PHOTO COUR TESY: (MIDDLE TOP/MIDDLE BOTTOM/OPPOSITE LEFT) AUTHOR UNKOWN; (TOP) ENOCH WOOD PERRY, JR./BISHOP MUSEUM
established in response to the urging of the royal couple. The associated Luaehu
School marked the beginning of what evolved into ‘Iolani School, today one of
Hawai‘i’s most prestigious educational facilities.
Fifteen months after the loss of his only son, Kamehameha IV, still only
29-years-old, died of what were reported as the cumulative effects of chronic
asthma and a broken heart. Following Kamehameha IV’s untimely death just by
eight months, another remarkable fourth generation son of historical significance
was born in Rhinebeck, New York. John Jacob Astor IV, the great-grandson of
German emigrant John Jacob Astor, was a man who, like the Hawaiian king he
never knew, achieved great things during his short life.
Astor’s accomplishments were singular. Considered one of America’s finest
luxury hoteliers, on November 1, 1897, Colonel John Jacob (as he was called)
opened the Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The Astoria merged
with the adjacent Waldorf Hotel to become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. It was
in 1904 that Astor built one of “the world’s most luxurious hotels,” The St.
Regis New York. The classic Beau Arts landmark was a new style of luxury,
focused on tangible advancements in the comforts afforded the wealthy.
Astor was able to fulfill his vision of creating a hotel where gentlemen and
their families could feel as comfortable as they would as guests in a private
home. This was in no small part due to the acumen of Lady Astor, John Jacob’s
mother, who helped cultivate a sense of luxury and refinement in all aspects of
the hotel’s operation. Fresh flowers were brought in daily, an English-style butler
and afternoon tea services were implemented and exclusive social gatherings,
such as a midnight supper, created an air of grandeur inside The St. Regis that
enthralled its guests.
Today, The St. Regis New York stands as a reminder of the
vision, drive and wherewithal Astor demonstrated in all that he did—from the
buildings he erected to considerable properties he managed and developed.
Tragically, Astor’s intellect, business acumen, social standing and seemingly
remarkable timing were for naught. In April of 1912, eager to return to the
United States in order that his pregnant wife would give birth in America, John
Jacob IV and his young bride Madeleine with whom he had been traveling in
Europe and Egypt, boarded a luxury passenger steamship on its maiden voyage
to New York. The name of that ship was the RMS Titanic.
When the ship first struck the iceberg, Astor reportedly took news of the
collision in stride, but as the situation grew more dire and women were being
directed onto liferafts, Astor appealed to be allowed to join his wife, but was
refused. Many legends and stories surround Astor’s final actions from giving
up his own life to save a young immigrant to placing a woman’s hat on a boy to
permit him space on a lifeboat. Mrs. Astor survived and gave birth to a son four
months later. John Jacob IV’s body was found at sea, ten days after the Titanic
sank; his pockets reportedly stuffed with British pounds and American dollars.
John Jacob Astor IV and Kamehameha IV, both accomplished men of
means, each achieved much both personally and professionally during his short
life. Their backgrounds, upbringings, and motivations run curiously parallel to
one another, seemingly unrelated, yet both men strived for greatness, knowing
he had the ability to empower himself, his family and those around him. The
legacies of both live on today, intersecting unexpectedly here on a windy bluff
high above the deep blue sea.