As was told in the previous chapter, hotels in both Europe and America entered upon a new era with the dawn of the present century. Particularly those in the United States became not only larger, but more attractive to travellers in every way that modern inventiveness and desire to entertain and comfort could suggest. The chain system of great hotels also was developed until by this time considerable space would be needed to describe these alone. In a measure probably all of these great hostelries are historic, but there is room to mention only a few typical examples of great, modern hotels in the United States that have a history of general interest. Some of these modern hotels have been rebuilt upon sites of houses that have made their names historic. Fire, desire for expansion and the need for replacement are some of the causes that have led to the building of these immense and luxurious caravansaries.
An interesting example of this kind is the Palace Hotel, San Francisco, perpetuating the Palace Hotel which gave the Pacific Coast a new importance when it was built in 1875. Then it was believed to surpass any hostelry in the United States for size. The original Palace Hotel owed its creation to a demand for something better in housing travellers and residents who had been rapidly making money and wanted a house that would be an attractive place to entertain in. The year 1875 is recalled in California as the peak of the Bonanza period, when nearly everybody there had money and prosperity was only a daily experience.
At that time William Ralston, who was a leading financier in San Francisco, and head of the Bank of California, planned and virtually had completed the Palace Hotel, having realized the need of a great, sumptuous house for travellers when the last spike was driven in the Central Pacific Railroad. Just on the eve of opening the fine new hostelry, the Bank of California, locally regarded as safe as the United States Treasury, suspended. To add to this seeming disaster, Mr. Ralston was drowned while bathing the same afternoon, August 26, 1875.
There was need for a strong, confident hand to straighten out these two imperilled enterprises, and it soon was discovered, for, just when San Franciscans despaired, the “King of the Comstocks,” Senator William Sharon, of Nevada, who had been a close friend of Ralston, and who had taken an active part in his many business ventures, came forward and saved both the bank and the hotel, and confidence was restored.
San Francisco was almost as happy over the successful opening of the Palace Hotel as it was over the resumption of the bank. The people had learned that the hotel was supplied with four artesian wells, five elevators, seven stair-ways and four hundred and thirty-seven bath-tubs. The house was designed to accommodate twelve hundred per-sons. Word had gone forth that the bank would resume on October 2, and it did, only the crowd that clamored for admittance wanted to deposit their money and not to draw it, especially as they saw an abundance of bright twenty-dollar gold pieces encouragingly displayed in the window of the institution. The evening of the same day the Palace Hotel was opened, and the first guests to register were Governor Leland Stanford and Mrs. Stanford. On October 14, 1875, a banquet to Lieut. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan was the formal opening of the big hotel.
Together with a large section of San Francisco the hotel was destroyed partly by fire in 1906, but before the ruins had cooled work on a new Palace Hotel was under way. The new house is eight stories in height and has seven hundred rooms. As the original hotel had a Sun Court filled with palms which carried the fame of the house to the ends of the earth, the new Palace Hotel also has a Palm Court which is an attractive dining room, instead of the Sun Court entrance of other days.
For large banquets the Palm Court, Rose Room and the Grill can be thrown together, and this was done on the occasions of the dinners to President Wilson, King Albert, Former Secretary of the Navy Daniels, Former Senator Hiram Johnson, and to President Harding during his visit to San Francisco.
The hotel will always be historic, for it was while President Harding was stopping there, on his return from Alaska, that he had that attack of illness which so suddenly terminated in his death.
Having been opened only three weeks before the inauguration of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904, the Hotel Jefferson, St. Louis, naturally started at an auspicious time. Thousands of persons, many of them notables, went to St. Louis to see the World’s Fair, and a large proportion of the distinguished visitors registered at the newest and largest hotel in that city. The house was erected at the request of the Directors of the Louisiana Exposition, with Festus J. Wade, president of the Mercantile Trust Company, as promoter. Mr. Wade undertook the financing of the enterprise, which was not intended for revenue producing only, but mainly to take care of the visitors to the Exposition. It thus was in effect a part of the show itself.
During the same year and while the Fair was in progress the Democratic National Convention was held in St. Louis, where judge Parker was nominated for the Presidency. The Jefferson was the headquarters for the Democratic National Committee, leading figures of which at that time were Thomas Taggart, Roger Sullivan, and August Belmont. The Committee of the Democratic National Convention, in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson was nominated for a second term, made the same hotel its headquarters. In 1906, when the International Balloon and Aviation Meet was held in St. Louis, the Jefferson was the headquarters.
Four Presidents of the United States have been guests at this hotelTheodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Warren G. Harding. Both Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Wilson also were guests. The Hon. William Jennings Bryan, Congressman Joseph Cannon, Hon. Josephus Daniels, Vice-President James S. Sherman, Vice-President William Fairbanks, Vice-President Thomas R. Marshall and Mrs. Marshall, Wilbur and Orville Wright, the Maharaja and Maharina Jind, Marshal Joffre, Hon. William G. MacAdoo, John Jacob Astor, Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker and his staff, of Pennsylvania; Admiral von Tirpitz, the German Navy Lord; and practically every great actor and operatic singer who has visited St. Louis since 1904 have registered at the Jefferson.
The Wentworth By-the-Sea, which is situated on the beautiful island of New Castle, three miles from Ports-mouth, N. H., is an example of a hotel which not only occupies a historic site but which was itself the scene of some modern history making.
Erected in 1874, the Wentworth’s history is inherited from a tavern established at or near the same location by Samuel Wentworth, in 1669. The house, which was built in 1874, and the first to be called the Wentworth, was only a third of the size of the house now known by that name, for the hotel built by C. E. Campbell and C. H. Chase has several times been augmented and improved, more than $400,000 having been expended on improvement during the last few years.
In the summer of 1905August 5 to 9, to be exactthe Treaty of Peace which ended the disastrous Russo-Japanese War was concluded at Portsmouth, the peace delegates from the two countries making the Wentworth their head-quarters, where all the discussions preliminary to those in the general conference were held. The actual conferences were held at the Portsmouth Naval Station, which had been placed at the disposal of the two governments by President Roosevelt, who invited them to meet and arrange a peace.
The Shoreham Hotel, at H and Fifteenth Streets, N. W., Washington, closed its doors in 1926, after a long history connected with many national and world celebrities. The Shoreham which went out of business was a New Shoreham and was so called, because it was entirely a twentieth century hotel and catered to official and social life of the Capital.
It was probably during President Wilson’s term that history began to be made at the Shoreham. Mr. Wilson with his family stopped at the hotel just before his first inauguration in -1913. Vice-President Thomas R. Marshall not only lived at the Shoreham before he was inducted into office, but with Mrs. Marshall continued to live there for two years afterward. Many of the members of Mr. Wilson’s cabinet met at the Shoreham every day for lunch-eon, and usually brought friends or guests with them. This became a practice, so a table was reserved for them, popularly referred to as “The White House Table.” Having thus started a custom, it was continued by the cabinets of President Harding and President Coolidge.
During the World War many of the foreign Ambassadors accredited to Washington were frequent visitors to the Shoreham. General Pershing was a guest before he went to the Mexican border and after his return from the World War. Dinners to such distinguished visitors as Marshal Foch, General Haig, and General Gouraud were given there, while on one occasion the head of the military mission from Russia, Colonel Nikolaieff, gave a dinner there in honor of the high officials of the armies and navies of The Allies then in Washington.
While the first hotel erected in Atlantic City, named the Bedloe House, was finished just about the time the first Camden and Atlantic Railroad train ran into the resort, in 1854, what may be justly regarded as its historic hotels are of more recent date. The United States Hotel, which was removed about a quarter of a century ago, was another very early hostelry that attracted the most distinguished visitors on account of its great size and its prominence. In 1874 President U. S. Grant was a guest at the United States Hotel, and in the same house the Potter Committee held a session in the summer of 1878, when some notables appeared as witnesses, among them General James A. Garfield, later President of the United States.
As the city increased in size and its fame as a resort spread literally all over the world, it began to attract persons of national and international reputation. During the last twenty-five years it has become one of the best known convention cities in the country, and this fact also has brought to the resort men and women of mark in all the sciences, arts and industry. Atlantic City also has become pre-eminently a city of great hotels. No other city in the world boasts of so many, and those luxurious and palatial houses, one of which makes the reputation of the average city, are found to be numerous in this unique seaside resort.
Naturally many of these hostelries have some claim to historic distinction from having entertained persons whose fame makes their names as familiar as household words.
Their individual stories would supply matter for a separate volume, therefore only a few of these can be mentioned here.
One of the earliest of the exclusive hotels in Atlantic City was the Brighton, which has been many times ex-tended, altered and modernized, although always in keeping with its original character. In 1894 the hotel erected the Brighton Casino on the ocean front, to which the exclusiveness of the hotel was extended.
Some of the early hotels have been entirely replaced by modern structures in which the last word in comfort, convenience and luxury has been said. Among these are the Traymore, a gigantic brick building of imposing design; the Chalfonte, Haddon Hall, originally Haddon House; the Shelburne, and the St. Charles. The building of the Marlborough-Blenheim, about twenty years ago, was the first movement experienced by the resort toward a modern mammoth hotel for the class who desire surroundings of taste and luxurious influences. It naturally attracted many per-sons of note, including ambassadors, statesmen and high lights in the artistic and literary world. More than that, the enterprise exerted an influence on hotel architecture and construction in Atlantic City.
The Hotel Traymore is famous among the high-class resort hotels of the world and architecturally imposing in both its exterior appearance and interior composition. It probably has entertained more notables of both the Americas and of foreign countries and housed more important business, scientific and social conferences and conventions than has any other resort hostelry. Since its opening it has entertained Presidents Wilson, Coolidge and Roosevelt; several of the Vice-Presidents, practically all of the Cabinet members holding such office since the hotel opened, and innumerable leading scientists, explorers, physicians, financiers, authors, musicians, dramatic and operatic stars and social leaders of both America and foreign countries.
Among the notable international gatherings held under its roof have been : the Joint American-Mexican Congress, which continued in session there over two months; the first International Conference of the Bishopric of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the World; the War Convention of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States; the Japanese Commission to establish better relations between that country and the United States; the War Council of the Manufacturers of the Eastern States; the War Convention of the American Bankers Association; the Reconstruction conference of that same organization; the Inter-allied Missions from Belgium, France, Great Britain and Italy and a host of smaller but no less notable assemblages purposed for the advancement of science, art, discovery and business. It has been truthfully said that many of the important governmental and business problems have been solved and subjects introduced under the domes of the Traymore.
One of the most recent of the great hotels at the resort is the Ambassador, which, while only opened in 1919, already has a history lent it by the many persons of prominence who have been entertained there. Thus, on July 1, 1920, the greatest tenor of the operatic stage, Enrico Caruso, sang in the Renaissance Salon of the Hotel. President Plutarco Elias Galles, of Mexico, was a guest at the Ambassador, and other distinguished names found on its register include those of Hon. William Jennings Bryan, Mme. Galli-Curci, Baron Ago Von Maltzen, German Ambassador to the United States, the late Samuel Gompers, the late James B. Duke, John Hays Hammond, and many of prominence in the theatrical, motion picture and sports world, including the heavyweight and the lightweight champions.
In these days of enormous structures one has to be very careful in the use of the word “largest,” but when it was opened to the public January 28, 1919, the Hotel Commodore, which adjoins the Grand Central Terminal at Forty-Second Street and Lexington Avenue, New York City, it was popularly acclaimed as the world’s largest hotel. There was some justification for this characterization at that time for the house was thirty-three stories in height and had two thousand guest rooms. It still has the world’s largest hotel ball-room, and frequently has served thirty-five hundred banquet guests at one time.
The Hotel Commodore, which took care of the great Peace Ball three days after it was opened, has been the scene of many large social and official functions since that time. It has had as guests President Harding and President Coolidge, and in its brief career has also had the distinction of entertaining King Albert and the Royal Family of Belgium, Marshal Foch, General Pershing, Enrico Caruso, Mary Garden, Governor Smith of New York, Mayor James J. Walker, of New York City, and Cardinal Hayes, to mention only a very few celebrities who have been within its walls. On June 14, 1927, thirty-six hundred guests at-tended the great civic dinner given in honor of Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, who was the first aviator to “hop” from New York to Paris !
While the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia, occupies a site which has had hotels upon it for more than fifty years, and while this house itself was only completed in 1913, it and not its forerunners is the most historic hostelry to stand on part of this corner of Broad and Walnut Streets.
The first hotel erected on this lot was one put up by adding to two existing old city residences in 1875 in order to take care of the Centennial visitors the following year.
It was named the St. George, and continued to be so called until late in the eighties, when George C. Boldt, having already outgrown his little Hotel Bellevue at the opposite corner, took over the house, extended, altered and refitted it and called it the Stratford. It had considerably more guest chambers than the Bellevue, and was used principally for overflow and for resident guests.
Another decade showed the inability of these two houses to take care of the little Bellevue’s business, especially after Mr. Boldt had opened the Waldorf and added the Astoria to its name, in New York city. The Waldorf-Astoria in 1898 was the newest thing in hotels in the world. A few years’ experience, however, brought out for the keen, observant mind of Mr. Boldt its deficiencies. Consequently, when the new Bellevue-Stratford was opened, September 19, 1904, and especially when its size was almost doubled and a roof garden introduced, the completed house was opened in 1913 by a reception to Mr. Boldt’s friends, including many old guests of his houses, he saw that the Bellevue-Stratford contained everything that could then be conceived as applicable to a first-class hotel. In 1913 it was the leading house in the hotel world.
Prince Albert, later King Albert, of Belgium, was a guest at the old Stratford, about thirty years ago, and a few years later Prince Henry of Prussia also was entertained at the Stratford, because the Bellevue was too small to properly accommodate them, being almost always filled.
The Bellevue-Stratford, owing to its large ballroom and its large banquet rooms, became instantly the scene of brilliant social affairs in Philadelphia, many of them of national and international character. The first large dinner given there was that to the late Congressman H. H. Bing-ham, in January, 1905. The same year the first convention of The American Street Railway Association was held at the Bellevue-Stratford. The Clover Club and The Five O’clock Club, two notable Philadelphia dining clubs of international reputation, which had held their dinners at the old Bellevue, transferred their allegiance and home to the new hotel. Philadelphia’s most patrician and exclusive dances, the Assembly Balls, which have an uninterrupted history since 1749, were transferred to the Bellevue-Stratford after its opening and have since been annual fixtures, while the Contemporary Club, a literary society known to literati everywhere, has held its meetings, to which distinguished authors and artists have taken part, in this hotel for the last fifteen years.
Every President of the United States from Roosevelt to Calvin Coolidge has been entertained at the Bellevue-Stratford; some of them have been there more than once. Queen Marie, of Rumania, the Maharajah of Baroda, the richest potentate in India; the Grand Duke Nicholas, of Russia; the Grand Duchess Cyril, of Russia; the Crown Prince of Sweden, and the last Crown Prince of China; the Crown Prince of Siam, now King of that country, have been among the royalty who have been guests of the house. The Crown Prince of China and his numerous suite and retinue were given the whole first floor of the hotel, and a part of the kitchen was assigned to the Imperial Prince’s cooks, for he carried with him his own cooks, his own waiters, and even provided his own food. The Prince returned to China in time to learn that it had become a republic.
Many national and international organizations have either been formally organized in the Bellevue-Stratford or have completed their organizations at conventions held there. Thus, the first convention f The National Electric Light Association was held there in 1912; the meeting of delegates to an international convention held there the same year led to the formation of the Pan-American Congress. The first international meeting of the Advertising Clubs of the World was held at the hotel in 1916. In 1919 the hotel was successively the headquarters during the celebrations for the return of the Seventy-ninth and the Twenty-eighth Divisions, which were composed of Pennsylvanians, in the World War. General Pershing and his staff were guests on these occasions. More recently Dr. Eckner, the German pilot of the great dirigible ZR3, which he brought through the air to this country, hurried from Lakewood, as soon as he turned over his precious airship to the air force there, to the Bellevue-Stratford and registered. The ZR3 is now renamed the Los Angeles.
One of the latest additions to the group of distinguished hotels in the United States is The Ambassador, New York City, which occupies the entire block between 51st and 52nd Streets, on the east side of Park Avenue. It has been designed and furnished for those travellers who demand the luxurious, and although only a few years in existence its list of guests already has given it the right to be called historic.
Its most eminent guest, of course, was Queen Marie, of Rumania, who, in an interview, gave The Ambassador the highest kind of recommendation, being especially charmed with the “good old furniture and exquisite objects of art” she found in her suite.
Already the hotel register contains a long list of names of royalty, nobility, and other distinguished personages of Europe and America.