Question of the Week
What Philadelphia landmark was once known as the “Grand Dame of Broad Street”?
Answer: The Bellevue Stratford Hotel.
First owned and operated by George C. Boldt, the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia opened as a luxury hotel in 1904. The hotel represented the union of the “old” Bellevue (at the northwest corner of Broad and Walnut Streets) with the Stratford Hotel on the southwest site, which was demolished for the Bellevue’s construction. Boldt, a Prussian immigrant who lived in Philadelphia, was no stranger to the hotel business; he once held aposition at the New York Waldorf (later the Waldorf Astoria) as a manager and partial owner. He envisioned his own luxury hotel in Philadelphia that offered fine cuisine, exemplary service, and the latest modern conveniences. His vision became the Bellevue Stratford.
The hotel was built in the French Renaissance style and served for many years as a focus for hosting local, national, and international events with their attendant celebrities. Because of the Bellevue Stratford’s distinctive size and architecture it acquired the nickname “Grande Dame of Broad Street.”
By the middle of the 20th century, however, the hotel exhibited signs of decline and was closed in 1976 by the Department of Health which found the Bellevue responsible for 35 deaths from Legionnaires’ Disease, a type of pneumonia. Over the next few decades, several changes in management and major renovations brought the hotel back to its original grandeur. Now known as the Hyatt at The Bellevue, the hotel is listed as a national landmark and has been fully renovated to include parking, shopping, and dining.
HSP holds a significant collection of papers associated with the Bellevue Stratford Hotel. The Bellevue Memorabilia collection (#3078) contains photographs, postcards, hotel brochures, hotel event programs, newspaper clippings, as well as sketches and drawings of the building and its fixtures.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.