Holidays

Deadly Hotels

by Ralph Martin

BELLEVUE-STRATFORD, Philadelphia

They don't come much grander, or more lethal, than Philadelphia's former Bellevue-Stratford. Built in 1904 with 1,090 rooms, Tiffany and Lalique fixtures, and a lighting system designed by Thomas Edison himself, the Bellevue was the toast of Philadelphia until 1976, when it took out 34 guests in a single sitting. Following an American Legion convention in celebration of the Bicentennial, several attending Legionnaires began suffering pneumonia-like symptoms. A total of 221 people were afflicted, of whom 34 eventually died; near-pandemonium spread as fears of an epidemic circulated through the press. The hotel closed its doors a few months after the convention, and the investigation that followed was a CSI-worthy spectacle of forensic scientists crawling around the building, closing their net on the perpetrator. Eventually, a brand-new strain of bacteria was traced to the hotel's cooling tower; the toxic critters had taken a ride along the currents of the hotel's air-conditioning to lodge in guests' lungs. Legionnaires' disease—Legionellosis—was born. The hotel was bought and resold throughout the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, and was eventually converted to a mall, then reconverted to a luxe 172-room establishment, now known as the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue (see slideshow). The new name reflects a more sterile era, without the thrill of a time when going to a banquet might mean acquiring a newly-discovered disease.

Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue
Tel: 215 893 1234

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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