Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Colours of the Bellevue

A stained-glass venetian window set in marble details and gilt bas-relief and paneling in the Main Staircase of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Most likely a Cheltenham Studios piece. No signature can be found. If this were an authentic Tiffany piece, the signature would be somewhere viewable. This window is most-likely (or hopefully) in a walled-off section of the Hotel which bars the Main Staircase from any further access from the First Floor.
Tracking Down Tiffany

This post is mainly for research purposes. It details the on-going research for the original Louis Comfort Tiffany embellishments that adorned the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel when she was first constructed and opened.

Between 1902 and 1904 the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel took form. During this time decorators, artisans from all over came to design and fill the Hotel with glorious architectural and artistic details of resplendent grace...

Thomas Alva Edison who we of course know invented the light bulb, was also instrumental in the design of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel... He designed all the electricity that went into the building which was actually the first fully-electrified building in the country! Names like Tiffany and Lalique were at one time incredibly famous as they took the world by storm! Both were prolific art-glass makers and designers. George Boldt knew what he was doing when he affiliated himself with them and asked them to design embellishments for his beautiful masterpiece!

Tiffany who had his studios based in New York City, designed beautiful embellishments of stained-glass for the Hotel in the form of ceiling panels, windows in the staircases, and beautiful intricate transoms on the Ground-Floor! Lalique was hired to design the light fixtures, mainly chandeliers for the Hotel. In 1912 when the Hotel welcomed the new addition of the Roof-Garden/Nineteenth-Floor to its architecture and design, Boldt hired the prolific designers Grueby Faience Co. who specialized in ceramic tiles and flooring, fireplace mantels, and the like to decorate the floors of several of the large interiors of the Roof-Garden. Grueby was affiliated with Tiffany Studios, and Tiffany and Co. and was one of the mainstays of the 1890's when Arts and Crafts and the Art Nouveau were just beginning to blossom. 

Tiffany as was said previously made exquisite works of art for the Bellevue-Stratford in the form of ceiling panels, windows and transoms. The ceiling panels were installed over the landings between the First and Second Floors of the Main and Secondary Staircases. Also installed were two venetian stained-glass windows with embellishment of paneled woodwork in enamel and marble details with scroll-work. Each of the stairways had light wells in this area behind the staircase wall which gave natural light from a lofty skylight over each well. There may have also been stained-glass in the bathrooms that surrounded this area of the Hotel. Whatever the case, over the years the elegance of the Hotel was marred and battered by modernization of the exterior and interior, renovation, neglect and damage, even some vandalism!

During the renovation work of 1976-1979 (after the Bellevue-Stratford was closed temporarily after publicity kept building in negative views toward the Hotel for being the epicenter of the infamous outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease) renovation workers found twelve original stained-glass transoms and reinstalled them along the Ground-Floor's facade. Another interesting fact is that in or after 1966 the Cathedral Stained-Glass Studio in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania was hired to design and install two windows in the Main and Secondary Staircases. These two windows are still extant, though the other is blocked from public view by a massive contemporary wall! The other is in bad shape in the First Foyer, slap-stick and manhandled roughly, glass cracked and broken, scuffed paneling and not even mounted correctly! Even though it isn't authentic Tiffany its still beautiful! The D'Ascenzo Studios of Philadelphia which was started by Nicola D'Ascenzo in 1894 was the first successful stained-glass business in the city! His work was also hired for, at one point he was even hosted to design murals for the Grand Entrance and Lobby, something that may have never transpired or was not agree upon.

The calling in of the Cheltenham Studios gives the need to research more on what happened to Tiffany's original embellishments. There were between 40-45 stained-glass transoms that Louis Comfort Tiffany designed and had installed on the Ground-Floor. They ranged from the Dining-Room, Lobby and Entrances, Gentleman's Cafe', Ladies' Reception-Room, and the Palm Court. From historical books it is found that he also designed pieces for the interior staircases (Main and Secondary) The question to ask now is what happened to them and where did they go? Were they sold? Are they just (hopefully) in storage waiting to be resurfaced? Are these embellishments, including the ceiling panels what the Cheltenham Studios replaced? During the second liquidation of the Hotel (between 1986-1989), many stained-glass ornaments were sold "Tiffany-style" which begs the question were these from the Cheltenham Studio? They weren't established until 1966, and stained-glass was already there before 1941. The research goes on!

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