Waldorf Astoria collects stolen hotel property

Associated Press Modified: October 19, 2012 at 9:32 am •  Published: October 19, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — Three small, silver spoons elegantly engraved with the words "Waldorf Astoria" have come full circle: Stolen eight decades ago by an employee of the famed hotel, they passed through two Brooklyn homes and another three in New Jersey.

Then, earlier this month, Brigid Brown packed them up, took them back through the chandeliered foyer of the hotel and plunked them down on a table — as part of a Waldorf amnesty program that seeks the return of pilfered property, no questions asked.

"At first, I thought, 'Was my husband's grandfather a thief? How could he do this?'" she asked.

The spoons joined dozens of other items that are back in their rightful place, including teapots, coffee pots, creamers, coasters and dishes for nuts.

Just don't call them stolen items.

Each was "secretly checked out," the hotel says on its Facebook page. And "we're giving you the chance to give it back."

The Waldorf's fancy what-nots are trickling back with stories of human lives, loves and losses going as far back as the early 20th century. They trace the history of the 129-year-old hotel that fills a whole city block on Manhattan's east side. It has hosted every U.S. president — including Barack Obama this week — and been home to celebrities from Frank Sinatra and Cole Porter to Paris Hilton.

But the program that started on July 1 offers glimpses into more ordinary lives of people who came to the Waldorf for something special, such as a wedding night, an anniversary, an award or special vacation.

Some items are of no particular value, except emotional, such as a "Do Not Disturb" sign from a couple's wedding night that an archivist pulls out of a cardboard box along with postcards written by the blissful guests.

The new collection will be displayed in glass cases in the lobby with other objects and photos from a celebrity-studded past.

Beyond historic nostalgia, the project has a new-age business purpose: To raise the profile of an old, iconic institution in today's social-media marketing world.

Matt Zolbe, the Waldorf's director of sales and marketing, hopes images of interesting returned property the hotel is loading on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest will be retweeted or reposted "to attract a new generation to the Waldorf," where room rates start at about $400 a night.

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