The Bellevue Hotel

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Discover the The Bellevue Hotel with its timeless grandeur and convenient location in the heart of Philadelphia.

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The Bellevue Hotel, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989, dates back to 1904.

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Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, The Bellevue Hotel has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since its founding in 1989. The origins of this fantastic historic hotel harken back to a German immigrant named George C. Boldt, and his wife, Louise Kehrer. Ambitious entrepreneurs, the Boldts subsequently opened their first business, the “Bellevue Hotel,” on the northwest corner of Broad and Walnut Streets in 1881. Then, seven years later, they bought the land directly across the street and opened the “Stratford Hotel.” Named for the birthplace of the favorite playwright of the day, William Shakespeare, it was initially intended to accommodate the overflow from the neighboring Bellevue Hotel. The business generated by the Boldt family’s two hotels was so great that George decided to construct an even grander structure nearby. To fulfill his dream, he specifically commissioned the architectural firm G.W. & W.D. Hewitt to spearhead its design. The project was a massive endeavor, taking several months and nearly $8 million to fully complete. Crafted with unique motifs from the French Renaissance, the structure was nonetheless hailed as one of the most architecturally ornate hotels in the whole world. Stained glass transoms proliferated throughout the exterior, as did beautiful Venetian windows from Alfred Godwin’s shop. The building also had over a thousand guestrooms that were installed with either a Turkish or Swedish bath. Suites offered their own cutting-edge amenities, too, including access to an extensive telephone network. The width in the hallways were specifically designed to allow the main dress of the day—Victorian gowns with hoop skirts six-feet wide—to easily maneuver with grace. The lighting fixtures were even crafted by celebrated inventor Thomas Edison himself!

Debuting as “The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel” in 1904, Boldt’s new business quickly developed a reputation for its opulent amenities and world-class service. Indeed, the hotel emerged as a popular social gathering spot in Philadelphia, as it attracted all kinds of local socialites, politicians, and businesspeople. Some of the most extravagant soirees were held inside its Grand Ballroom as well, including The Academy Ball, The Charity Ball, and The Assemblies. But its grandeur eventually allured many influential people from across the nation, such as John Jacob Astor IV, J.P. Morgan, and Senator William Jennings Bryan. Other great luminaries would appear, too, like U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt—the first of many to grace the hotel with their presence. (Every sitting U.S. President since Roosevelt has visited the building.) The hotel’s prosperity proved to be so great that Boldt had to expand the structure just to meet demand. In 1912, he specifically commissioned the creation of an additional three levels, thus raising the building’s height to an impressive 19 stories. The success of the business even outlived Boldt, who passed away during World War I. His heirs continued to manage the hotel after his death for some time, with his son, George Boldt Jr., serving as general manager. But Boldt Jr. unfortunately lost control over the building following a tense sale to the Boomer-du Pont Properties Corporation during the 1920s. Thankfully, The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel endured the turbulent change in ownership, continuing to be one of Philadelphia’s most exclusive destinations. In fact, the hotel had gained the moniker of “The Grande Dame of Broad Street" in recognition of its luxurious appeal.

Save for a brief period of hardship experienced during the Great Depression, The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel remained a nationally renowned retreat well into the 20th century. It continued to host many prominent figures, including people like Bob Hope, John Wayne, and Katherine Hepburn. The hotel also hosted the headquarters for both the Republican and Democratic parties as they got ready for their respective National Conventions in 1948. (It was at these conventions where New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey and incumbent President Harry S. Truman accepted their party’s nominations for that year’s historic campaign for the White House.) Nevertheless, the hotel eventually closed its doors for the first time during the 1970s following a steady decline in business. Its staff subsequently hosted an “I Love The Bellevue Gala” sendoff, which celebrated the cultural and historical impact of the hotel. Thankfully, the hotel re-opened a few years later after a $25 million restoration. Like the earlier renovations, the work was incredibly extensive. It successfully helped preserve the building’s architectural integrity and subsequently saved its grand historic character. Similar renovations transpired again a decade later that were even more comprehensive in scope. Ownership specifically embarked on a massive $100 million effort that affected everything “from sidewalk to the 19th floor.” Today, this brilliant historic hotel operates as “The Bellevue Hotel” under the management of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. It also remains very respected throughout Philadelphia for its unprecedented hospitality and fascinating institutional history.

  • About the Location +

    Also called the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia has always been one of the America’s leading metropolises. (Its name is actually a Greek translation of that very phrase.) The city possesses a captivating history that is deeply connected to the very founding of the nation. Philadelphia itself was originally developed following William Penn’s establishment of Pennsylvania Colony toward the end of the 17th century. Penn himself created the settlement through a land grant that Charles II of England had given him as payment for a debt owed to his family. He specifically hoped that Philadelphia would serve as a refuge for Quakers and other religious minorities in Great Britain, who were regularly persecuted at home. Landing in the area in 1681, Penn subsequently purchased the land upon which he would construct Philadelphia from a local tribe of Lenape Native Americans. He quickly set about designing Philadelphia’s first streets grids, which were crafted to allow for space between every residence and commercial space. Penn yearned for Philadelphia to resemble a quaint country village, rather than a sprawling urban community commonly seen back in England. Unfortunately for Penn, though, Philadelphia rapidly transformed into a major city! Indeed, Penn’s messaging about Philadelphia (and Pennsylvania) being a haven for religious tolerance galvanized many throughout western and northern Europe to settle inside the town. Buildings soon towered over one another as its population swelled to over 10,000 people in just a matter of decades. Now a city, the presence of so many different demographics within Philadelphia gave it a unique distinctiveness that was rarely encountered elsewhere in British America. This unprecedented diversity also spawned an incredibly vibrant local economy that gradually turned Philadelphia into a major center for trade and manufacturing. Soon enough, Philadelphia’s docks were shipping hundreds of goods to the English (and later British) settlements in the Caribbean.

    Philadelphia evolved into one of the most important ports in the entire British Empire, second only to London and Liverpool. Its prosperity eventually elevated it to the status of British America’s cultural capital for most of the 18th century, too. Thanks for residents like Benjamin Rush, David Rittenhouse, and Benjamin Franklin Philadelphia soon became the location for numerous educational institutions. Franklin himself directly founded two of the of the best organizations—the American Philosophical Society and the Academy and College of Philadelphia (known today as the “University of Pennsylvania.”) The city also boasted two dozen newspapers, as well as such public facilities as a library, hospital, and a few museums. But Philadelphia continued to function as Pennsylvania’s colonial capital as well, with its representatives—picked from the local populace—serving inside the Pennsylvania State House. The structure would later become better known as “Independence Hall,” after a number of its attending dignitaries—including people like Benjamin Franklin—began to foment the American Revolution. Working alongside a number of other patriots from across the Thirteen Colonies, these revolutionaries eventually met at Independence Hall to help host both the First and Second Continental Congresses. (The First Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, while the Second ran the nascent United States during the height of the revolution.) Several battles were even fought in the vicinity of Philadelphia during the subsequent American Revolutionary War, with the British even capturing the city for a time following the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. Many of those same patriots gathered at Independence Hall for a final time to join the Constitutional Convention, which occurred a few years after the conflict had ended. The event was a monumental moment in American history, as it eventually formed the U.S. Constitution and the federal government.

    After serving as the nation’s first capital during the late 1700s, Philadelphia began to gradually lose its status as the nation’s preeminent metropolis to other destinations. Nevertheless, Philadelphia remained an incredibly influential city throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It became as a hotbed for the northern antislavery politics before the American Civil War, as well as the suffragette movement of the Gilded Age. Philadelphia was also one of the main areas that experienced rapid industrialization amid the Second Industrial Revolution, with countless financiers and entrepreneurs opening their own factories across the community. This economic vitality would last for generations and would aid the nation through some of its most harrowing experiences. (For instance, Philadelphia’s shipbuilding industry provided integral munitions to the United States Navy in both World Wars I and II.) Today, Philadelphia has since maintained its prestigious status as a prominent American city. In fact, it hosts five Fortune 1000 businesses and an economy that creates almost $500 billion in gross domestic product annually. Philadelphia subsequently continues to attract people from all around the world, which has made it the sixth most populous city in the whole United States. Even more individuals travel to Philadelphia every year to discover its rich cultural identity. Indeed, its history can be experienced at such renowned sites like the Museum of the American Revolution, the National Constitution Center, and the Betsy Ross House. One of the greatest locations is Independence National Historic Park, which is a massive complex that includes Independence Hall and the iconic Liberty Bell. (Additional destinations that allure many visitors include the Eastern State Penitentiary, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and Elfreth’s Alley.) Even more famous historical sites reside just beyond the city’s borders, such as Valley Forge National Historical Park. Truly few other cities in the world can rival the great history that defines Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


  • About the Architecture +

    When the architectural firm G.W. & W.D. Hewitt designed The Bellevue Hotel back at the dawn of the 20th century, it used Renaissance Revivalism as the main source of its inspiration. The company specifically used a subset of motifs related to the French Renaissance that appeared between the 15th and 17th centuries. (On a side note, the company had also created another iconic building a few years prior—the Boldt family residence of “Boldt Castle” in the St. Lawrence River.) Nevertheless, Renaissance Revival itself architecture—sometimes referred to as "Neo-Renaissance”—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. As such, those intellectuals incorporated the colonnades and low-pitched roofs of Renaissance-era buildings with the specific 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 both the Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord in France’s Loire Valley. This particular feature served as a central focal point for the design, often directing guests to a magnificent lobby or exterior courtyard. But the nebulous nature of Renaissance Revival architecture meant that its appearance varied widely across Europe. As such, historians today sometimes find it difficult to provide a specific definition for the architectural movement. Regardless, Renaissance Revival architecture today remains one of the world’s most enduring, appearing in countless places across the globe.


  • Famous Historic Events +

    United States Presidential Election of 1948: In the summer of 1948, The Bellevue Hotel—then known as “The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel”—was thrust into the middle of America’s upcoming presidential race. That year, both the Democratic and Republican parties held their headquarters at the hotel while they each prepared for their respective National Conventions. Arriving in June, the Republicans were the first to use the hotel as a base of operations. Meeting here frequently, they subsequently went to the larger convention inside the neighboring Philadelphia Convention Center. The meetings ultimately resulted in the nomination of New York Governor Thomas A. Dewey for President and California Governor Earl Warren for his running mate. (Warren would later serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court amid a period of its history remembered as the “Warren Court.”) Dewey—already a popular national figure—promised to run on desegregating the military, equal rights for women, and strong international anticommunist policies, among other issues. Almost immediately, political pundits believed Dewey to be the favorite to win it all. Indeed, grassroots support for the Republican Party had swelled in recent years, with the group taking control of Congress in the previous midterm election cycle. Many strategists interpreted the change to be an indication that Americans had grown weary of the New Deal reform policies that had defined the nation’s politics for years.

    The Democrats subsequently grappled with this reality when they met together inside The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel a couple weeks later. Like the Republicans, the Democrats specifically used the hotel as their temporary headquarters. But the actual convention itself proved to be the polar opposite of the Republicans’ calm, yet unified gathering. For three days, the country’s leading Democrats engaged in rancorous fighting. At the center of their disputes was the incumbent President, Harry S. Truman. (Previously the Vice President of the United States, Truman had originally assumed the presidency upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the end of World War II.) Many critics alleged that the diminishing popularity of the Democratic Party was Truman’s fault and pleaded with the man to not seek reelection. Southern Democrats were particularly hostile to a potential Truman reelection, due to his support for civil rights. Meanwhile, the progressives openly bristled at Truman’s known hostility toward communism. In the end only a slim plurality of the delegates supported Truman, who ultimately refused to step down for a shot at another term. Truman thus won his bid for Democratic nomination, with Senator Alben Barkley running as his Vice President.

    What happened next has become legendary. Americans spent the following months believing that Truman had no chance of ever defeating Dewey. In fact, numerous media outlets reported polling numbers that were greatly skewed in Dewey’s favor. The Chicago Tribune even ran a now-famous edition on Election Day that had the frontpage headline of “Dewey Beats Truman.” But the nation was shocked when it awoke the following morning—Truman had defeated Dewey by a wide margin. (Truman had specifically captured more than three million popular votes, as well as over 100 more electoral votes.) The only person who was not stunned was Truman. Despite receiving fractured support from his own party, he nonetheless conducted a vigorous “whistle-stop” campaign. Arriving from town to town, Truman gave countless speeches before crowds of enthusiastic onlookers. Truman recognized that his addresses made them energized with their populist, middle-class messaging. The victory was nonetheless a satisfying achievement for Truman, as he would spend the rest of hist life mocking the journalists that had prematurely announced his defeat. (His favorite target was H.V. Kaltenborn of NBC, who had constantly insisted of Dewey’s eventual victory on the radio throughout election night.)


  • Famous Historic Guests +

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

    Jimmy Durante, comedian known for his roles in The Great Rupert and It Happened in Brooklyn.

    John Wayne, actor known for his roles in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, True Grit, and The Longest Day.  

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

    John Jacob Astor IV, prominent business magnate and real estate developer who served in the Spanish-American War.

    J.P. Morgan, legendary financier and founder of J.P. Morgan and Company. 

    John J. Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. 

    Joseph Joffre, Commander-in-Chief of all French forces on the Western Front during World War I.

    William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson and participant in the Scopes Trial.

    Edith Bolling, First Lady to President Woodrow Wilson (1915 – 1921)

    Florence King, First Lady to President Warren G. Harding (1921 – 1923)

    Queen Marie of Romania (1914 – 1927)

    Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901 – 1909)

    William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States (1909 – 1913) and 10th Chief Justice of the United States (1921 – 1930)

    Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States (1913 – 1921)

    Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States (1921 – 1923)

    Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States (1923 – 1929)

    Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States (1929 – 1933)

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945)

    Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States (1953 – 1961), and Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II.

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

    Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States (1963 – 1969)

    Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States (1969 – 1974)

    Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States (1974 – 1977)

    Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States (1977 – 1981)

    Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1981 – 1989)

    George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1989 – 1993)

    Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States (1933 – 2001)

    George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States (2001 – 2009)

    Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States (2009 – 2017)


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Rocky III (1982)

    The Upside (2017)


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