Historic Sites

Staying in Philadelphia: The Hotel Stenton and Hotel Walton

At the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, Philadelphia was home to several large and elaborate hotels. These hotels, including the Hotel Stenton and the Hotel Walton, provided lodging for travelers, apartments for Philadelphia residents, fine cuisine for both local residents and visitors to the city, and a meeting place for clubs and conventions.

The Hotel Walton, located on the southeast corner of Broad Street and Locust Street, opened in February 1896 and incorporated the Hotel Metropole, an earlier establishment on the same site. Upon its completion, the hotel featured a ladies’ restaurant, a gentlemen’s café, several parlors, a banquet hall, and 400 guest rooms (200 of which had separate baths). The hotel would eventually be known as the John Bartram Hotel before being demolished in the 1960s. The history of the Hotel Stenton is harder to determine. Located on the northeast corner of Broad Street and Spruce Street, photos of the hotel date to the 1890s. A 1942 city atlas, however, does not show the hotel at that location, likely indicating that it had been demolished or gone out of business by that time.

Several articles from the New York Times give insight into the clientele who frequented the hotels. On May 28, 1894, Miss Julia Marlowe, an actress, quietly married Robert Taber, an actor, at a small ceremony at St. James’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia attended by seven friends of the couple. While making preparations for the wedding, the reporter notes that Mr. Taber stayed at the Hotel Stenton. After the ceremony, the wedding party returned to the Hotel Stenton for a wedding breakfast before departing for New York. On September 17, 1901, the paper reports that a visiting English cricket team would reside at the Hotel Stenton while they spent time in Philadelphia for games with the local cricket club. In 1909, a group of female motorists on a two-day automobile run from New York to Philadelphia finished their competition at the city line. They were then escorted to the Hotel Walton for a reception where they were given an address of welcome by Mayor Reyburn.

Local hotels also provided housing and meeting space for individuals traveling to Philadelphia for conferences and conventions. From June 1-4, 1897, the American Medical Association held a semi-centennial meeting in Philadelphia. In a letter to The Medical News, a member of the organizing committee urged those planning to attend the meeting to make arrangements at one of the local hotels and provided a list of hotels and prices. The Hotel Walton offered lodging for $1.50 and upward per day on the European plan and $4 and upward per day on the American plan. The Hotel Stenton offered lodging for $2 and upward per day on the European plan and $4 and upward per day on the American plan. The European plan usually covered the cost of the room whereas the American plan covered the cost of both the room and meals at the hotel. The Hotel Walton also served as the headquarters for the Association during the meeting, and meetings of the Section of Physiology and Dietetics were held at the Hotel Stenton.

As they still do in the twenty-first century, hotels in Philadelphia in the nineteenth century provided lodging, both for travelers and city residents, and also served as social places where people could find a meal or gather for meetings and discussions. In the twentieth century, many of the older, independently run hotels would be purchased by larger business entities and change to reflect the desires of different generations of travelers.