New York is dazzled by its first luxury hotel

NYC’s first luxury hotel. The Astor House. The entire 19th Century was people building uptown and being told it was folly.

Ephemeral New York

In 1836 Manhattan, houses were lit by candles. Floors were generally made out of wood. Private bathrooms? Decades away.

Astorhouse1874nypl

Yet all of these things could be had at the Astor House (above, in 1874), the city’s first luxury hotel, at Broadway between Vesey and Barclay Streets.

Built by multimillionaire John Jacob Astor, this 360-room granite palace dazzled New Yorkers, few of whom had the means to spend a night there or dine in the hotel’s for-men-only restaurant, enclosed under a rotunda in a center courtyard (below, in 1899).

Astorhouserotunda1899“It can never be a success—it is altogether too far uptown,” Astor’s associates warned him, forgetting the he was a real estate pro who foresaw the northward march of the city.

The hotel wasn’t just a huge success, it became an emblem of the growing Empire City.

And what amenities! An in-house gas plant provided gas lighting. A plumbing system offered…

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