Museum Hack was recently approached by the soon-to-open, brand-new and yet-so-old Knickerbocker Hotel. They asked us to hack their hotel and, as you can probably imagine, we jumped at the opportunity!
After all, this is what we love! We love history. We love learning about the insane going-ons of those who came before us, especially in some of the storied buildings here in New York City.
The Knickerbocker Hotel first opened in 1906 at the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway by John Jacob Astor IV (yes, THOSE Astors) at a time of major prosperity in New York. The Knickerbocker was meant to showcase the finest in luxury and wealth in a city that was getting fancier and fancier. Unfortunately, it closed just fifteen years later due to… you guessed it… financial decline. Nevertheless, its reputation of glamor and glitz far surpassed itself. The Knickerbocker Hotel was and now is again, an amazing gilded age/pre-jazz age swanky palace where the fanciest, naughtiest, sexiest and wealthiest people came out to drink. As you can imagine, we think it has Museum Hack written allll over it!
The Knickerbocker Hotel re-opened just this past February and we were there to help it launch into New York Society like the grand dame that she is. Our creative and innovative guides delved straight into the sordid and dazzling past of the building and its people (and animals) with access granted by the current Knickerbocker Hotel’s General Manager, Jeff.
During the hotel’s renovation, Ethan, Kate and Harry got access to parts of the building that still aren’t open to the public, but yet retain elements of the original hotel. The incredible stories that they discovered were then shared with the enthusiastic staff of the hotel, from doormen to kitchen staff to concierges, in an hour-long romp through the building.
After what can only be called the GREATEST New York tour ever, Ethan and Kate led a workshop with the staff to arm them with the tools they needed to do their own research and construct their own stories to wow and dazzle their impending guests.
So you might be wondering: ok, this hotel seems incredible, but what are some of these stories?
We asked Kate to share her favorite scandalous story:
Just three years after opening his grand hotel, John Jacob Astor IV created a huge scandal by divorcing his wife (gasp!). He then created another scandal 2 years later by marrying an 18 year old (GASP!). To escape the gossip being chatted about them in NYC, they went on a year-long honeymoon.
Not until 1912 did they return to New York City, only because his new wife was pregnant. After just settling back in New York, they went ahead and treated themselves with a trip on THE TITANIC. Yep. When the ship hit the iceberg, JJA allegedly quipped “I asked for ice in my drink, but this is ridiculous”. What a total badass. He went down with the ship (he was clearly too much of a baller to bribe the lifeboat crew), but his pregnant wife survived, and his son Jakey would go on to manage The Knickerbocker Hotel when he came of age.
— Kate Downey, Tour Guide for Museum Hack
As we always say, people have been people as long as there have been people.