HOTEL DU PONT

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Discover the HOTEL DU PONT with its handsome and exquisite interior craftsmanship rendered by French and Italian artisans.

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HOTEL DU PONT, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989, dates back to 1913.

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One of Historic Hotels of America’s charter members, HOTEL DU PONT has offered luxurious amenities and world-class service for more than a century. This magnificent historic hotel currently resides within the DuPont Building, which was originally constructed at the behest of Pierre S. du Pont. An heir to the mighty du Pont family fortune, Pierre S. du Pont was one of the main leaders of the renowned chemical corporation, the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. In 1904, du Pont specifically oversaw its reorganization, deciding that it needed an improved corporate headquarters from which to conduct business. Selecting a plot of land bordering the historic Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington, du Pont commissioned the creation of a magnificent skyscraper that would become the city’s first. Construction commenced shortly thereafter, with the first sections of the building debuting in 1908. Never one to rest on his laurels, du Pont continued to grow the building over the next several years. In the early 1910s, he hired architects to expand the structure to include a “U-shaped” floorplan, adding new wings along 10th and 11th streets. Among the many facilities to debut within those sections was the a marvelous 1,300-seat theater called the “DuPont Playhouse.” Yet, du Pont had also converted a portion of the original structure to house a brilliant hotel that he christened as the “HOTEL DU PONT.” Sometime before work on the new extension began, du Pont and John J. Raskob—the Secretary-Treasurer of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company—decided that the corporation needed its own hospitality business to entertain clients. And what better place to develop it than inside the new corporate headquarters! Du Pont subsequently created the “Hotel du Pont Company” to supervise its creation, which it completed shortly before the beginning of World War I.

HOTEL DU PONT finally opened with a grand gala on January 15, 1913. The building featured 150 fantastic guestrooms, as well as several fabulous meeting rooms, a rathskeller, a ballroom (called the “Gold Ballroom”), and a club room. There was even a separate café for men and reading room for women. French and Italian craftsmen had created numerous architectural finishes throughout every public space, impressing all who stepped inside. The accommodations offered extraordinary décor and some were even large enough to feature sitting rooms with grand fireplaces. They also had their own polished brass beds, imported linens, and extravagant dressing tables. Inside the main dining room, beautiful oak paneling contrasted wonderfully with mosaic and terrazzo floor tiles. Six gorgeous chandeliers hung above the venue, illuminating the space’s gold embellishments below. It featured rich hues of jade and ivory as well, giving rise to its nickname as the “Green Room.” The HOTEL DU PONT became an overnight sensation, hosting close to 25,000 people in just the first week. Word traveled fast of du Pont’s spectacular new hotel, attracting scores of people from across the nation. By the late 1920s, some of the most illustrious figures in America were reserving guestrooms at the HOTEL DU PONT. Among the first celebrities to grace the hotel with their presence included Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, and Connie Mack. Around the same time, the Hotel du Pont Company leased the business to the prestigious Bowman-Biltmore Hotel Company, which renamed it as the “du Pont – Biltmore Hotel.” The relationship was short-lived though, as the Great Depression forced Bowman-Biltmore into bankruptcy. The Hotel du Pont Company continued to supervise the hotel for the next few years, before it to was dissolved in 1934.

The E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company soon took control over the hotel, operating it under different managerial units that it owned. Nevertheless, the HOTEL DU PONT continued to grow in popularity, hosting countless dignitaries, entertainers, and athletes. Many names of great individuals appeared in the hotel’s guestbook, including the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Joe DiMaggio, and Duke Ellington. Some of the most prominent political figures had also visited the HOTEL DU PONT, such as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President John F. Kennedy. But by the late 1980s, the luster of the hotel had waned considerably. The hotel’s status as a prestigious, four-star hotel had been revoked and it struggled to fill even half of its available guestrooms. In 1991, the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company initiated a massive renovation that attempted to reverse the HOTEL DU PONT’s fortunes. It invested $40 million into completely restoring the ailing historic structure, partnering with architectural firm “Burt, Hill, Kosan & Rittleman” to revitalize every aspect of the building. Each guestroom was remodeled, while the Green Room, the Gold Ballroom, and several other venues underwent a much-needed facelift. The project also installed an additional 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space for conferences and large galas. The hotel has since become one of the most luxurious holiday destinations in the country, earning a Four-Diamond rating from the American Automobile Association, as well as a Four Star designation by Forbes.

  • About the Location +

    HOTEL DU PONT resides within the DuPont Building, which is a part of the famous Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. Named after Revolutionary War hero Caesar Rodney, Rodney Square is among the most famous landmarks in the entire city. Originally a reservoir established in the 1790s, its current appearance did not come about until the early 20th century. While Pierre S. du Pont and his colleague, John J. Raskob, oversaw the development of the DuPont Building, they also began drawing up plans to recreate the old reservoir grounds into a prominent civic center. (By the time the du Pont’s acquired the site, only the New Castle County Courthouse occupied the location.) The two hoped that an open space with gorgeous landscaping would make the new DuPont Building appear more spectacular. Furthermore, they intended for the new plaza to render the heart of Wilmington more beautiful, inspiring civic engagement via the tenants of the then-popular “City Beautiful” movement. Du Pont charged Raskob personally with developing the destination, who subsequently organized a competition to find the appropriate design. Raskob ultimately chose a plan that made brilliant use of a variety of revivalist architectural forms that included examples from the Italian Renaissance, Neoclassism, and the Beaux-Arts. Construction began in 1917 and lasted for the next several decades in cooperation with the local Park Commission. Warren P. Laird specifically leant his expertise to the project as chairman of the Park Commission, having built a reputation for serving as the first dean for the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Fine Arts. When the work finally concluded in 1937, it stood as an architectural masterpiece. It featured beautiful landscaped borders, ornate stone walls, and marvelous balustrades. Twelve bronze lanterns also resided within the park, as did two fountains that acted as a memorial to William Poole, the former head of the Wilmington Fountain Society. Yet, the most iconic aspect of the park was its brilliant equestrian statue of Caesar Rodney that New York-based sculptor James Edward Kelley made in 1923. Today, Rodney Square—and its surrounding environs—are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

    Wilmington itself is an incredibly historical community. Its origins trace back to the largely forgotten Swedish colonists that originally settled the Delaware River Valley in the early 17th century. Founding a rustic settlement known as “Fort Christiana,” it marked the attempt by Sweden to establish an overseas colony in the “New World.” Unfortunately for the Swedes, Dutch military forces under the command of Peter Stuyvesant captured the area in 1655, renaming the community as “Altena.” But the Dutch lost control over the region a decade later, after the English seized the territory following their victory in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The settlement remained under English—and then British—supervision until the end of the 18th century, with King George III granting it the status of a borough in 1739. The petition for a charter had been organized by Thomas Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania Colony, on behalf of the area’s large Quaker population. Its residents called the town “Willington” in honor of Thomas Willing—a local land developer—before settling on the name of “Wilmington.” (“Wilmington” was inspired by Spencer Crompton, who was the Earl of Wilmington.) Wilmington had finally started to grow at the beginning of the 19th century, as its shoreline had evolved into a prosperous series of wharves and warehouses. As such, the city soon became one of America’s most active seaports in the years following the Revolutionary War. Many local industries quickly appeared next to Wilmington as well, fueled by the city’s rich maritime commerce. The most prevalent type of business to open in the surrounding countryside were gristmills, sawmills, and paper mills. The most famous mill to open at the time was the one created by French émigré Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. Du Pont’s factory would make a fortune producing gunpowder, giving rise to the prominent E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. It also gave du Pont’s descendants a massive amount of wealth and influence, making them one of the most powerful families in the United States. Wilmington has since become one of the nation’s major manufacturing centers, becoming a bastion for the production of chemicals, automobiles, textiles, and a host of other businesses. It is also home to many outstanding cultural attractions, too, including the like of the Delaware Art Museum, the Hagley Museum, and the Delaware History Museum.


  • About the Architecture +

    Construction on HOTEL DU PONT began in 1911, with architects renovating some the DuPont Building’s original compartments. Yet, the work also added some 133,400 sq. ft. of new space directly onto the structure. It took a massive team of French and Italian craftsmen nearly two years to raise the DuPont Building, creating a beautiful, European-themed hotel within its interior. At an estimated cost of $1 million, the HOTEL DU PONT originally offered 150 guestrooms, as well as several fabulous meeting rooms, a rathskeller, a ballroom (called the “Gold Ballroom”), and a club room. All the accommodations offered extraordinary décor and some were even large enough to feature sitting rooms with grand fireplaces. They also had their own polished brass beds, imported linens, and extravagant dressing tables. Inside the main dining room, beautiful oak paneling contrasted wonderfully with mosaic and terrazzo floor tiles. It featured rich hues of jade and ivory as well, giving rise to its nickname as the “Green Room.” But the hotel’s popularity became so great that it quickly outgrew its initial facilities. As such, the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company felt compelled to add another 118 guestrooms—as well as the new Ballroom Suite—in 1918. Additional renovations occurred throughout the remainder of the 20th century, with the largest one commencing in 1991. Investing some $40 million into the project, the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company partnered with the architectural firm “Burt, Hill, Kosan & Rittleman” to successfully revitalize every aspect of the building.

    HOTEL DU PONT itself displays a brilliant blend of Renaissance Revival-style architecture. Renaissance Revival architecture is a group of architecture revival styles that date back to the 19th century. Neither Grecian nor Gothic in their appearance, Renaissance Revival-style architecture drew inspiration from a wide range of structural motifs found throughout Early Modern Western Europe. Architects in France and Italy were the first to embrace the artistic movement, who saw the architectural forms of the European Renaissance as an opportunity to reinvigorate a sense of civic pride throughout their communities. those intellectuals incorporated the colonnades and low-pitched roofs of Renaissance-era buildings, with the characteristics of Mannerist and Baroque-themed architecture. Perhaps the greatest structural component to a Renaissance Revival-style building involved the installation of a grand staircase in a vein similar to those located at the Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord. This particular feature served as a central focal point for the design, often directing guests to a magnificent lobby or exterior courtyard. Yet, the nebulous nature of Renaissance Revival architecture meant that its appearance varied widely across Europe. As such, historians today often find it difficult to provide a specific definition for the architectural movement.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Katherine Hepburn, actress known for her roles in The African Queen and Woman of the Year.

    Ingrid Bergman, actress known for her roles in such films like Gaslight, Notorious, and Casablanca.

    Elizabeth Taylor, celebrated actress known for her roles in Cleopatra and The Taming of the Shrew.  

    Bob Hope, comedian and patron of the United Service Organization (USO). 

    Lucille Ball, actress best known for her role as Lucie Ricardo in the hit television show, I Love Lucy.

    Christopher Reeve, actor best known for his role as Superman in the Superman film franchise.

    Joe DiMaggio, outfielder for the New York Yankees best remembered as the “Yankee Clipper.”

    Connie Mack, Hall of Fame manager of the Philadelphia Athletics (today the Oakland Athletics).

    Duke Ellington, legendary Jazz musician whose orchestra famously played at the Cotton Club.

    Mikhail Baryshnikov,

    Norman Rockwell, artist most remembered for his paintings, Rosie the Riveter, The Problem We All Live With, and Four Freedoms.

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize-winning author known for such works like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of Death Foretold, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

    Toni Morrison, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for her books, Song of Solomon and Beloved.

    Charles Lindbergh, historic aviator and military officer.

    Amelia Earhart, pioneering aviator who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

    Julia Child, celebrity chef best remembered for her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as her television show, The French Chef.

    Jonas Salk, virologist best remembered for making the first successful polio vaccination.

    Jacques Cousteau, famous French naval officer and explorer known for his research of the deep sea.

    Buzz Aldrin, astronaut part of the Apollo 11 mission who was one of the first two people to land on the Moon.

    John Glenn, U.S. Senator from Ohio (1974 – 1999) who was also the first American astronaut to orbit the moon

    Desmond Tutu, South African theologian and renowned anti-apartheid activist.

    Henry Kissinger, 56th U.S. Secretary of State (1973 – 1977)  

    Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady to former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933 – 1945)

    Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland

    Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1949 – 2005)

    King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden (1973 – present)

    Queen Silvia of Sweden (1976 – present)

    John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (1961 – 1963)

    Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States (1993 – 2001)


  • Women in History +

    Eleanor Roosevelt: The HOTEL DU PONT has hosted numerous celebrities over the years, ranging from prominent politicians to great movie stars. Among those illustrious individuals who stayed at the hotel was former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was born Anna Eleanor Roosevelt in 1884, the daughter of Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt. A member of the Oyster Bay clan of the Roosevelt dynasty, Elliott himself was the brother of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s immediate family cherished community service, although both her parents died at an early age. Her intellectually progressive outlook on life was further reinforced by Marie Souvestre, who was Roosevelt’s headmistress during her time in London’s prestigious Allenswood Boarding Academy. Nevertheless, she kept those personal influences close to her heart, and used them as the foundation for her future work as a social activist. Indeed, some of her earliest work involved tending to the overcrowded tenement houses in New York City’s Lower East Side.

    Around the same time, she began courting her distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They eventually married in 1905 and had six children together. Yet, the marriage was strained by the two’s dueling personalities, as well as the demands of her husband’s early political career. Roosevelt often felt her responsibilities as a “political wife” were tedious, especially after Franklin’s appointment as the Assistant Secretary of War shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Their marriage further deteriorated in 1918, when Eleanor discovered that Franklin had an affair with their mutual friend, Lucy Mercer. Roosevelt, thus, vowed to throw herself fully back into her political activism. But the two had a strong understanding that their fates remained intertwined and aspired to support one another going forward. It was Eleanor who encouraged Franklin to remain in politics when he was beset with polio in 1921. As such, Eleanor Roosevelt was incredibly instrumental in aiding her husband’s election as the Governor of New York in 1928, as well as his subsequent rise to the presidency four years later. She often gave numerous speeches in public on his behalf that galvanized thousands of people. Roosevelt also became a central figure at his campaign events, serving as her husband’s voice whenever he could not attend.

    But Eleanor Roosevelt still established her own vibrant political career as the First Lady of the United States. Historians today consider her actions to have fundamentally transformed the role that the First Lady traditionally held within the national government. Roosevelt used her position to advance a number of causes close to her heart, including gender equality, civil rights, and housing reform. For instance, she arranged a massive celebration at the nearby Lincoln Memorial to protest the racist decision of the Daughters of the American Revolution to not let Marian Anderson—an African American opera singer—perform at Constitution Hall. On another occasion, she privately lobbied for the passage of the Costigan-Wagner Bill, which would have made lynching a federal crime. Roosevelt also held exclusive press conferences at the White House for female journalists, in order to help enable women to break into the field. She even attempted to create an experimental community in West Virginia called “Arthurdale,” where homeless miners would have a shot at achieving a new, independent life. Although considered a failure, it was testimony to her commitment to enhance the lives of countless others.

    Eleanor Roosevelt’s historic career continued well after her time at the White House ended in 1945. She played a significant role in turning Hyde Park into a museum dedicated to her late husband’s legacy, which set a precedent for future presidential libraries to follow. She also served as a delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, becoming its chairperson in 1947. Roosevelt remained with the organization until 1953, and her political insight proved integral toward drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After working to reform New York politics throughout the remainder of the decade, Roosevelt eventually worked to support the campaign of John F. Kennedy. While she initially rebuffed Kennedy for his refusal to denounce McCarthyism, Roosevelt relented on the grounds that she believed he had the best chance of leading the nation into the future at the time. When Kennedy won in 1960, she became his representative to such organizations like the National Advisory Committee to the Peace Corps. Then, in 1961, Kennedy appointed her as the First Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. But Roosevelt would not see the commission come to fruition, as she died mere months after it was organized. Eleanor Roosevelt has since been revered as one of the most influential figures in 20th-century American history and is esteemed across the world today for her years of advocacy.


Image of Historian Stanley Turkel, Historic Hotels of America Image of Stanley Turkel's Book Built To Last: 100 Year Old Hotels East of the Mississippi, Historic Hotels of America.

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Nobody Asked Me, But...


Hotel History: HOTEL DUPONT (1913), Wilmington, Delaware*



By Stanley Turkel, CMHS



At its opening in 1913, the HOTEL DUPONT was designed to rival the finest hotels in Europe. The new hotel contained 150 guestrooms, a main dining room, rathskeller, men's cafѐ/bar, ballroom, club room, ladies' sitting room, and more.



During the first week alone, after its gala opening, 25,000 visitors toured the new hotel, where no expense was spared. In the ornate public spaces, nearly two dozen French and Italian craftsmen carved, gilded, and painted for over two and a half years. Suites featured large sitting rooms and cozy fireplaces. Polished brass beds were made up with imported linen, while sterling silver comb, brush, and mirror sets were placed on the dressing tables. In the main Dining Room, now known as the Green Room, fumed oak paneling soared two and a half stories from the mosaic and terrazzo floors below. Rich forest greens, browns, and ivories, embellished with gold, decorated the room. Six handcrafted chandeliers and a musicians' gallery overlooked the opulence. After dinner, many guests enjoyed professional performances at the hotel's own Playhouse Theatre, now known as the duPont Theatre. Built in only 150 days in late 1913, its stage is larger than all but three of New York City's theatres.



During the early days of the duPont's Brandywine and Christina Rooms, the hotel showed its commitment to struggling local artists by displaying their works. Today, they highlight one of the foremost collections of Brandywine art, including three generations of original Wyeth masterpieces. Through the years, the Hotel duPont continued to evolve with the times. In 1918, 118 guest rooms were added and the beautiful Rose Room, the French salon reserved for women, became the new lobby. Wooden inlaid floors became marble, mirrored walls were replaced with imported travertine stone, and the ceiling was sculpted with carved rosettes and scrolls.



In the 1920s, the hotel was managed by the Bowman-Biltmore Hotel Company and named the duPont-Biltmore Hotel. Through the years, the hotel has been host to presidents, politicians, kings, queens, sports figures, corporate giants, and celebrities including: Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Ingrid Bergman, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Joe DiMaggio, John F. Kennedy, Jacques Cousteau, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, Duke Ellington, King Carl XVI, Gustaf and Prince Bertil of Sweden, Norman Rockwell, Henry Kissinger, Kathleen Turner, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and many more. More recent celebrities include Barry Manilow, Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillipe, Warren Buffet, Joe Gibbs, Jeff Gordon, and Whoopi Goldberg.



In the 1950s, the owners embarked on a misguided attempt to modernize the hotel. They replaced the handcrafted furniture with faux leather versions. The oriental rugs were replaced with carpeting and vintage lighting with modernized fixtures. Out front, the hotel's elegant iron and opal glass marquee was replaced with an aluminum and steel version.



By the 1980s, the duPont lost its longtime standing as a four-star hotel and occupancy dropped to just over 50%. Only July 1, 1991 the owner, E. I. duPont de Nemours & Company, in a major commitment of $40 million, shut down all 295 of its small and outdated rooms. The architects Burt, Hill, Kosan & Rittleman of Pittsburgh designed the renovation of the Gold Ballroom (with 20 bas reliefs honoring women in history), the Green Room, and Brandywine Room restaurants. Guestrooms were enlarged from 300 square feet to 450 to 500 square feet by reducing their number from nearly 300 to 217, including 10 suites. The renovation created 30,000 square feet of contiguous conference and training space. Adjacent to the hotel and in the same building is the 1,243-seat Playhouse which is operated as supplementary meeting space for the hotel and the community.



The HOTEL DUPONT is once again the recipient of the AAA Four-Diamond and the Forbes Four- Star awards. The hotel showcases original paintings of world-renowned artists, including three generations of Wyeths.



*excerpted from his book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi



*****



About Stanley Turkel, CMHS



Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.




Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:



  • “If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”

Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.



Works published by Stanley Turkel include:



Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com, or by clicking on the book’s title.



Contact: Stanley Turkel



stanturkel@aol.com/917-628-8549

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