The elegant hotel that helped make Times Square

Before 1904, the year the Hotel Astor opened its doors on Broadway and 44th Street, Times Square hasn’t been invented yet; this was still Longacre Square, the center of the carriage trade.

The theater district was concentrated many blocks south. And electric lights had yet to give the area its signature glow.

Change was in the air. Within the decade, the newly renamed Times Square was on its way to becoming New York’s premier entertainment district.

And the Beaux-Arts Hotel Astor—with its 11 floors and several ballrooms—quickly earned a rep as the most fashionable place to go for dinner, drinks, dancing, or to catch a rooftop breeze in the summer before air conditioning came along.

But tastes change. The Astor was sold to Sheraton in the 1950s; a fire ripped through its grand ballroom (right, in 1910) in 1964.

On the site now is a 54-story office tower called One Astor Plaza—the Astor name is its only link to the glitz and glamour of pre-World War II Times Square.

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14 Responses to “The elegant hotel that helped make Times Square”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    LBJ used it as his campaign headquarters when he ran for president. I went in the hotel one time because a beautiful girl, my age in her early teens, was handing out buttons and fliers. That’s all I ever got from her, an LBJ flier. In a year or so they torn the hotel down. LBJ was president, the country was deep in the Vietnam War.

  2. aspicco Says:

    why is it addressed one astor plaza? it’s already in times square. born & raised in NYC and i hate hate hate all the plaza pretentiousness

  3. r185 Says:

    I always remember it because Ben Grauer would report from the Astor Hotel roof on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop. For years after the hotel came down, on NYE we’d joke “where’s Ben?”

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    One Astor Plaza is pretentious, yes. And it’s where MTV’s TRL was broadcast through the 90s and 00s….

  5. wordgrl Says:

    I attended a Rolling Stones press conference there (around ’64) when they stayed there. I think the Paramount was on that block, where my mom watched Frank Sinatra back in her day.

    • mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

      Now that you mention it it was at the Paramount where LBJ held his rallies. I went crawling all through the Paramount and the Astor Hotel after this girl, which I never got anyway. Whew, those were some days.

  6. Rosalind Katz Says:

    I just completed Edward Rutherfurd’s historical novel titled New York. It begins after the Dutch settlement in lower Manhattan and ends following 9/11/2001. In this book he includes a story about the Astor hoel and how it came to be. The development of NYC is fascinating.

  7. focusoninfinity Says:

    I have kin in Charlotte, N.C., who’s father was the late Sol Yaeger. They tell me Sol’s dad was known as,”the Jew who lit-up Broadway”.
    I asked if he wrote plays or cast productions? They said no, he made signs. My guess is neon signs? Can you tell me anything about the sign-maker “Jew that lit-up Broadway”? I mentioned him here because you mention the theater district and the advent of electric lighting.

  8. T.J. Connick Says:

    The July 14, 1909 New York Herald covered the opening of the roof garden:

    “The Belvedere restaurant, on the roof of the addition to the Hotel Astor, was opened last night. It is the first all the year round roof restaurant to be opened in the city. The Belvedere restaurant, with the gardens which occupy the remainder of the roof of the Hotel Astor, is the largest roof garden in the world…

    “The new roof garden contains, in addition to the Belvedere restaurant, the rose garden, palm garden, and a promenade a quarter of a mile in extent overlooking every section of the city. An ice making machine, which produces an iceberg weighing nine tons and is used to cool the roof, is a novel feature of the equipment. There is also a flag gallery, containing the flags of all the nations. These flags will be flown one by one from the top of the steel flagstaff, which weights two tons, and two electric searchlights will bathe them in brilliance.

    “In the winter the Belvedere restaurant will be enclosed in glass and will serve as a solarium. The roof as now enlarged has room for five thousand persons and covers an area equal to twenty-eight city lots.”

  9. wildnewyork Says:

    Great find TJ. I’d love to see the nine-ton iceberg that cooled the roof!

  10. The Hotel Astor’s Valentine’s Day menu in 1906 « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] here’s the menu, from the new, posh Hotel Astor in Times Square, and it’s quite extensive. Roast squab on toast, beef mignon, ice cream, and something called […]

  11. Colorful poster stamp images of an older city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Hippodrome, once on Sixth Avenue at 43rd Street, is gone, and Times Square’s opulent Astor Hotel no longer exists […]

  12. 1920s skyscrapers towering over Times Square | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] “Among the best known are the Times Building, the Bush Terminal Building, recently completed Loew’s State Theatre, and the famous Hotel Astor on Broadway.” […]

  13. oldpoet56 Says:

    Reblogged this on Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world.

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