The Gilded Age was ushered in a few years before Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner coined the phrase in their 1873 novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. Over the next five decades, the United States experienced a “Gilded Age” unprecedented industrial and economic growth and saw its global stature rise exponentially. Titans of industry amassed great fortunes, and this sudden influx of wealth led to the construction of exceptionally lavish mansions and other extravagant residential and commercial buildings in New York and other U.S. cities. Designs from the Gilded Age paid considerable attention to the active social lives of elite New Yorkers of the day, using lavish materials and generous spatial proportions to create grand, inviting spaces, and elevate every room to new heights of luxury and purpose. Architects took their inspiration from the designs of wealthy European nations such as France and Great Britain, whom the United States had joined on the international stage.
Since the abrupt halt to the Gilded Age with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and despite noble preservation efforts through the years, relics from the period have grown exceedingly rare. Today, luxury residences of the Gilded Age are highly desirable. The lobby of The Astor, a stunning Upper West Side apartment building originally constructed in 1901, provides at least one example of meticulous preservation and renovation efforts designed to ensure that a glorious piece of New York City’s Gilded Age remains intact.
The Astor is a vibrant example of Gilded Age artistry. The recent restoration project by HFZ Capital Group has included the installation of bright bronze doors that lead into the lobby, where the size and utter magnificence of the space provide further enchantment. The attention to detail within every inch of the lobby is something rarely seen these days. Finishes by design firm Pembrooke & Ives are impossibly precise, indicating that the sheer level of work required by this project was astounding. The concierge desk alone is a massive piece of luminous marble, imbued with the confidence and majesty of the Gilded Age. The bronze doors are subtly underscored throughout with inlays and accents, and two lion countenances border the marble fireplace.
The original mosaic tile work of the lobby of The Astor has been painstakingly preserved, creating results that are perhaps the most impressive aspect of the massive room. Not only do the tiles add a pop of color, but their patterns of cascading and unraveling floral designs make the lobby feel warm and welcoming. Everything from the crown molding to the preserved iron balustrades that wind up the staircase create an inviting – rather than stuffy – elegance to be enjoyed by everyone who enters The Astor. The historic building’s restoration has involved careful considerations for both the traditional and the contemporary in order to bring to life Gilded Age luxury suited for the modern age.