Historic Structures

Belvedere Hotel, Baltimore Maryland

Date added: April 10, 2020 Categories: Maryland Hotel Beaux Arts

The Hotel Belvedere takes its name from "Belvidere", the estate of John Eager Howard situated at Charles and Chase Streets. The main house of the estate was built in 1794, and was located approximately one block east of the existing hotel.

In 1870, the original Belvidere estate was demolished for an extension of Calvert Street. During the next several years, the land was divided and subdivided until the partnership of Perin, Harvey and Brown purchased the parcel known as "Belvidere".

The partners retained the architectural firm of Parker and Thomas of Baltimore and Boston and the construction firm of W.A. and E.A. Wells of Chicago to design and build the Hotel.

The design of the Belvedere follows a strong trend of Beaux Arts classicism popular at the turn of the century. Contemporary examples of this style include the Ansonia Apartments by W.E.D. Strokes; the Senator William A. Clark mansion by Lord, Hewlett & Hull; the Hotel St. Regis by Trowbridge & Livingston, which the Belvedere closely resembles; and much of the architecture of the expositions at Chicago (1893), Buffalo (1901) and, most notably, Cass Gilbert's Festival Hall at the St. Louis Exposition of 1904.

Without passing judgment on the use of the style, the Architectural Review in 1904 praised the architects of the Belvedere for their clean yet elegant interpretation of the style and for the ingenious way in which they used the height of llth floor mechanical space to-accommodate the unusually generous but appropriately scaled cornice.

The official opening was celebrated December 14, 1903, and was the social event of the season with leaders of art, fashion, industry, finance and the professions in attendance.

In 1912 six hundred guests registered at the Belvedere for the 10-day Democratic National Convention which nominated Woodrow Wilson for President. The hotel was so crowded that cots were set up in the halls.

When Charles Schwab came to Baltimore in 1915 to spend $22,000,000.00 in expanding Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point plant, he made the Belvedere his headquarters. The patronage of his company continued through the years, including many parties for launchings of Bethlehem's Liberty Ships, Daniel Willard, president of the B & O lived at the Belvedere for the first five years of his long residence in Baltimore.

Charles Consolvo assumed control of the hotel in 1917 from the Union Trust Company, paying only $450,000.00 for it. The genial and picturesque, honorifically titled "Colonel" operated the hotel for 18 years.

Mary Pickford, probably the most popular actress in the country at the time, came to the Belvedere in April 1919 to speak at the war exhibition at the Fifth Regiment Armory and help sell war bonds. World War I brought many other celebrities and visitors from around the world. After Ft. George Meade opened, a contingent of British and French officers, sent to instruct Americans in the arts of modern warfare, frequentec the Belvedere bar in their off-hours every afternoon.

The hotel outdid itself on the occasion of the Queen of Romania's visit to Baltimore in 1926. A canopy of royal purple was hung above the entrance; her suit of rooms was paneled in silk and furnished with Louis XIV pieces, the elevators were draped in the Romanian national colors; the ballroom was banked with flowers, the walls were hung with old tapestries and an ancient throne was provided for the Queen.

The hotel was put into receivership for the second time 1933. The hotel's bondholders came to a settlement with Mr. Consolvo in 1935 and he left the Belvedere after 18 years as its operator.

The celebrated Charles Wilson Peale portrait of Colonel John Eager Howard was returned "home" for a visit in 1937. It was back at the site of Howard homestead, the original "Belvidere". The canvas, painted in 1780, had been in the possession of the Hampton Ridgelys for generations and was loaned by its owner, Captain John Ridgely, the subject's great grandson, for the opening of the John Eager Howard Room. The Howard portrait was hung over the big stone fireplace mantel, with huge scenes of early Baltimore painted above the restored oak paneling.

Controlling interest in the Belvedere Hotel was purchased from the Savings Bank of Baltimore by a group of city businessmen in 1942.

In 1946 controlling interest in the hotel was purchased by United States Realty-Sheraton Corporation and the name was changed to the Sheraton-Belvedere. The decor of the Charles Room was changed from gilt and green to blue and white.

In its fiftieth year, 1953, the Belvedere decided to air condition all its sleeping rooms. Seven years earlier, the hotel had installed air conditioning in all the functional rooms and on the first three floors of sleeping rooms, but the public at the time was not receptive to sleeping in cooled rooms.

In 1954 the Belvedere was the first major hotel in Baltimore to drop racial barriers, but the breakthrough lasted only one month, due to the Hotel Association of Baltimore's "white only" rule.

The Sheraton-Belvedere was sold to Wellington Associates of New York in 1968. The following year Wellington sold it to Gotham Hotels, Ltd.

The Snowden Corporation of Baltimore leased the Belvedere from Gotham in 1971 for use as a dormitory for downtown college students. The Belvedere, vandalized by the student residents was closed June 30 for health, fire and housing code violations The lease was surrendered back to Gotham in January 1972.

The Owl Room was the only part of the Belvedere unchanged in all its years and was such a long-standing favorite that a group of its regular patrons refused to let it close with the hotel. And so the Owl Club, Inc. was formed and the Snowden Corporation leased a portion of the hotel for the operation of a bar and grill.

Gotham Hotels, Ltd. placed a $3,000,000.00 price tag on the Belvedere in 1973, but defaulted on its mortgage payments. The Monumental Life Insurance Company, holders of the defaulted mortgage, became the new owners of the Belvedere Hotel after submitting a $700,000.00 bid at auction

Victor Frenkil bought the Belvedere Hotel in 1976 and converted it to 116 luxury apartments, with office space on the second and third floors. A four-story parking garage was constructed adjoining the building on the south side.

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