One of the classiest hotels in Philadelphia at the turn of the 20th century was the brand new Hotel Walton. For a little background, we go to one of our favorite blogs, the one at Phillyhistory.org: The Hotel Walton, located on the southeast corner of Broad Street and Locust Street, opened in February 1896 and incorporated the Hotel Metropole, an earlier establishment on the same site. Upon its completion, the hotel featured a ladies’ restaurant, a gentlemen’s café, several parlors, a banquet hall, and 400 guest rooms (200 of which had separate baths). The hotel would eventually be known as the John Bartram Hotel before being demolished in the 1960s.
I stumbled onto a treasure trove of info about the Hotel here. Clumsy to maneuver, it is a paper written by the National Park Service on a typewriter many years ago and later uploaded onto the Web. Major thanks to whoever scanned it in.
The architect of the Hotel Walton was Angus Wade, who also designed the Hotel Hanover, the Bingham Hotel, and the Hotel Rittenhouse, all spectacular structures that no longer stand (The Hotel Rittenhouse is not the Rittenhouse Hotel, but rather a hotel that was at 21st and Chestnut.) Poor Angus. He did perhaps also design the still standing Carriage House, now a B&B near Penn on 46th Street, though there are no good photos of it on their website.
Am I rambling on about a guy named Angus? Where was I? Ah yes, the Hotel Walton. There was a hotel called the Hotel Metropole at that address but the Hotel Walton incorporated it as part of the much larger Hotel Walton. It opened in February of 1896, and the paper includes the coolest thing I’ve found yet while researching these hotels: a Public Ledger article about the opening written on February 13, 1896. Here is the opening to the story, and a full description of the hotel is offered after the jump:
“Thousands of People thronged the new Hotel Walton from roof to basement last evening, on the occasion of its formal opening, when a scene of brilliancy was presented which has seldom been equalled in this city. The event served a two-fold purpose, as it not only showed off the magnificence of this new hostelry, but gave an opportunity for the gentler sex to display their new midwinter gowns.”
How did it get the name Walton? That info comes to us in the next article in the typewritten paper, which is actually from a year earlier:
Robert Goulet was the original owner?!! Oh wait, nevermind, it’s Goelet, not Goulet. My bad. Anyways, I bet his son was an insuffereable, obnoxious punk about having that Hotel named after him. When he was in his early 20s, I bet he constantly bragged to women that he was the namesake of the Hotel Walton, but I bet the women blew him off anyway, because he was so annoying about it. I bet our boy Angus couldn’t stand the little punk, but kept up appearances when he came around, just so Robert Goulet Goelet wouldn’t get mad.
In 1946, the Hotel Walton went into bankruptcy. I suspect the spoiled rotten little brat who the hotel was named after spent all of the money on fast cars and easy women, but I am completely making that up and not basing it on any “facts” or “research”. Nonetheless, it went into bankruptcy in 1946 and reopened as the John Bartram Hotel in 1946. It was torn down in 1966. Ok, for a real treat, after the jump I’ll tell you where to find a bunch of pictures of the Hotel, what the postcards said, and post the entire 1896 description of the Hotel when it opened.
So what was written on the postcards? The first one (at the top of this post) was mailed in 1909 and said, “Member of the postcard Exchange. Please exchange scenes with one. Yours truly Albert Armerling, 4250 Market Street, Phila. Pa.” It was sent to Miss Olga M. Rice of Myersville, Md. Good old Al wanted a Myersville postcard, and who can blame him? The second postcard (With the US flag on top) was a bit more personal, but not much. It was sent by G.W.K. to Miss Alice Gurbrick, and said, “I am working hard out in the sun. Hope this finds you well and enjoy the hot weather.” Whoa, Mr. Smooth Talker, slow down. It was sent to Alice in Buffalo in June of 1910.
Ok, enough postcard flirting. Back to the discussion of Angus’s finest creation. Click here to see pics not only of the Walton but of its spectacular lobby and rooftop restaurant. According to the book Philadelphia’s Broad Street: South and North: In the Roaring Twenties, this rooftop nightclub had a notorious reputation for wild parties and being raided by the Philadelphia police.
Ok, and now here is the full article about Opening Night of the Hotel Walton:
Thousands of People thronged the new Hotel Walton from roof to
basement last evening, on the occasion of its formal opening, when
a scene of brilliancy was presented which has seldom been equalled in
this city. The event served a two-fold purpose, as it not only showed
off the magnificence of this new hostelry, but gave an opportunity
for the gentler sex to display their new midwinter gowns.
From the time the first stone was turned, eleven months ago, the
work had gone steadily forward in preparation for last evening’s cele-
bration, and when the finishing touches were put upon it yesterday
afternoon every one who had any connection with the erection of the
building had just occasion to feel proud of its successful completion.
Ten thousand invitations had been sent out, not only to Philadelphians
but to prominent people of other cities, and a special train of five
Pullman coaches, which arrived here about six o’clock, brought nearly
200 New Yorkers, among them being Robert Goelet, the owner, to take
part in the festivities.
No pains had been spared by the management to make the evening
an enjoyable one to the many guests. The beauty of the decorations
was enhanced by a profusion of flowers and greens, and the whole was
crowned by the blaze of thousand of electric lights. The air was
filled with the strains of music and an elaborate luncheon was served
to those who desired it.
The Hotel Described.
Both externally and internally the structure is a thing of
beauty. The architecture is Americanized Moorish, the first two
stories being of brownstone and the upper stories of dark red brick.
The main entrance, which is on the broad street front, is through
two massive double arches, above which is a projecting gallery effect,
and carved in the stone is the name, ‘Hotel Walton,’ so called in
honor of Mr. Goelet’s son.
Passing up the brownstone steps to the main corridor a brilliant
scene is presented. The walls on either side are a mass of marble
and onyx, the pilasters being of Italian and Pavenezsa fancy marbles.
The corridor is 100 feet long, 4O feet wide and 30 feet high. At the
end of the lobby is the entrance to the Turkish room, and on eitherside
is the marble stairway, surmounted “by a balcony overlooking the lobby
and Turkish room. Just to the left of the grand stairway is the office
and an onyx-lined passageway, which leads to the ladies* entrance on Locust
The main room on the first floor is the ladies’ restaurant, which
occupies the corner overlooking both Broad and Locust streets. The
apartment is decorated in cream and gold. Wide-arched windows occupy
two sides, while on the east end is a flower balcony supported by
pillars. The ceiling is divided into nine panels, on each of which
a beautiful scene is frescoed. Back of the ladies’ restaurant is
the palm cafe, finished in Venetian Gothic style, and, while not so
brilliant as the other, is one of the prettiest rooms in the building.
The Turkish room, just south, is equally handsome. It is finished
and decorated in Oriental style, the red lights giving a subdued
effect. Luxurious divans surround the room, and a huge tiled fire-
place will add to the comfort of the smokers, for whome the apartment
has been set aside.
The restaurant of the old Metropole has been turned into a gentle-
men’s cafe’, and the bar-room occupies the portion which was formerly
the main entrance. There are three elegantly furnished parlors on
the second floor, besides other public rooms in the old portion of the
hotel. The entire tenth floor is devoted to the banquet hall and the
American dining rooms, and the three great apartments may be used as
one, with a seating capacity of 600. All the floors between the
second and tenth are devoted to sleeping rooms, all of which have
double communicating doors and can be made en suite. Of 400 rooms
200 have separate baths, and no two are decorated or furnished alike.
Each room is connected with the office by a telephone call,
and from every floor is a telephone to the office and a mail chute.
The cigar and news stands in the main corridors are in charge
of A. T. James, who has fitted them up in most elaborate style.
Mr. James will continue to handle theatre tickets for all the princi-
pal places of amusement.