The iconic red sign that can be seen from anywhere you are in Providence, Rhode Island is a beacon of old-world glamour and prestige. The Providence Biltmore has been a staple to the city since 1922. Learn more of its illustrious past below…
1. Tell us a bit about the history of Providence Biltmore.
Opened to the public in 1922, the hotel is known as “the grand dame” in the Renaissance city of Providence, Rhode Island. With grand architecture and an impressive list of guests including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Nelson Rockefeller, the hotel boasts the confidence of an established hostess and the vitality and charm of an ingénue. Fittingly, it has been placed on the National Preservation Register as one of the country’s cherished architectural treasures and has been named as a Historic Hotel of America. This historic building exemplifies the discreet charm of Rhode Island combined with a European flair for intrigue and romance. Most recently, we have become a part of the prestigious Preferred Hotel Group as a Summit property.
New York entrepreneurs John Bowman and Louis Wallick built the Providence Biltmore as a 600 room hotel. A model of self-sufficiency, it offered guests a choice of six in-house restaurants and included a hotel drugstore, printing shop, carpentry shop, upholstery shop, and photo lab. The unique V-shaped design created by New York architects Warren and Wetmore, whose other commissions include New York City’s Grand Central Station, afforded all guests an outside room.
In the big band era of the 1930’s and ‘40’s, the country’s elite passed time in the Providence Biltmore’s Garden Room Supper Club, dancing to the sounds of Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. The Garden Room was famous for its dinner show. To present a Hollywood-style water show, the hotel once turned the dance floor of the Supper Club into an aquarium whose waters were graced by live fish and Ester Williams. When Sonja Henie performed her ice show on another occasion, the floor was frozen solid to accommodate her silver skates.
During this time, high rollers in Providence often favored the low lights of the Providence Biltmore’s truly sybaritic Bacchante Room. A restaurant ahead of its time, it featured a sunken bar and glass floor with pink lights shining from underneath. The beautiful waitresses wore diaphanous skirts, like those of harem girls.
In 1954, the hotel suffered the kind of crisis only seen in television movies. During a fierce hurricane, a tidal wave hit Providence, just as it had in 1938. The water ravaged through town and poured through the hotel’s elevator shafts. Couches floated around the Falstaff Room, drifted out into the lobby, and stopped at the revolving door. Today, a plaque placed high on the lobby columns shows the high water mark of that tumultuous event.
In 1974, the lights in the hotel were turned off, and it stood dark until 1979. When it reopened, Rhode Islanders were introduced to a renovated Providence Biltmore featuring a glass-enclosed elevator and ornate French lift ascending 17 stories up the exterior of the hotel. The lift took brave guests on a journey through the roof of the lobby and out into space for a dramatic vertical tour of Providence.
2. What are some of the key benefits to booking an event there?
The Providence Biltmore offers full catering services, years of experience working with couples planning a wedding, exclusive rates to friends and family traveling, convenient downcity location, allowing couples more of one stop shopping convenience. No rentals are needed as guests are offered use of all the hotel serviceware, china, tables, chairs, linens, etc. We host many ceremonies with receptions at the hotel. There are also many great locations in the hotel for bridal party pictures.
I enjoy working with all our couples from booking to day of wedding. Having been at the hotel for over 16 years, and having received Certified Wedding Venue Professional through the Bridal Society, I work to stay up to date on trends. I am a member of the RI Wedding Group and I participate in webinars through the year and attend at least one wedding conference each year.
3. Do you have specific list of vendors that clients can choose from or are they free to bring in their own?
We do offer referrals for local vendors if a couple needs information. This list is not exclusive so they may work with whom they choose.
4. How far in advance do you recommend events to be booked for?
We will accept booking up to 2 years prior to an event date.
5. What are some of the top design trends you have seen this year?
With our historic nature in the hotel, we have many weddings that have planned a combination of low and high centerpieces to showcase the tall 22” ceilings in the ballrooms. We have seen many weddings working with rich tones for colors. Uplighting in the ballrooms is a big trend!