Restoring the Waldorf Astoria’s Iconic Clock Was No Easy Task

It took a year to get it fully restored

Waldorf Astoria lobby
The lobby of the Waldorf Astoria.
Alan Light, CC BY 2.0

New York’s Waldorf Astoria is one of the most famous hotels in the country, if not the world. It’s a place where the famous, wealthy and powerful have found a home away from home since its current space first opened almost a century ago. But the hotel has also been in the midst of a large-scale renovation for the last four and a half years — as CNN notes, it’s a task that’s involved restoring some spaces to their original look and feel and updating others.

When there’s this much history in a space, though, there’s more than a little care that needs to be taken when working on some features within it. In a new article at Atlas Obscura, April White focused on one very specific task carried out as part of the Waldorf Astoria’s restoration: bringing the 11-foot-tall clock that’s long called the hotel’s lobby home back up to speed.

The clock has a fascinating history that predates the hotel — it was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1893 as a gift for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After that, John Jacob Astor IV purchased it and placed it in the lobby of the original Waldorf-Astoria; when that hotel relocated and shed its hyphen, the clock followed.

The article details the work done by Nigel Thomas and Stair Restoration, who spent a year working on undoing the effects of 125 years’ worth of wear and tear. That included everything from the removal of the clock’s bronze gilding to the theft of several animal heads from the clock over the years.

Once their work was completed, the clock was transported to the New York Historical Society, where it will reside until the rest of the renovations on the Waldorf Astoria are done. It’s one more home for a clock that’s had a few — albeit a temporary one.

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