On the Lexington Avenue side of Manhattan’s famous Waldorf Astoria hotel is the exclusive private Marco Polo club lounge. Next to it is the site of the salon where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had her famous bob cut. During renovations to the hotel in the 1990s, something extraordinary was found hidden in the walls between the club and the salon.
No one knows exactly who put it there or why, but buried away was a secret treasure trove: the forgotten archives of the historic luxury hotel, which has been host to royalty, the Hollywood elite, and every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover since its opening in the 1890s.
The archive is comprised of vintage postcards, menus, cocktail lists, ledgers, photographs, and bellhop uniforms, giving remarkable insight into this most glittering of institutions. For anyone interested in the forgotten glamor of old New York, it’s an incredible find.
Today, the physical archive lives in a bespoke office in the hotel. Piece by piece, the archive is also making its way online. One of the highlights is the collection of old menus and drinks lists; impeccably illustrated in the Art Deco style, they give a flavor of what the well-heeled patrons of the Jazz Age were enjoying in between dances in the hotel ballrooms. Whether you would like to look up photographs of Herbert Hoover dining in the Empire Room, or what a cocktail menu from the Bull and Bear bar looked like in 1960, the collection is there to be explored.
Update February 2018: The Waldorf is currently closed for renovation and turning into a condo.