The Astor family’s name has been synonymous with American success for hundreds of years, influencing the very shape of New York City through their legacy of real estate development. Born in 1763 in Walldorf, Germany, patriarch John Jacob Astor was America’s first multimillionaire, a former fur trader who developed a knack for the real estate business and quickly scooped up some of Manhattan’s most valuable parcels of land. John Jacob Astor purchased his first piece of real estate in Manhattan at just 26 years old, continuing to add to his collection until his death at age 84. At 40 years old, Astor purchased 70 acres of central Manhattan real estate running from 42nd and 46th Streets between Broadway and the Hudson River.
Eventually, the Astor family’s ever-growing portfolio of properties, which includes original New York icons like the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, established them as the largest landowners in the city.
While the Astor family was most famous for their contributions to the residential real estate world and the city’s hotels, their influence is still felt today throughout the city’s most famous public spaces and in towns and cities across the country. John Jacob Astor was instrumental in the creation of the central branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd street, and everything from the Astoria neighborhood in Queens to Astor Place in the East Village bears his name today. The family is also the namesake for towns dubbed Astor and Astoria from Florida to Oregon, and their presence is notably felt in New York’s Dutchess County, where the family’s Ferncliff estate is located. In the small Dutchess County town of Rhinebeck, streets, stores, and the Astor Courts, once a recreation facility built for the family and now a wedding venue where celebrities including Chelsea Clinton have tied the knot, are all named after the Astor clan.
The Astor family’s legacy continues today with the creation of The Astor, a luxury development on the Upper West Side. The trifecta of grey brick towers, each topped with an ornate cornice, have been alluring artifacts since their expansion in 1914, but it was only recently that new life was breathed into them. Under the helm of Pembrooke & Ives, the building has retained its Gilded Age grandeur, from the mosaic tile flooring to the plaster crown moldings in the attended lobby, which also coffers concierge service and cold storage. The building has also been updated to suit the needs of its modern-day residents, now boasting amenities like a fitness center, private storage space, bike parking, and more. Each home has been artfully redone to accommodate details like living room fireplaces, wide plank white oak flooring, 10-foot ceilings, open-concept eat-in kitchens, marble master baths, double white oak vanities, polished nickel fittings from Lefroy Brooks, and massive windows overlooking the neighborhood.
Hundreds of years after it began, the Astor family’s legacy shines no less brightly today than it did during the heyday of John Jacob Astor. The Astor family’s original influence can be felt everywhere from storied institutions, like the modern-day St. Regis Hotel and The Astor, to numerous other buildings in New York that still bear their name today.