Historic Structures

Building Description Belvedere Hotel, Baltimore Maryland

The Belvedere was built at the top of a rise in the elegant and historic Mt. Vernon district of Baltimore with an original cost of $1,750,000. It is approximately nine blocks from the central business district. The building was originally a hotel built in the grand style pf the French Beaux Arts. The exterior is of an unusual brownish-pink, cplor brick with quoins and other embellishments of terra cotta and iron formed in careful simulation of stonework. The 188' high building has a two-story high rusticated base with a cornice at the third flogr level, a main body of embellished brickwork, terminating with a massive cprnice at the eleventh floor, and a 35' high slate-covered mansard roof.

In plan the building is a shallow "U" shape, opening to the south and views of the downtown and inner harbor areas. The building is slightly asymmetrical, the west wing (Charles Street side) being 15' broader than the east wing. The main entrance is in the center of the north (Chase Street) side, and the center section of the north elevation is recessed four feet from the flanking wings. At the first floor, the "U" snape is completed to form a rectangle. Two passenger elevators are located at the west side of the lobby and two service elevators and one additional passenger elevator are on the east side. Overall, the building is 185' east-to-west (across the "U") , by 100' north- to-south.

The original uses of the building were as follows:
Sub-Basement: Mechanical equipment
Basement: Concessions, kitchens and service
First Floor: Public lobby, dining and banquetting rooms, bar and grill
Second Floor: Small banquet and reception rooms, hotel offices
Floors 3 thr 10: Hotel rooms
Eleventh Floor: Mechanical equipment and service
Twelfth Floor: Ballroom, banquet hall, foyer and food service areas
Thirteenth Floor: Coat and dressing rooms ancillary to the 12th floor
Fourteenth Floor: Mechanical equipment and servant's overnight rooms

The north (entrance) and west elevations are the street facades on Chase and Charles Streets respectively. On these faces there is a smooth granite base to the height of the first floor window sills. Above this point the facades change, via a generous molding, to terra cotta forming horizontal rustications with segmental arches over the openings. The windows are deeply recessed. First floor windows, being on public space, are generous, with 6' or 8' wide casements 12' or 14' high. The smaller and larger windows correspond to the rhythms of pairs and triplets of normal (3' x 6') windows on the floors above. The rustication is continued to the top of the second floor windows where it is terminated by a generous terra cotta cornice with shallow balconies supported on 6' high terra cotta consoles. The first and second floor south and east elevations, which are not fully visible from the streets, are in brick, with corbelling replacing the cornice.

Above this base, the main shaft of the building rises (floors 3 through 10). As these upper floors are visible for several blocks around, they are treated the same on all elevations. This treatment consists of flat, brick walls relieved with terra cotta quoins and terra cotta surrounds with keystones at the windows. Horizontal terra cotta moldings accent the fourth and tenth floor levels.

The main shaft is terminated at the eleventh floor level by the upper cornice (4' wide x 5' high), an elegant composition of corbelling, molding and dentils, supported on large (8' high) consoles which bracket the tenth floor windows. Above the cornice is a brick and terra cotta parapet (10' high), into the base of which are cut the small eleventh floor windows and matching ventilation openings; both are hidden from street level viewers by the cornice.

From behind the parapet rises a 35' high mansard roof, covered in slate and having broad iron moldings at the hips. There are ornate terra cotta and iron dormers at the twelfth floor and smaller, simpler dormers at the thirteenth floor.

The interiors, done mostly in plasterwork, were described in 1904 as a "free version of Louis XVI."

The first floor is devoted to public rooms. The ceiling heights are generally about 18'. The lobby (approximately 48' x 50') has a marble floor pilastered and panelled walls and a panelled ceiling with appropriate cove moldings and expressed beams modulating the space. In the west wing is the Charles Room, an elegant column-free dining hall (approximately 42' x 96') with an oak floor, 3/4 round paired Ionic pilasters on pedestals bracketing windows and niches, and a panelled ceiling having deep and elaborate cove moldings and broad, expressed beams. South of the lobby is the Palm or Terrace Room (approximately 28' x 48') with a brick floor, pilastered and panelled walls with corner niches, and a coved ceiling (originally skylit).

East of the lobby is the John Eager Howard Room restaurant (approximately 49' x 56' and now called the Jubilee Room), with an oak floor, a superb oak-panelled wainscot with plaster above, and a polished wooded beamed ceiling. The four columns in the space are oak panelled to their full height. Murals were added later. Also in the east wing are the Falstaff Room (a grill room in an eclectic medieval style), and the Owl Bar with intricately patterned brick walls and a beamed ceiling.

The second floor is unusual in that the center section is three feet lower than the wings. The rooms on this floor were intended for smaller banquets and receptions in the west wing and hotel offices in the east wing. There are eight original fireplaces. In addition to the elevators, an open marble staircase connects the first floor to the second.

Floors 3 through 10 comprised the main hotel rooms and suites. The partitions on these floors have wainscot and panel moldings. Ceilings are 10' high. There are eight gas-burning fireplaces with mantels on each floor.

On the twelfth floor is the Ballroom. It is probably the grandest room in Baltimore, being approximately 46' x 76' by 32' high, with additional elevated side aisles, dormers and corner "tete-a-tetes." The floor is oak properly suspended for dancing; the walls are modulated with paired Corinthian pilasters on pedestals and archways to the side aisles, etc. The elaborate cornice has dentils and various shield, scroll and foliage motifs. The ceiling is coved with vaulted recesses for oculi dormers. The center flat area is the skylight.

In the east wing is the Banquet Hall. Being approximately 36' x 76' by 28' high, it is ornamented with a pastiche of moldings and wainscotting.

Between these rooms is a 14' high foyer with Corinthian pilasters and columns on pedestals and a beamed ceiling.

An open marble staircase connects to the thirteenth floor, where coat and dressing rooms are located. Patrons on arrival rode elevators to the thirteenth floor, where they prepared for their entrances down the staircase to the foyer below.

In about 1907 the basement was extended about 30' to the south across the rear of the building to house storage and service areas. The roof of the extension formed a terrace to the first floor Palm Room. At the east wing, the extension was an additional two floors high, providing the first floor Owl Room Bar and additional second floor offices. At an unknown later date, a canopy with an illuminated sign in Old English style was added over the main entry at second floor level. Neither addition enhances the building, except that the Owl Bar is attractive and was very popular.

In 1936 murals were painted in the John Eager Howard Room by a Philadelphia artist. These murals are enlarged reproductions of prints of early Baltimore scenes, taken from the collections of the Peale Museum, the City Hall and the Enoch Pratt Library.