Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oak and Murals

A charming photograph of the Bellevue-Stratford's "Oak Room" at the Roof...
The Oak Room

Under beset beams and paneling of the finest oak... The bas-relief depicting paintings of figures in medallion form, expansive windows with unbridled views of the south... This was the Oak Room...

Between 1909-1912, George Boldt decided to expand his already flourishing hotelier business and began construction on the three-storied back end (western face) of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. The construction also supplanted a brand-new feature on the tip-top of the Bellevue; The Roof-Garden which originally was an open-air roof floor where during the winter patrons and passerby alike could ice-skate with unbridled views of the city! The new floor, featured several convention/entertaining venues and a beautiful oasis-like indoor Pergola that ran the length of the Broad Street facade. One of these historic rooms was the Oak Room.

A modern (for its time and period) restaurant/cafe' with handsome decorations of polished beams, paneling of beautiful high-quality oak wood. The oak paneling was accented with beautiful, and charming bas-relief of plaster-work painted figures in medallion ceiling decorations. The entirety of the room was in itself of the then popular Arts and Crafts Movement. The Art Nouveau may have also been evident in this space. The handsome paneling and plaster-work ceiling and decorations were set off by small glass lamps that lined the ceiling in parallel rows down the entire room from front-to-back, as well as beautiful wall murals of exquisite work. The furniture was simple, gold-leaf with the usual design seen in the Bellevue-Stratford. This chair design and motif can be witnessed as well at the Waldorf=Astoria which Boldt was owner of at one time! The Grueby flooring was characteristic of the elegance and fine standards of the Belleve-Stratford, and gave the Oak Room a classical and beautiful modern undertone which during her hey day was very appreciated!

The Great Depression saw to the Hotel hitting hard times, Prohibition laws starved the Roof-Garden of its patrons and many found the Roof Pergola to be not worth their time to visit. The elegant garden and its fixtures were stripped. The Oak Room was eventually repainted, all of the oak paneling and decorations muted in tones of white and cream. In November 1976, when the Hotel was forced to close because of the negative publicity surrounding the Legionnaire's outbreak the Press were allowed to document the historic interiors, then heavily subdued and not their former selves! The Oak Room still then had retained its beautiful murals though the great oak-paneled ceiling was defunct of its original charm...

The 1986-1989 one-hundred million dollar renovations that took place at the Hotel after she had lost $25,000,000 million dollars in revenue and finances alone between 1979-1986 brutally changed the scape of the Roof-Garden forever... The beautiful Oak Room which originally was a long and spacious apartment was sacrificed and remodeled into three smaller rooms; "Cliveden," a business center and a lobby serving the South Cameo Room (now the XIX Cafe) and sky passages to and fro the other public spaces. Today little remains of the once unique space, except flecks of oak peeking through and the plaster-work bas-relief of medallion figures visible only by their shapes and curves, muted by droves of white paint.

A great upset and wrong!

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