When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age

This newest book by Pulitzer Prize winner Justin Kaplan is a sparkling combination of biography, social history, architectural appreciation, and pure pleasure Endowed with the largest private fortunes of their day, two heirs of arch capitalist John Jacob Astor battled with each other for social primacy William Waldorf Astor born 1848 and his cousin John Jacob Astor IVThis newest book by Pulitzer Prize winner Justin Kaplan is a sparkling combination of biography, social history, architectural appreciation, and pure pleasure Endowed with the largest private fortunes of their day, two heirs of arch capitalist John Jacob Astor battled with each other for social primacy William Waldorf Astor born 1848 and his cousin John Jacob Astor IV born 1864 led incomparably privileged lives in the blaze of public attention Novelist, sportsman, and inventor, John Jacob went down with the Titanic, after turbulent marital adventures and service in the Spanish American War Collector of art, antiquities, and stately homes, William Waldorf became a British subject and acquired the title of Viscount Astor In New York during the 1890s and after, the two feuding Astors built monumental grand hotels, chief among them the original Waldorf Astoria on lower Fifth Avenue The Astor hotels transformed social behavior Home of the chafing dish and the velvet rope, the Waldorf Astoria drew the rich, famous, and fashionable It was the setting for the most notorious society event of the era a costume extravaganza put on by its hosts during a time of widespread need and unemployment The celebrity packed lobbies, public rooms, lavish suites, and exclusive restaurants of the grand hotels became distinctive theaters of modern life.
When the Astors Owned New York Blue Bloods Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age This newest book by Pulitzer Prize winner Justin Kaplan is a sparkling combination of biography social history architectural appreciation and pure pleasure Endowed with the largest private fortunes

  • Title: When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age
  • Author: Justin Kaplan
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 179
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • 1 thought on “When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age”

    1. This guy won a Pulitzer for his biography on Mark Twain, and obviously he decided to cash in on that prize and write a book just substantial enough to be reviewed by a few friendly authors and then dropped into a bookstore with a minimum of effort and research. I do, though, finally feel like I understand the impenetrable Astor family dynasty (the genealogy chart at the beginning certainly helped). Though Melville said John Jacob Astor's name "rings like unto bullion," he was born to a butcher i [...]

    2. I’m a historical voyeur. I enjoy looking back and seeing the way that people used to live in all walks of life. And of course a peak into the uber-rich’s lifestyle is always interesting. That is what drew my attention to this book.If you’re interested in historical New York hotels, why they were built, why they were destroyed, and a very little detail about the goings-ons in them back in the day, this book might almost be for you. If you are interested in ritzy New York generally from abou [...]

    3. I read this in conjunction with the first two books of The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen, in an effort to read both nonfiction and historical fiction about the same time period. It was very interesting! This book focuses on the lives of John Jacob Astor IV and his cousin, William Waldorf Astor, in the late 1800's to early 1900's. It specifically targeted the grand hotels that they created (Waldorf-Astoria, New Netherland, St. Regis, etc.) but also on their personal and social lives. It's a quick [...]

    4. I was disappionted in the lack of history about the Astors. It was more about their hotels than anything. The last chapter talks about what happened to the hotels/houses the Astors owned and not what happened to the Astors. The sentences are sometimes jumbled or in need of proper punctuation too. If you are looking for a good book about the Astor family, this is not it.

    5. This book seems to lack focus. It centers around just two Astors, not on the whole family as the title would suggest. It seems to want to focus on the hotels that John Jacob Astor IV and William Waldorf Astoria built and maintained, but the author jumps from describing a hotel belonging to the Astors to describing one of the Astors mentioned above to talking about hotels built in Florida that were also extravagant to talking about a party that was held at the Waldorf-Astoria. It was difficult to [...]

    6. Much to my family's annoyance, I read this on vacation and intermittently shared what I was learning about the Astors. (They politely nodded and resumed applications of sunscreen.) Author Justin Kaplan manages here to provide just enough entertaining details to make the book an engaging read straight through to the end. The Astors created a paradigm shift in innkeeping, leading to today's entire spectrum of hotels---from the Super 8/Motel 6/Red Roof/La Quinta/No Assembly Required genre along the [...]

    7. Lots of interesting information. However, the names are confusing (which is hardly the writer's fault) because apparently every new heir was given the same or similar name is the original Astor. Also, the chronology is bit off because it keeps going back to the same years in each different chapter to discuss the time in different ways so you keep hoping to move forward but don't. Over all, though it was good.Edit: On second thoughts, I'd rather nor be unfair. This book gives you a really nice pi [...]

    8. The Astor fortune was made in fur trading and augmented by real estate. Fourth-generation cousins William Waldorf Astor and John Jacob Astor III were essentially hoteliers, building ever-grander hotels in Manhattan. The cousins disliked one another. JJA perished on the Titanic. William disliked the U.S. and became a British citizen. Kaplan's very readable account is brisk and concentrates on the rival cousins and the hotels.

    9. I am at page 75 and bored out of my mind. . . who knew someone could make the Astors boring. Thus far, the book lacks a point of view and is merely a dry recitation of facts and quotes about the Astors. I am giving it another 25 or 30 pages before I throw in the towel! Well, I made it through it, but am left with a couple of factoids and very little information or perspective. SUCH a disappointment!

    10. The first chapter of this book leads the reader to believe it will be an interesting and alltogether different take on the Astors and the superrich at the turn of the century. Yet, it turns out to be a trite and rather boring rendition of the same old dusty facts.

    11. Book club bookA very wandering book. Never really seemed to focus--rather it was "check out this Astor story, now this one, and check out how much money they spent on parties"Very, very disappointing. Kept thinking of the better books of the genre, like Alva and Consuelo.

    12. Like a 19th-century People Magazine. A bit predictable at times ("see how lonely the super-wealthy man is despite his wealth" kind of predictable). But an enjoyable read and it certainly gives you a feel for the place and time.

    13. Although this book is relatively short, it seems that the author was often searching for things to talk about. There is a large amount of pages dedicated to talking about hotels. Surely there must have been more he could have said about the Astors.

    14. This book was beyond a disappointment; it was horrible, dry, and boring. I thought it would be a quick read because of its size but I forced myself to finish it through.

    15. This author is so smart. He's got a huge vocabulary. That's all I can say. If you want a list of facts on the Astor family and the hotel, wrapped in three and four syllable words, this book is for you. I was beyond bored and began to be irritated as this author used fifty words ( and 5000 letters) where five would have worked. There was very little information of interest and I felt like I was reading a combination encyclopedia/thesaurus. At the end of this long-winded tome, I realized that I re [...]

    16. Interesting information, but the authors throws out a lot of quick facts about individuals and properties, mainly hotels, and there's no in-depth look at characters. It's overloaded with facts with very little that actually tells the story of this family and very little to make the reader feel like they've gotten to know them. If you want an overview of what they owned, especially hotels, this is the book for you. If you want to learn more about the people and their lives, this isn't it.

    17. This is pretty much a history book, but it was interesting and I learned a lot about NYC and the hotel age. The Astor information was also very interesting (especially the Titanic connection).

    18. A reminder that there was a time in America when there were no Bermuda shorts on either men or women!

    19. Blue bloods and grand hotels in a gilded ageby Justin Kaplan181pghardcover★ ★ ★The family patriarch, John Jacob Astor, left the German village of Waldorf circa 1780 and started a fur-trading business in New York.He was the barely literate son of the village butcher.By the time of his death in 1848, he had become established in real estate and built the Astor Hotel on Broadway.He was the country's first millionaire, with a legacy of 20 to 30 million, mainly in Manhattan real estate."The lov [...]

    20. A very good biography of the Astor family as a unit, and as a family divided. Kaplan's writing is easy to follow, and he's done a great job of organizing the book chronologically, but also topically. Business, love, family dynamics and ego are the huge themes and each are given their own portion of the book, however they're woven together Asa narrative. Justice is done to the multi-faceted personalities. "The Mrs. Astor" isn't just a social maven, she's also portrayed as a piece of the business, [...]

    21. I had to read this book for a summer school course. I did enjoy this book, but was not that all impressed with it. Some of the issues I had with it is that there was SO MUCH descriptions about the hotels in great detail. I mean I compared it to the many times I need to BS my way through a history paper and I would describe something in a lot of detail. Plus I kept getting confused by all of the different names. There were so many Astor men named Jacob and I kept getting confused with which one w [...]

    22. When The Astors Owned New York by Justin KaplanThe Astors were the self appointed American aristocracy. There was nothing money could not buy for them. Their hotels, their New Port, RI "cottages", their Fifth Avenue mansions, were all overly ostentatiously over the top.The copious consumption left the underlings of America throwing stones at their barbarias upper class values. Unlike Andrew Carneige who generously funded libraries throughout small-town America, The Astors and The Vanderbilts sel [...]

    23. I loved this book. I always heard the name Astor and knew it was significant to the history of luxury american hotels in New York, but I did not know the whole history of the family. The book is a quick read and gives you some extra knowledge about the history of New York society and its equally fast changing city buildings. It touched on wealth, inheritance, and competition between cousins. It showed a somewhat similar view to any family dynamic, wealthy or not. Great choice if you just want to [...]

    24. The Astors were a family that significantly influences New York. Their power is flaunted through the naming of the neighborhood in, Astoria. The name was given to the area in hopes for John Astor to donate money which he eventually did nyc however never even setting foot in his investment. However the guided age was something w learned about in US history and the Astors were one of the richest families at the time. I thought his book was extremely informative and learned a lot. whoever i did not [...]

    25. I enjoyed the history of New York and the Astors that was spread throughout this book - but I was not thrilled with the writing. I think it might be something that could be chalked up to poor editing -- you hear about a term or nickname without any context, and then learn about it in more detail in a following chapter. And while I enjoyed how the book jumped back-and-forth in telling the stories of two different Astor heirs, it was at times difficult to follow, or confusing as it told about them [...]

    26. I picked up a copy of this book while visiting New York. It is a fast read. It is a quick history of 5 generations of the Astor family (most famous for the Waldorf-Astoria hotel), one of the wealthiest families in America and one of the biggest land owners in New York. The narrative is fairly high level lacking some of the detail that one might expect regarding the famed social gatherings. Nevertheless, the book was an interesting glimpse into New York's golden age and into the history of Americ [...]

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