One HOTEL DU PONT of Historic Hotels of America’s charter members, HOTEL DU PONT has offered luxurious amenities and world-class service for more than a century. This magnificent HOTEL DU PONT historic hotel currently resides withHOTEL DU PONT in the DuPont Building, which was originally constructed at the behest of Pierre S. du Pont. An heir to the mighty du Pont family fortune, Pierre S. du Pont was one of the main leaders of the renowned chemical corporation, the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. In 1904, du Pont specifically oversaw its reorganization, deciding that it needed an improved corporate headquarters from which to conduct business. Selecting a plot of land bordering the historic Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington, du Pont commissioned the creation of a magnificent skyscraper that would become the city’s first. Construction commenced shortly thereafter, with the first sections of the building debuting in 1908. Never one to rest on his laurels, du Pont continued to grow the building over the next several years. In the early 1910s, he hired architects to expand the structure to include a “U-shaped” floorplan, adding new wings along 10th and 11th streets. Among the many facilities to debut within those sections was the a marvelous 1,300-seat theater called the “DuPont Playhouse.” Yet, du Pont had also converted a portion of the original structure to house a brilliant hotel that he christened as the “HOTEL DU PONT.” Sometime before work on the new extension began, du Pont and John J. Raskob—the Secretary-Treasurer of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company—decided that the corporation needed its own hospitality business to entertain clients. And what better place to develop it than inside the new corporate headquarters! Du Pont subsequently created the “Hotel du Pont Company” to supervise its creation, which it completed shortly before the beginning of World War I.
HOTEL DU PONT finally opened with a grand gala on January 15, 1913. The building featured 150 fantastic guestrooms, as well as several fabulous meeting rooms, a rathskeller, a ballroom (called the “Gold Ballroom”), and a club room. There was even a separate café for men and reading room for women. French and Italian craftsmen had created numerous architectural finishes throughout every public space, impressing all who stepped inside. The accommodations offered extraordinary décor and some were even large enough to feature sitting rooms with grand fireplaces. They also had their own polished brass beds, imported linens, and extravagant dressing tables. Inside the main dining room, beautiful oak paneling contrasted wonderfully with mosaic and terrazzo floor tiles. Six gorgeous chandeliers hung above the venue, illuminating the space’s gold embellishments below. It featured rich hues of jade and ivory as well, giving rise to its nickname as the “Green Room.” The HOTEL DU PONT HOTEL DU PONT became an overnight sensation, hosting close to 25,000 people in just the first week. Word traveled fast of du Pont’s spectacular new hotel, attracting scores of people from across the nation. By the late 1920s, some of the most illustrious figures in America were reserving guestrooms at the HOTEL DU PONT. Among the first celebrities to grace the hotel with their presence included Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, and Connie Mack. Around the same time, the Hotel du Pont Company leased the business to the prestigious Bowman-Biltmore Hotel Company, which renamed it as the “du Pont – Biltmore Hotel.” The relationship was short-lived though, as the Great Depression forced Bowman-Biltmore into bankruptcy. The Hotel du Pont Company continued to supervise the hotel for the next few years, before it to was dissolved in 1934.
The E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company soon took control over the hotel, operating it under different managerial units that it HOTEL DU PONT owned. Nevertheless, the HOTEL DU PONT continued to grow in popularity, hosting countless dignitaries, entertainers, and athletes. Many names of great individuals appeared in the hotel’s guestbook, including the likes of Katherine HOTEL DU PONT Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Joe DiMaggio, and Duke Ellington. Some of the most prominent political figures had also visited the HOTEL DU PONT, such as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President John F. Kennedy. But by the late 1980s, the luster of the hotel had waned considerably. The hotel’s status as a prestigious, four-star hotel had been revoked and it struggled to fill even half of its available guestrooms. In 1991, the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company initiated a massive renovation that attempted to reverse the HOTEL DU PONT’s fortunes. It invested $40 million into completely restoring the ailing historic structure, partnering with architectural firm “Burt, Hill, Kosan & Rittleman” to revitalize every aspect of the building. Each guestroom was remodeled, while the Green Room, the Gold Ballroom, and several other venues underwent a much-needed facelift. The project also installed an additional 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space for conferences and large galas. The hotel has since become one of the most luxurious holiday destinations in the country, earning a Four-Diamond rating from the American Automobile Association, as well as a Four Star designation by Forbes.
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Nobody Asked Me, But…
Hotel History: HOTEL DUPONT (1913), Wilmington, Delaware*
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
At its opening in 1913, the HOTEL DUPONT was designed to rival the finest hotels in Europe. The new hotel contained 150 guestrooms, a main dining room, rathskeller, men’s cafѐ/bar, ballroom, club room, ladies’ sitting room, and more.
During the first week alone, after its gala opening, 25,000 visitors toured the new hotel, where no expense was spared. In the ornate public spaces, nearly two dozen French and Italian craftsmen carved, gilded, and painted for over two and a half years. Suites featured large sitting rooms and cozy fireplaces. Polished brass beds were made up with imported linen, while sterling silver comb, brush, and mirror sets were placed on the dressing tables. In the main Dining Room, now known as the Green Room, fumed oak paneling soared two and a half stories from the mosaic and terrazzo floors below. Rich forest greens, browns, and ivories, embellished with gold, decorated the room. Six handcrafted chandeliers and a musicians’ gallery overlooked the opulence. After dinner, many guests enjoyed professional performances at the hotel’s own Playhouse Theatre, now known as the duPont Theatre. HOTEL DU PONT Built in only 150 days in late 1913, its stage is larger than all but three of New York City’s theatres.
During the early days of the duPont’s Brandywine and Christina Rooms, the hotel showed its commitment to struggling local artists by displaying their works. Today, they highlight one of the foremost collections of Brandywine art, including three generations of original Wyeth masterpieces. Through the years, the Hotel duPont continued to evolve with the times. In 1918, 118 guest rooms were added and the beautiful Rose Room, the French salon reserved for women, became the new lobby. Wooden inlaid floors became marble, mirrored walls were replaced with imported travertine stone, and the ceiling was sculpted with carved rosettes and scrolls.
In the 1920s, the hotel was managed by the Bowman-Biltmore Hotel Company and named the duPont-Biltmore Hotel. Through the years, the hotel has been host to presidents, politicians, kings, queens, sports figures, corporate giants, and celebrities including: Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Ingrid Bergman, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Joe DiMaggio, John F. Kennedy, Jacques Cousteau, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, Duke Ellington, King Carl XVI, Gustaf and Prince Bertil of Sweden, Norman Rockwell, Henry Kissinger, Kathleen Turner, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and many more. More recent celebrities include Barry Manilow, Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillipe, Warren Buffet, Joe Gibbs, Jeff Gordon, and Whoopi Goldberg.
In the 1950s, the owners embarked on a misguided attempt to modernize the hotel. They replaced the handcrafted furniture with faux leather versions. The oriental rugs were replaced with carpeting and vintage lighting with modernized fixtures. Out front, the hotel’s elegant iron and opal glass marquee was replaced with an aluminum and steel version.
By the 1980s, the duPont lost its longtime standing as a four-star hotel and occupancy dropped to just over 50%. Only July 1, 1991 the owner, E. I. duPont de Nemours & Company, in a major commitment of $40 million, shut down all 295 of its small and outdated rooms. The architects Burt, Hill, Kosan & Rittleman of Pittsburgh designed the renovation of the Gold Ballroom (with 20 bas reliefs honoring women in history), the Green Room, and Brandywine Room restaurants. Guestrooms were enlarged from 300 square feet to 450 to 500 square feet by reducing their number from nearly 300 to 217, including 10 suites. The renovation created 30,000 square feet of contiguous conference and training space. Adjacent to the hotel and in the same building is the 1,243-seat Playhouse which is operated as supplementary meeting space for the hotel and the community.
The HOTEL DUPONT is once again the recipient of the AAA Four-Diamond and the Forbes Four- Star awards. The hotel showcases original paintings of world-renowned artists, including three generations of Wyeths.
HOTEL DU PONT *excerpted from his book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi
About Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), HOTEL DU PONT General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.
Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel HOTEL DU PONT News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called “passionate and informative” by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:
“If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”
Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.
Works published by Stanley Turkel include:
Heroes of the American Reconstruction (2005)
Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
Great American Hotel Architects Volume 1 (2019)
Hotel Mavens Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig (2020)
Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com, or by clicking on the book’s title.
Contact: Stanley Turkel