The “Waldorf O’Storia”
Meaning “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes” in Gaelic, Ireland’s native language, the term “C’ead Mile Failte” (pronounced “kad meel-a fall-sha”) could not be more fitting for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel! For over a century, we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to stay with us, whether for a few nights or for a few years. In regards to our connection with Ireland, the most significant “Failte” dates back to the year 1919.
On the evening of June 23, 1919, Eamon de Valera, the first President of Ireland, arrived at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on 34th Street and 5th Avenue to begin his campaign for the cause of Ireland’s independence from Great Britain. Upon entering the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, “a fresh round of applause broke out among those politely sipping tea in the hotel lobby as the exotic new guest and his growing entourage strode past towards the elevator, on their way to the roof-top to pose for photographs” (Dave Hannigan, De Valera in America). These photographs would become some of the most famous taken during his entire 18-month long campaign across the United States. Our original hotel became known as the “Irish White House” because his suite on the 11th floor was used as his head-quarters with all messages and telegrams being cabled through to this suite.
It is worth mentioning that his travel to the States was a daunting task to carry out. Two weeks prior to coming to the United States, he escaped a British-operated jail and boarded the SS Lapland as a stow away under the watch of his trusted friends Barney Downes and Dick O’Neill. Eamon De Valera was serving a sentence for his involvement in the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland and escaped jail in order to help the Irish cause. His trip to America would help “launch his crusade to improve Ireland’s circumstances” (Dave Hannigan, De Valera in America).
Although the location of our hotel moved from 5th Avenue to Park Avenue, our Irish “heritage” continues to live on. In 1982, the Waldorf Astoria was (unofficially) renamed the “Waldorf O’Storia” to ring in a week-long celebration of Irish heritage in our great City of New York. From March 10-17, Irish step-dancers, music, food and cocktails were organized as a way to show our guests and visitors to New York our appreciation of New York’s Irish History.
How will you be celebrating this St. Patrick’s Day weekend? If you are in New York City, please do stop by to visit! For more information, please visit our archive website at www.waldorfarchive.org!
Have a happy and a healthy St. Patrick’s Day!
– Erin Allsop, Archivist of The Waldorf Astoria New York
Erin is a graduate student in the Masters program of Library and Information Science at CUNY – Queens College, where she is focusing her studies on Archival Management and Preservation. You may contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries or questions you may have.