Hotel Astor, New York City, N.Y.
1515 Broadway at Times Square (on the west side of 7th Ave between 44th and 45th streets
Meher Baba stayed here in 1931
The building was demolished in 1967 for an office tower
Robert Norwood came to see Baba at the Astor Hotel in New York on
November 24, 1931. Norwood, a doctor
of theology, had lost faith in orthodox religion, and had opened a new church. He spoke with Baba at length (this is part of the transcript):
Baba: Love is the only real religion. People are now tired of theories, doctrines and principles. They want the real thing, which explanations can never give. They must feel Truth, see Truth and experience Truth. Only then can one find harmony with everything and everyone. Only then can one, though remaining in the world, not be of it. I am eternally happy. I see my own self in everyone and everything.
Norwood: Do you preach any specific precepts, or do you belong to any particular creed?
Baba: None, absolutely. Religions, castes, sects, dogmas and rituals are all hindrances in the path of Truth. Truth is all-pervading and infinite. I do not teach anything. I make the learned forget. I have come, not to teach, but to awaken.
Norwood: Is going to church of any help?
Baba: Yes, to a certain extent - not much though. The church that advocates and nourishes sectarianism renders no help. All true churches, temples and mosques are for all. To attain the Truth, no obstacle should be put in anyone's way, such as present-day religions and cults do.
Norwood: Yes, it is true. At first I was active in a Christian church, but because I was in search of a religion of the heart, I left it. Now religion and sectarianism do not appeal to me. I have always been sure that there is something higher than religion.
Baba: Exactly. I frequently repeat the same thing. I am preparing the way for people so that they will be able to live a life of Truth. There is no religion higher than love. Love is the only way leading to Truth and God-realisation. Mind and intellect provide only superficial understanding. It is dry knowledge. One should try to see God and experience him. The first thing is reality, the second is unity. Love is truly a shortcut in the long path toward achieving God-realisation. It is the quickest way.
A few days later, Baba sent Robert Norwood this message:
"You will know me. I have seen many, all of whom were also deeply impressed, but I find you to be one who can do my work to a great extent. Rest assured that I will come back and speak. I am here to make all mankind realise, by actual experience, the one infinite self who is in all."
In 1905, according to Scenes from Modern New York, London was more populous and Paris had finer art and architecture, but it was supremecy in commerce and ingenuity that made New York City the greatest city in the world. New York was already the financial capitol of the world, and that money, along with desire—the desire of the American to best Europe and the desire of the European immigrant to succeed as an American— created the American city.
To the American mind the best expression of these desires and successes was through commercial means: castles on the Hudson, grand public buildings in European styles, palatial hotels. Europe scoffed at the idea that an American idiom existed, as seemingly did the American elite who merely tried to implant the best of Europe into the figurative and, in the west, literal desert, creating oases, or perhaps mere mirages, of all that was deemed to signify culture. It was amidst this atmosphere that the Hotel Astor was designed and built.
But something else was happening at the same time, what one might call the future: elevated trains and subways, electricity and waterworks, skyscrapers. Skyscrapers: The 22-story New York Times Building goes up on the same block at the same time as the Astor, the 22-story Hanover Bank Building in 1901, the 32-story Park Row Building is the highest in the world; transitional buildings that reflect the old-style while pointing to a new that would dominate by merely two decades after the Astor was built.
This new machine-driven, reinforced-concrete, steel-barred aesthetic would soon make the Astor and its brethren seem like quaint anomolies, the genteel uncle that had personal recollections of the Civil War, didn't trust automobiles, and refused to call Longacre Square anything but Longacre Square.
And yet despite all our focus on progress and the future, and perhaps our wishes to the contrary, those uncles—the past—still exist and must be dealt with, just as Indians were still a real presence in New York even as the Astor was being built and the Indian Grill Room was marking the passing of its subject.
With its enormous public rooms and an elaborate roof garden, the Astor Hotel was seen as a successor to the Waldorf-Astoria, from which architects Charles W. Clinton (1838-1910) and William H. Russell (1854-1907) borrowed much of its style
The beautiful Astor Hotel was replaced by One Astor Plaza, a hideous tall office tower.
Fur trader John Jacob Astor arrived in New York City in 1784 and soon began to invest in
Manhattan real estate. One of his first purchases, the 70 acre Eden Farm, occupied what is today 41st to 48th Streets, from Broadway to Eleventh Avenue. In 1904, Astor’s descendants erected the
Astor Hotel on the west side of Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets, when the area was emerging as the theater district and electric light transformed this strip of Broadway into the "Great
White Way." With its enormous public rooms and an elaborate roof garden, the Astor Hotel was seen as a successor to the Waldorf-Astoria, from which architects Charles W. Clinton (1838-1910) and
William H. Russell (1854-1907) borrowed much of its style.
Hawley’s rendering—which was executed after construction had begun in March of 1902—was reproduced as a chromolithograph for posters advertising the September 1904 opening of the hotel. The Astor was demolished in 1967 to accommodate the march of progress—1515 Broadway, a 50 story office tower.