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The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel of Philadelphia

Oct 23 '12 0
skailian90
Oct 23, 12 12:11 am

Hello! How are you all doing? This is my very first time posting in the Archinect Forums so I hope my first thread is worth while! The title of my thread, if some do not know is in regards to a landmark in Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, now called the "Park Hyatt at the Bellevue."

When I first heard about this place, I really didn't know much about it. I remember my father telling me when he was younger and working at the PSFS Building in the city, that for the six years he worked there the company hosted a Christmas party annually in the Hotel's Grand Ballroom. When I first started classes at the Community College of Philadelphia, during my breaks and after the long day of hauling many art supplies to and fro Utrecht Arts Supplies and back to the train, and then to the school it was a numbing experience! But what I would do was explore the other parts of the city. I found that City Hall was a breath's walk from the school's complex and found it even more easier to navigate the city's many streets and avenues.

It was when I first saw this majestic, and very elegant building standing as if it reached the sky, with mansard roofs and beautiful terracotta facades with hundreds and hundreds of windows rising up and up, it was mesmerizing really it was! That was my first glance and sight of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel.

Every day or so after the first sighting, I made it almost a tradition to go and see the building everyday at-least, after all my classes were finished.

The first time I went, I ventured inside not really knowing what to expect...

I was in awe when I did though, and I was sure glad I did too! I looked up at the massive plasterwork ceiling in heavy Italian Renaissance details, and the tall Etruscan marble pillars.. and what looked to be a retail shop at the very end, it was overwhelming to say the least! Day by day, I would visit more and more and go inside and explore. At one point I took photos with my cellphone and a clerk or hotel worker saw me doing that and tried to get me to delete my photographs!

The last time I visited was back in 2010, and I haven't been there since! I really do miss exploring her mazes of corridors, at-least what is left of the Hotel anyway... Much of her interiors and guest apartments were gutted to make way for new management and failing clientele... Of course the 1976 outbreak of Legionnaire's disease was the real straw that broke the camel's back, and gave rise to millions of dollars spent on three separate renovations. The last of these, destroying whole interiors that were original to the 1904 blueprint.

Recently, I have done research on the Grand Dame and found out about these shoddy renovations that were undertaken between the 1970's and 1980's. The renovation that took place in 1978 largely restored the main public and entertaining spaces to their beautiful 1904 appearance. Though these interiors suffered the 1950's architectural revolution of modernizing every detail. People during this period considered the Hotel's ornate and lavish interiors to be anachronistic and even offensive. This period saw to the beautiful Beaux-Arts awnings and porticoes stripped and replaced with boxy-looking entrance awnings, completely unattractive, and even hideous to a Gilded Age exterior!

In the the late 1980's she was permanently shut down and closed for a $100 million dollar renovation that really was detrimental to the Hotel's beauty and originality of interiors. To "bring back the Hotel's past" and "revitalize downtown Philadelphia" the Richard I. Rubin Co. took entire 1904 original interiors and period rooms and dismantled or gutted them to make way for atrium's, office space and shopping arenas. A great loss in this renovation was the Viennese Tea-Room which was located and entered directly from the beautiful Italian Renaissance-styled Main Lobby and Entrance. This entire space, its moldings and plasterwork, gilt applique, the ceiling of paintings, the Aubusson tapestries and the tall columns and gilt balustrades atop the Mezzanine balcony were replaced by an escalator bank. This eyesore reaches from the Second-Floor of the Hotel to the Basement where a "Gourmet" food court and shops are located.

Another exceptional interior that was put under the architectural knife was the Grand Dining-Room which now hosts the famous "Palm Restaurant." Now I know its to each his/her own, but really how can you put something like THAT in a building of such opulence and decadence!?

The Hotel's prominent Cafe' was given over to the Polo Ralph Lauren franchise, while the North and Southern ends of the original Grand Entrance were given to Starbucks Coffee and the Palm Restaurant for its venue's entrance. Thankfully however they have retained the original Italian Renaissance ceiling and marble columns in the Lobby and the sections sanctioned off by the two eateries. One thing I've noticed when comparing black, and white original photographs of the interiors to the present day interior is that so much is lacking in the original design!

The Grand Lobby had beautiful Etruscan gold finish on the cream-painted plasterwork bas-relief and it followed throughout the entire Lobby. The elevators had wrought-iron grilles which were unfortunately and stupidly replaced by newly-paneled crappy looking wooden doors. The original marble reception desk, and the huge glass arched entrance ways to the Dining-Room, Cafe' and the Viennese Tea-Room were all dismantled and there is no trace of their having been there since the 1980's renovation.

The Grand Ballroom up on the first and second floors has thankfully still largely retained much of her decoration and ornament. But during the 1950's with the advent of lots of stainless steel decoration the beautiful ornate theatre-style balconies were dismantled or thrown out to be replaced by simple, and very tacky-looking stainless steel balustrades. The gilt ionic capitals over the Etruscan marble columns were changed and subdued as were the columns themselves, covered in fabric or wallpaper and then painted, hiding their true beauty underneath. The original Beaux-Arts light clustering about the coved ceiling and the balconies themselves was removed taking away form the original splendour of the interior, which during the Bellevue-Stratford's heyday was considered to be the most celebrated ballroom in the Nation!

Williams-Sonoma conducts their business and demonstrations in what was formerly the Hotel's most successful apartments. The Palm Court/Garden. This room's ceiling and walls, its many pilasters and columns were all faced with Caen stone in a light gray tone. The room had lots of etched glass windows and beautiful arched glass entrances to Viennese Room and other parts of the Hotel's Ground-Floor... Today it still fortunately retains much of its interior decoration albeit split in some places by the modern store's construction of entrance and exit ways.

The reason I've written this thread or post is to bring attention to the disregard for preservation of historical interior. Sure, there's the Philadelphia Historical Commission, and the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, but I fail to understand how there was no preservationist group or boycott to the renovations made. My hopes are that in the near future the lost and terribly-renovated public rooms could be fully and 100% accurately restored!

I've made a Facebook group for this cause of course, and I would like to say that I am not advertising, but trying to get as many people as I can who appreciate the architectural beauty and interior grandeur of this nearly century-old colossus!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/361914290555240/?ref=ts

Also I started a petition with a 1,000 signature goal to give to the Executive Director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia!

http://www.causes.com/causes/798363-restore-the-bellevue-stratford

To start the cog wheels turning, I've contacted the actual Hotel management to see if someone there has access to historical archives, schematics etc of the building and/or original Hewitt architectural drawings of the interiors. They forwarded me to a member of the PREIT Group which owns and manages the Hotel. I've also contacted the Philadelphia Historical Commission and was told thankfully that they have jurisdiction over the exterior of the building, but unfortunately not of the interior. I then contacted the Executive Director of the Preservation Alliance for Great Philadelphia and am hoping strongly that I get stead-fast replies back! I am also working with a prominent individual who is helping me map out a proposal letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer to do a single article, or a short series of articles of bring the detrimental renovations of the Hotel to light, and to bring the possible ideal of a restoration to her Ground (Lobby) First, and Second floors into real consideration!

I hope again that this was okay to post here, as it is my first time being a member of this forum! Thanks for reading, and for your enjoyment I have taken the liberty of posting photographs I have collected from the internet after scouring Google and old rare books for the photographs, mostly of the interiors and vintage postcards!

Above, the South Pavilion or Cameo Garden which was used as a place for exhibitions, dining, receptions, government affairs and meetings. Today it hosts the famed XIX Cafe'. The Northern twin or the North Pavilion now houses the XIX Restaurant.


Two photographic views of two of the interior spaces on the then (1912) newly constructed Roof-Garden floor of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. You have the North Pavilion or Cameo Garden which like it's south twin was used for society and government affairs, as well as exhibitions and meetings. The bottom is a photograph of newly constructed Rose Garden Banquet Hall, which served for meetings, society balls, weddings and the like. Today, these two rooms function as banqueting and meeting facilities. The North Cameo is the XIX Restaurant, while the Rose Garden is now mostly used as a banqueting room and weddings.

Above, two photographic views of the Roof Pergola which faced Broad Street, running north and south along the front of the 19th story. It featured beautiful hanging vines, garlands of foliage, hanging ferns and potted palms and plants with seating areas, playing fountains and beautiful views from the long window scape.

Above, the Parlour of the Presidential Suite of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel.


Above, are four photographic views of the period-style apartments in the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. A private parlour, two bedrooms and another private parlour. Each of the over 700 apartments were decorated with specially-made wallpapers and hanging and the ceilings tinted or frescoed simply to be harmonious with the room's furniture pieces which were all decorated and created by Wanamaker. The 529 suites were decorated in a variety of styles and decoration ranging from Colonial, French, Italian or Greek and each had 14-foot ceilings!


Two different photographic views of the State Drawing-Room or as it was also known as the "Pink Salon/Room." Today it is one of the several dining or meeting rooms.

Above, a photograph of the Ladies' Reception-Room which was located on the Ground-Floor level of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. It was considered to be one of the most beautiful and successful apartments decorated and constructed inside of the colossus. Today a thick grey brick-wall blocks the original archway and entrance, and a retail clothing store now has taken over...

The "Gold Room" and the "Pink Room" side by side. The State Library and the State Drawing-Room...

The Royal Blue Room which was one of several private dining-rooms in the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. The wallpaper brought all the way from Vienna by Professor Eichmann was what gave the room its beautiful name and character.




Above, four photographic views of the Grand Lobby and Entrance which today has largely retained much of its interior elegance, but all the applied ceiling ornamentation originally in gilt applique is gone and the size has diminished greatly.


"The most lavish ballroom in the Nation!"



Above:

1. The Grand Dining-Room which between 1986-1989 was demolished and renovated into the "Palm Restaurant."

2. The popular Palm Court or Palm Garden which today houses the posh franchise of Williams-Sonoma.

3. The charming and exquisitely decorated Viennese Tea-Room which during the 1986-1989 period of detrimental renovations was completely gutted and dismantled and replaced with an escalator bank ascending to the 2nd floor, and descending to the basement where today a "gourmet" food court and shops are located.

4. The Oak Room, which was a newly constructed interior introduced on the 19th story of the Bellevue-Stratford. It served as a reception and eating venue as well as for society and exhibition meetings/events. Today it is a three-part room in the form of a lobby area, a business center, and a dining venue called "Cliveden."

5. The popular and annual meeting place of the Clover Club. The Clover Banquet Room which connected to the First Foyer and the Red Banquet Room, was one of the popular venues for dining and exhibition space as well. It was also the place for debutante's coming out parties into high society.

6. The exquisitely-crafted Royal Banqueting Room or Red Room. A popular and secluded private dining-room which opened up to the larger Clover Room and the smaller state rooms beyond.

Above, the Ground-Floor (Lobby Level) of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel showing the main public areas on this floor. You have the Main Entrance and Lobby which took up most of the Broad-Street facade of the structure, while the Dining-Room and the Cafe' took up the North and South corners. The Ballroom Entrance or "Burgundy Room," took up the Southwest corner on Chancellor Street, the Palm Court and Viennese Tea-Room in the middle and corridors and other spaces including the Ladies' Reception-Room on the Walnut Street facade.

Above, the First-Floor of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel showing the main public areas on this floor. You have the Ballroom Entrance or the "First Foyer," which gave entrance way to the Grand Ballroom's lower-level, connecting via a passage way are the Clover and Red Banqueting Rooms. Along the Broad Street facade are private dining-rooms and the State Drawing-Room directly in the middle. The Grand Ballroom also had a long corridor used as Lobby for guests to enter the room from the middle.

Above, the Second-Floor of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel showing the main public areas on this floor. You have the tiered balcony of the Grand Ballroom, and the First Foyer is blocked by papers. This plan was used to point out where the Legionnaire's "Legionella" disease affected certain areas of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel which eventually closed it in 1976.

Above, the lay-out of a general or typical floor between the 2nd and 19th floors of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, showing the blueprint of the many suites and apartments inside of the E-shaped building. This configuration was dismantled and gutted and the middle chunk of the E-shape was turned into a 7-story atrium which houses what today is called the "Conservatory," giving the effect of being outside with balconies and playing fountain. Floors 2 to 11 were converted to office space, and the middle section of the building from 12 to 17 was the Conservatory.

Above, the Roof-Garden of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel showing the main public areas on this floor. You have the two twin domed Cameo Pavilions (North and South) which in 1989 were opened as the (South) Ethel Barrymore Tea-Room and the (North) Founder's Restaurant and Club. In the middle is the Rose Garden, which today functions as a meeting and banquet facility. The North, and South cameo's functioning as the XIX Restaurant and Cafe'. The smaller section of the Rose Garden is the XIX Bar. The former Garden or "Oak Room," was split into three rooms; a lobby, a business center and "Cliveden." Everything from the ceiling, bas-relief ornament and oak paneling was painted over in white. The Roof Pergola which used to be an indoor oasis of gardens and plants, hanging vines and beautiful seating areas with playing fountains was gutted and made into a large lobby area.

Also I would like to mention I now have up-and-running:

http://thehistoricbellevue-stratford.blogspot.com/

http://pinterest.com/skailian90/the-bellevue-stratford-hotel/

http://thehistoricbellevue-stratford.tumblr.com/
 

Enjoy!!! Please spread the word of this brutalization of such a beautiful siren of the long-lost Gilded Age! Thank-you so much for reading and taking the time to listen!

Also, I will attach a few more photos of the current state of some of the interior:



~Shawn Kailian
 

 

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