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September 05, 2012

Waldorf Astoria Grants Amnesty to Past “Sticky Fingers”

By Erin Schumaker | Hotel

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Photo courtesy of The Waldorf Astoria New York

The Waldorf Astoria has long been known for its star-studded soirées, attracting myriad celebrities and socialites over the last 80 years. Black-and-white photographs in the hotel’s archive show Dina Merrill and George Burns in the Grand Ballroom, Sophia Loren receiving an award during the annual Columbus Day Parade dinner and other elegant memories. But this summer the Waldorf dipped back into history to remember a different sort of guest. During its amnesty program, which continues through September 15, those who may have filched hotel property prior to 1960 are encouraged to return the items—no questions asked. The most interesting finds will be put on display in the historical Host to the World gallery near the main lobby.

“We’re using the term ‘amnesty’ loosely,” says Matt Zolbe, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “We’re using it as much for the bad-boy aspect of it as anything else.” In reality, the project is less concerned with recovering lost hotel property and more interested in documenting history. “We want to capture items that someday might be symbolic of the evolution of the service industry and build out our existing museum,” says Zolbe.

The returns thus far have been intriguing, including:

  • A wooden-handled coffeepot, stolen by a newlywed on his honeymoon night in 1938. The young couple had no money but decided to splurge on a hotel room at the Waldorf.
  • A wine coaster, taken by a bachelor who ran with New York’s high-society crowd in the 1930s. Apparently this particular piece had been repurposed—it was returned to the Waldorf with a note, identifying it as an ashtray.
  • A silver spoon, returned by a woman from Austin, Texas. The woman’s mother and her friends were in the habit of dining in fancy restaurants and then getting their silverware “to go.”

Items can be returned to the hotel (to the attention of the hotel archivist) through September 15; 301 Park Ave.; 212-355-3000; waldorfnewyork.com.

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