23rd July 2018
The becoming of St. Regis Hotels.
In the year 1904, John Jacob Astor IV opened the first St. Regis hotel in New york. The Astor, with other members of New York high society, attended polo matches on a small island-Governors Island, dwelling off the coast of the island of Manhattan, along with polo players and enthusiast of the game often staying at the hotel more often.
The family property – worth about $6 billion in today’s dollars – was split among Jack and his first cousin William Waldorf Astor, who spent their share in suitably extravagant style. Both the men found themselves in a world full of glitzy marbled mansions, grand country estates, summers at Newport, social appeal, adorned balls and yachts (Jack’s 230-footer had the capacity to seat 60 in its dining saloon.)
As a ‘child born with a silver spoon’ he too inherited a vast fortune and a legendary name based in Manhattan’s real estate which involved thousands of buildings and miles of riverfront property. No family of an American City has owned so much as the Astors owned of New york.
Even though, growing up in neighbouring mansions on Fifth Avenue, the brothers didn’t have likings for each other. William was 16 years older with a belief in moral seriousness and he used to look down on his younger brother as an amatuere who wasted time on motor cars, parties and thoroughbreds.
As race drivers both of them started spending immensely by building luxury hotels after the death of their fathers in the early 1890s. They took over the large business empires and immediately tried to outshine the other.
The first blow was landed by William with the “Waldorf” soon after the death of his mother, he smacked down the family mansion to build the grandest hotel the world had ever cherished. It was being built right next door to the home of his cousin Jack and his aunt Caroline, a small , plump, noble woman who used to host the city’s most opulent and exclusive parties and cotillions in the magnificent ballroom of her mansion. The mansion stood royal with eighteen households servants clad in blue uniforms designed on royal livery, serving ten-course French dinners in plated made up of solid-gold.
It was when William ordered the engineers and construction workers begun to build the hotel, there was furiousness and anger raged inside Caroline and she eventually moved out of the mansion. However, the situation turned a little bitter after the completion of hotel in 1893. The hotel dwarfed her mansion and casted the garden into shade, and adding to the malice, it gave her a view of a 13-story brick wall.
The whole scenario enraged Jack and he decided to build a row of stables after demolishing the mansion, so the Waldorf would have horse dung to confront. When his advisers brought him to his cool, an ambitious scheme came into the mind of Jack: to build a comparative bigger hotel next door. A team of accountants and lawyers went back and forth and a truce was inked eventually. It allowed the two hotels to be connected by corridors. With 1000 rooms, a ballroom with seating capacity of 1500 people for a dinner dance, the Waldorf-Astoria was humongous and royal than any palace in entire Europe.
The desire to build and beautify luxury hotels was never new for the Astors. John Jacob Astor I, the founder of the dynasty had raised the family’s first in the year 1836 to honor his name and his exceptional wealth, which he created from absolute nothingness.