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Remember the Waldorf-Astoria before it closes Wednesday with these stunning photos

Written by
Samantha Ferraro

The Waldorf-Astoria, one of the most legendary hotels in the world, is closing for renovations for 2-3 years on Wednesday in order to be partially converted to luxury condos. Photographer Samantha Ferraro has a look back at the iconic space.

In 2012, I photographed my first indoor wedding ceremony that didn't involve a holy church or temple. The couple was coming from the UK to elope with both sets of their parents. They actually contacted me through Flickr and wanted some images to remember both their time in Manhattan as well as their elopement itself to take place at The Waldorf-Astoria. 

This hotel, after almost 86 years in its current location, is now shutting its doors for renovations so that many of its units can be converted to luxury condos. Many of the interior spaces are set to be landmarked, but the soul of what once embodied this space will be put to rest. 

Lauren and Owen were one of the first couples who gave me the feeling that they trusted me completely, and wanted me to create something beautiful with them. Our relationship was solidified during their extremely emotional wedding ceremony on the 39th floor of the Waldorf Towers in a private suite. The most spiritual Reverend Annie Lawrence presided, and she created a beautiful space. Afterwards, the hotel staff brought an assortment of handcrafted appetizers while everyone took a moment to congratulate the couple. They toasted champagne and we headed downstairs for a few portraits in the lobby.

The other evening it was unseasonably warm for February so I took a stroll down to the hotel which is shutting its doors this upcoming Wednesday. There were the usual tourists to whom this closure may mean nothing. There were also others, like me, wandering aimlessly. We nodded to each other, as if in a time warp where we could foresee the hotel’s impending demise while also reliving past experiences in the space. Some were even filming themselves on their iPhones, talking about all of the history that is attached to this building. 

I wandered as far as the hallways would let me, past framed prints of moments that had happened throughout the building’s history. Presidents visiting, celebrity newlyweds walking through the doors, balls fit for a Queen, New Year’s Eve celebrations. So many wonderful memories. I kept taking photos because there was nothing tangible to grasp. Images were the only thing I could take with me (unless I wanted to purchase the revolving doors selling on eBay for $40k!) Boxes were being packed up, shelves left dusty and used, lights in the glass units that lined the hallways still glowing.

I thought of all the wonderful moments that have happened in this place, and how those moments contribute to the bright light that are these iconic spaces. The Waldorf-Astoria was the tallest and largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1931. President Hoover even addressed its immensity in a radio broadcast all the way from the White House. The bright energy that was created on these grounds—from the myriad of notables walking through its doors to the wonderful personal milestones that occurred—has created a vast bank of memories that, no matter what happens next, will serve as a threshold to how grandeur and luxury are truly defined. While the light that was created may be dimming, it will never quite darken completely, and will always be burning bright in this die hard New Yorker’s heart.

When I left the hotel onto a now chillier Park Avenue I realized I'd been inside over an hour. I was sad to let it go, but glad to have paid my last respects. The beauty of images is that with them, the Waldorf will never truly die. It will be remembered as it was, people from all over quietly bustling in and out. The soft piano music coming from the lobby while couples with their legs crossed together whisper to each other. The staff of forty years serving cocktails in the dark wooden bar.

It is and always will be, larger than, and full of, life.

 Photographs: Samantha Lauren Photographie

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