I love historic hotels and the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia certainly has a storied history.
From its beginning, the Bellevue-Stratford was the center of Philadelphia’s cultural, social and business activities. It soon functioned as a sort of clubhouse for the Philadelphia establishment, not only a place where the rich and powerful dined and occasionally slept, but also the venue for their meetings and social functions. Charity balls, society weddings, club meetings and special family gatherings have all been held in the hotel’s ballrooms and meeting rooms. The rich and famous, royalty and heads of state from all over the world, presidents, politicians, actors and famous writers have stayed within its walls. All U.S. Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt through Ronald Reagan have been guests at the hotel, which is respectfully called the “Grand Dame of Broad Street.”
The hotel gained worldwide notoriety in July 1976, when it hosted a statewide convention of the American Legion. Soon after, a pneumonia-like disease killed 34 people and sickened 221 more who had been in the hotel. The vast majority were members of the convention. The negative publicity caused the hotel to close in November 1976.
In 1977, Dr. Joseph McDade discovered a new bacterium, which was identified as the causative organism. The bacterium was named Legionella and the disease, legionellosis, after the first victims. It was found to live, among other places, in the cooling water of air-conditioning systems, like that atop the Bellevue-Stratford, which had spread it throughout the hotel.
The ramifications of the Legionella disease forced the hotel to shut down, but it slowly clawed its way back and has been restored to its full grandeur.
Office building lobby connected to hotel was once part of grand hotel lobby
Check-in was a breeze and the ladies at the front desk were friendly. I was upgraded to a corner room and was immediately impressed by the classical features of this historical hotel. Although the lobby was quite small, the marble columns and floors and ornate chandeliers felt like I was stepping back in time a century.
Upstairs, the hallways were lined with vintage green striped wallpaper that would have been better juxtaposed with a soft light than the coarse florescent bulbs that lined the halls.
The room was small, but I loved it. The ceiling was high, with finely appointed crown molding and the furniture and bed all had an antique look. Nevertheless, the room had a brand new flatscreen tv and the plush bed was certainly not from antiquity. The bathroom was quite small, but adequate.
Sitting room outside my hotel room
I dined with family and we elected to eat at my favorite Italian restaurant on Spruce Street rather than XIX, the hotel’s famed restaurant. I did go upstairs, though, to the restaurant and bar in order to get the photographs below for this report. I loved the atmosphere of the bar, with a giant portrait over a crackling fireplace, tall columns, and a conservatively decorated Christmas tree.
An atrium with a fountain and sitting area rests in the center of the hotel, providing a outside feel in the cool of winter. A private fitness center, not part of the hotel but accessible through a pedestrian bridge on the fourth floor, provides an extensive array of fitness equipment and access is included with your hotel stay.
That about covers it. I was just at the hotel for one night and did not have any service issues or needs that required interaction with the hotel staff. Check out took 30 seconds and the woman who checked me out asked if I was satisfied with my stay.
Since being de-listed as a Park Hyatt in 2009, prices have dropped substantially. I asked the woman at the front desk why the property was no longer a Park Hyatt and she claimed it was because the hotel was known as the Bellevue and Hyatt felt naming the hotel “Hyatt at the Bellevue” would be more fitting than the Park Hyatt Philadelphia. I am sure that is part of it, but from staying at other Park Hyatt properties, I also think the service levels and condition of the rooms (Hyatt is remodeling the rooms at the hotel, but just mosey on over to Trip Advisor to read some “horror” stories about how bad some of the rooms were) prompted the downgrade.
Having also stayed at the Hyatt Penn’s Landing just a half mile away (which I also enjoyed), if faced with a choice between the two I would choose the Hyatt at the Bellevue. While the Hyatt Penn’s Landing, the subject of another review, was more spacious, I prefer classical properties and the location on South Broad Street right in the heart of Center City Philadelphia could not have been better.