On his cross-country trip in 1953, Harry Truman gave a speech at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. The hotel is best known as the site of a 1976 American Legion convention at which more than 200 people were stricken with a mysterious pneumonia-like malady. More than thirty eventually died of the illness, which was attributed to a bacterium in the hotel’s air conditioning system. The illness has come to be known as Legionnaires’ Disease.
If, as Holiday Inn likes to say, the best surprise in the lodging business is no surprise, then the worst is probably death. Naturally the outbreak had a deleterious effect on business, and the Bellevue-Stratford was forced to close by the end of that year. Since then it had been bought and sold, opened and closed, and remodeled and renamed many times. In its present incarnation it is a combination upscale mall/office building/boutique hotel known simply as The Bellevue.
Last Thursday I went up to Philadelphia for the day and visited the Bellevue. The once-ornate lobby has been subdivided into shops, including a Polo Ralph Lauren and a Tiffany. But a few original details have been preserved. The Grand Ballroom, where Harry delivered his speech, is still there. So is this magnificent Tiffany stained-glass window:
In any event, I have completed the manuscript. Yesterday I submitted it to the publisher. Now I am on pins and needles waiting to hear what my editor thinks of it.