Monday, November 12, 2012

The Brown Hotel - Louisville, Kentucky

The Moderators Conference was held at The Brown Hotel, a venerable grand hotel dating to 1923.  I had never been there before.  Having arrived late in the evening, and having checked into my room, I immediately went down to the Lobby to take some photos.  I am glad I did, since we were super busy throughout the Conference.  The Brown Hotel has a great double height Lobby with a Mezzanine that surrounds three sides, so these arches and balconies are the upper portion of the Lobby from which one can look down and see the whole expanse.  Above, a pair of vintage wing chairs that look as if FDR and Eleanor are about to settle in and have a chat, fireside or not.  Below, a long view of the Lobby from one end of the Mezzanine.
The Brown was built in 1923 at a cost of $4 million by lumberman and capatlist J. Graham Brown, and designed by St. Louis architect Preston J. Bradshaw. The hotel was a magnet for many prominent guests and celebrities during the 1920s through the 1950s.  It closed in 1971 soon after the 1969 death of its founder, and was for many years the headquarters for the Board of Education.  Renovated and reopened, it welcomes today's guests as graciously as it did the notables of the past who have stopped here down the decades...On any given night you might have rubbed elbows at the Brown with Bing Crosby, Liberace, Bob Hope, the Gish sisters, Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers, Helen Hayes,Gene Krupa, Fanny Brice, Robert Young, Gene Autry, Don Ameche, John Daly, Eva Marie Saint, Eddie Cantor, Harry Truman, or Elizabeth Taylor. As a young man, Victor Mature was an elevator opperator at the Brown; George Gobel got his start in the Bluegrass Room (where we Presbyterians had our meals).  At Derby Time, The Brown was a living ‘Who’s Who’ ranging from Walter Huston, Irene Dunne, Sammy Sneed, Walt and Lil Disney, Fifi D’Orsay, and Beulah Bondi, to Lum ‘n’ Abner, and the Duke of Windsor, among others.  (If you don't recognize some of the names, look them up!)

The other end of the Mezzanine is shown above, with its lovely Adam style carpeting.  Below is a detail of the Mezzanine railing.  In the 1920s architects designed all of these elaborate details for their buildings, or selected from a vast range of suppliers of fittings for interiors.  It would be difficult to design or fabricate architectural elements such as these, nowadays.

Above is a glimpse of the Lobby from the Mezzanine, by which one begins to get an impression of its size.  Below is a view looking the length of the Lobby, with a cozy chess table set up in the foreground.

Above is a closer view of the Lobby from the chess table; below is looking down at one of several seating groupings in the Lobby.

Above is an "across the Mezzanine" view toward the elevator.
J. Graham Brown who built the 293-room, 16-story hotel at 335 W. Broadway in 1923 and lived there in a penthouse apartment until his death, believed in providing supreme customer service. His ghost is said to put in an appearance especially during busy time s such as Derby Time. Mr. Brown surveys the lobby from his favorite spot, under an arch on the mezzanine grasping the railing, keeping a watchful eye on things to make sure patrons have all of their needs met. Employees have reported looking eye to eye with Mr. Brown before he vanishes from sight. Upon seeing the hotelier’s fleeting image, employees also report smelling the fragrant scent of Brown’s cigar smoke.

Below, another view looking down at the Lobby from the Mezzanine. 

A number of interesting works of art are displayed throughout the public spaces of The Brown Hotel; above shows one of a pair of gigantic vases.  Below, one can see a close up of the ceiling details--the colors used throughout the hotel are warm and inviting.

Here are several views of The Crystal Ballroom, aptly named, in which we had our plenaries.  Again, the Adam or Federal Style prevails.  It is a room not unlike the East Room at The White House.

Fresh flowers were displayed here and there throughout the public areas of the hotel as seen above and below.

Above, one of the wall sconces in The Crystal Ballroom creates a charming pattern of light and shadow; below, a view of one of the smaller meeting rooms, The Louisville Room
Judy joined me on Friday midday and was able to sample "The Hot Brown" in the hotel's restaurant--I missed out on that because those who were in the Conference dined together in The Bluegrass Room. 

How was our stay?  Delightful in every way.  The staff members were courteous, and with all those guests, remembered our names and, wonder of wonders, even remembered the somewhat unusual way we spell our last name--amazing! 

The people at the desk, in the halls, in the dining rooms, and wherever we happened to be seemed to be enjoying their duties at the hotel and were helpful and thoughtful throughout our stay.  We look forward to a return visit to The Brown Hotel and to Louisville.

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