New York Times Review
Peacock Alley, which was open to anyone who looked rich and powerful and wanted to display appropriate plumage, was built partly on the site of the least accessible and most coveted society showplace in New York:
Caroline Schermerhorn Astor’s ballroom, which could hold about 400 guests, giving rise to the “Four Hundred” — those who received her invitations — and restricting high society to that number.
As the story goes, a feud arose between Mrs. Astor and her nephew and Fifth Avenue neighbor, William Waldorf Astor, who felt that if anyone was going to be society’s doyenne, it ought to be his wife, not his aunt. He built the Waldorf, a 13-story hotel that dwarfed his aunt’s mansion. When rumors started flying that Mrs. Astor might replace her house with an even bigger hotel, agents of the two Astors got together and agreed on a joint hotel. Its two separate parts were connected by corridors and a hyphen: the Waldorf-Astoria, with its long, very fashionable social promenade.
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