Then and Now: Peacock Alley

Sketch entitled "Ghosts in Peacock Alley - the Waldorf Passes" by Rollin Kirby

Then and Now: Peacock Alley

Peacock Alley has long been associated with the history of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and New York society. The glamorous, 300-foot marble corridor of our original hotel once connected the Palm Room and the Empire Room restaurants; people who lived in New York or who came to the city insisted upon walking at least once through the “Alley” – every day was Easter Sunday there. Today, our Peacock Alley restaurant still remains a place to see and be seen. To officially kick off our new series, “Then and Now”, this post will focus on the history and evolution of Peacock Alley from a famous marble corridor to a famous five star dining location.

When the Astoria Hotel officially opened its doors in November of 1897, George C. Boldt, the hotel’s proprietor, knew that the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel could not exist as two separate entities; after all, they were right next door to one another! It took much convincing, on behalf of Boldt, for John Jacob Astor IV (owner of the Astoria) to allow his hotel to be connected with the Waldorf Hotel, which was owned by his cousin and rival, William Waldorf Astor. It was agreed that the two hotels would become connected by a marble corridor which could easily be sealed in case another family feud were to flare up.

Peacock Alley of the Original Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Peacock Alley of the Original Waldorf Astoria Hotel

For nearly thirty-two years (1897-1929), over 25,000 people would “strut” in the latest fashions finishing their meals at the lavish Palm Room on a daily and nightly basis. Even more patrons would crowd into the corridor if a Prince, Diplomat or King was staying in the hotel (which was always likely). One evening, a guest remarked that the corridor seemed like an alley of Peacocks which a news reporter overheard and picked up the label “Peacock Alley”. The name stuck and the rest is history.

Sketch entitled "Ghosts in Peacock Alley - the Waldorf Passes" by Rollin Kirby

Sketch entitled “Ghosts in Peacock Alley – the Waldorf Passes” by Rollin Kirby

By the time the Waldorf Astoria Hotel relocated and opened its doors on Park Avenue in 1931, it was obvious to Lucius Boomer (the President of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Corporation) that Peacock Alley had to move to Park Avenue as well. Located in what is today known as our West Lobby, Peacock Alley was recreated as a corridor of French walnut burl inlaid with ebony and featured various vitrines to showcase the latest fashions of jewelry and clothing of the day. Perpendicular to the new “Alley”, on the 50th Street side of the main lobby, was the Peacock Alley Cafes and the South Lounge. It was here in the café and lounge where guests could enjoy small plates with tea, coffee or a cocktail.

Blue Prints of the Waldorf Astoria Lobby, c. 1940s. Peacock Alley is highlighted in red.

Blue Prints of the Waldorf Astoria Lobby, c. 1940s. Peacock Alley is highlighted in red.

Over time, Peacock Alley has evolved into the Five Star Restaurant that it is today. Situated just north of our famous Clock, Peacock Alley enables guests to dine in an atmosphere both gracious and serene, yet continue to be surrounded by all the excitement that characterizes The Waldorf Astoria’s Main Lobby. On September 7th, 2014, our famous brunch will be returning to Peacock Alley where offerings will focus on seasonal products, especially ingredients from the hotel’s rooftop garden and Top of the Waldorf Honey. Our honey is produced just 20 floors above guests enjoying this unforgettable dining experience, which also pays homage to the hotel’s culinary history as the birthplace of American staples such as eggs Benedict, Waldorf salad, and Red Velvet cake. For more information on Peacock Alley, you may call (212) 872-1275 or visit www.peacockalleyrestaurant.com

 

Take a moment to enjoy viewing photos included below of Peacock Alley over the last century…

Peacock Alley, 1931

Peacock Alley, 1931

 

 

Postcard featuring Peacock Alley, 1940s

Postcard featuring Peacock Alley, 1940s

 

A festive dance after a delicious meal in the Peacock Lounge.

A festive dance after a delicious meal in the Peacock Lounge.

 

Peacock Alley Lounge and Cafes, c. 1950s

Peacock Alley Lounge and Cafes, c. 1950s

 

 

Entrance to Peacock Alley (in main lobby), c. 1960s

Entrance to Peacock Alley (in main lobby), c. 1960s

 

 

Alice and her friends in Peacock Alley, 1959

Alice and her friends in Peacock Alley, 1961

 

 

Peacock Alley Cocktail Waitresses, 1971

Peacock Alley Cocktail Waitresses, 1971

 

 

Peacock Alley, 1980s

Peacock Alley, 1980s

 

 

A Display for Sunday Brunch, early 2000s - except an even better menu on September 7th!

A Display for Sunday Brunch, early 2000s – expect an even better menu on September 7th!

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Allsop, Archivist of the Waldorf Astoria New York

EA

@WaldorfNYC    http://www.waldorfarchive.org

Erin is a graduate student in the Masters program of Library and Information Science at the City University of New York – Queens College, where she is focusing her studies on Archival Management and Preservation. You may contact her by email at erin.allsop@waldorfastoria.com with any inquiries or questions you may have.