Logos Bookstore’s Recommendations
By H. Harris Healy, III, President, Logos Bookstore
1575 York Avenue (Between 83rd and
84th Sts.), New York, NY 10028
(212) 517-7292, Fax (212) 517-7197
When The Astors Owned New York:
Blue Bloods And Grand Hotels In A Gilded Age
Summertime is upon us, a time for many of vacations and leisure reading. One such enjoyable example is When The Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods And Grand Hotels In A Gilded Age by Justin Kaplan, The author’s careful rendering of the various different Astors’ personalities and their actions make this book read like a good novel.
From Waldorf, Germany to the New World, from being a butcher’s son to collecting fur pelts for trade to the proud owner of extensive real estate holdings and luxurious hotels in the USA, John Astor became very wealthy and possibly the USA’s first millionaire by the time of his death in 1848. His son, William Backhouse, protected and increased the Astor fortune, married into a native blue blood family, the Armstrongs, and with his wife produced three sons. One, Henry, married a farmer’s daughter and was ostracized by the family for marrying beneath his class. The other two, John Jacob III and William Backhouse, Jr. lived side by side in adjacent brownstone mansions on Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets. They shared offices in the family business, but did not get along well and this conflict continued with their sons.
The book’s main focus is on the two cousins, William Waldorf, son of John Jacob III and John Jacob IV, ‘Jack’, the Astor who went down with the Titanic, son of William Backhouse, Jr. and Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, the famous Mrs. Astor of the New York 400. A moving story within a story is that of William Waldorf, an avid art lover who as a youth on a trip to Italy fell in love with a young Italian, but was not allowed to marry her and was called back to his duties as an Astor heir in the USA. It was he who had the Waldorf Hotel of the original Waldorf-Astoria constructed on the site of his family mansion, where he grew up, between 33rd and 34th street on Fifth Avenue. His cousin, ‘Jack’ Astor joined in this venture by building the Astoria Hotel right next to the Waldorf in the same style, but seven stories higher. Both hotels remained there until demolished in 1929 to make way for the Empire State Building.
This book is well illustrated with wonderful black and white photographs of the original Waldorf-Astoria, as well as pictures of the Astors themselves and William Waldorf’s Cliveden estate in England.
During the month of August, Children’s Story Time with Dvorah will resume Monday, August 21, 2006 at 3 P.M. Celebrating 30 years of Logos bookstore there is an ongoing sale.#