebrities, from cinema, politics, sport or business, whom they frequented on a daily basis.

The recent visit of actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, one of Hollywood’s most glamorous couples before the announcement of their separation in 2016, is still in everyone’s mind. But everyone has their favorite memory.

Michael Romei, head concierge of the 42-story “tower”, a hotel within the hotel with the most luxurious suites, has lost count of the celebrities crossed in 23 years of service. His best memory? “To have met the Dalai Lama, and to have been blessed by the Dalai Lama”.

“It’s a great place to work,” says Paul Hopkins, a bellboy for 12 years. “Just in the elevator you can meet a lot of famous people, all presidents, business leaders, all those who are part of the” 1% “” of the richest people in the world, he says.

Some, like Ivona, hostess at the Peacock Alley restaurant, nevertheless point out that Barack Obama’s decision in 2015 to no longer stay at the Waldorf Astoria and no longer accommodate American diplomats there, following the takeover of Anbang, was a “slap in the face.” For the hotel.

And employees and customers alike readily recognize that it was time to refresh it.

“I love nostalgia,” says Ron Ruth, an aeronautical engineer who came from San Francisco for his wedding anniversary. “But everything is a bit dated: the heating, the ventilation, and the bathroom is really too small for my wife!”

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