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Building an Icon

A Waldorf Story by Kevin Ryan

My father, Thomas W. Ryan, was the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Thompson-Starrett Company, the construction firm that built the Waldorf. They literally built the skyline of New York! They basically invented what it took to actually build a skyscraper. It was an undertaking in and of itself to actually build this hotel because they said that it was built on a scale bigger than any other hotel around the world. It took up an entire block. Think of the nature of the building itself and the Art Deco quality, which is on such a high level in terms of refinement, in terms of quality of materials, in terms of design, and in terms of all of the artisan work. The idea that they could actually put this together, design this, and build it in that period of time - I think it was an extraordinary achievement. We stayed at the Waldorf on my wedding night. My entire family came in from all over the country and this was something that my mother did to honor her late husband. She said “This is really important, you’re getting married, you’re here in New York, so we’re staying at the Waldorf.”

Whenever I was there, I was just coming through giving a nod to my dad. It’s very emotional for me because of what he had done and what he accomplished. It was an American story, it was an American dream story, and it was an immigrant story. This has been a touchstone for my family for so long. It’s personal to me in so many ways and the Waldorf will always remain special. I am so looking forward to the Waldorf reopening. The idea that my father was involved with something on that level, that had such history, that had such presence. This is not the stuff of my daily life. This is the stuff of legend.