The Belvedere Hotel
The Belvedere Hotel was situated on a hilltop that overlooked the bay. A grand porch invited visitors to relax and enjoy the palatial view of the resort. The four-story Victorian-style building, completed in 1900, was not originally intended to function simply as a grand hotel. There are two chapters in the history of The Belvedere Hotel.
The first chapter was part of the “American Monte Carlo” scheme. Originally named the Club House, it was envisioned as a members-only establishment intended to house high stakes gambling and support the racetrack. Several news articles from 1900 describe the luxurious Club House. The articles boast that no expense was spared in the furnishings, which included lush velvet carpets, broad stairways, massive oak furniture, and costly pictures on the walls. In addition, the Club House had the “most approved sanitary and electric lighting appliances.1” The colors of the décor were red, gold, green and silver, and reportedly “blended in such a taste…that is not likely to irritate the nervous man as he risks his cash2.” Another article assures that the décor was a “cozy lair for the ‘tiger’ that will take up his habitat there3.” Ladies were not to be forgotten; they would have a retiring room as well.
The first floor had offices, reading rooms, an elegant café, and smoking rooms. Towards the back there was a large domed room with stained glass ceiling that was set aside for roulette. The upper floors contained rooms for sleeping, card playing, billiards, a large saloon and other entertainment approved by members. The third and fourth floors had sixteen bedrooms with a view of the bay.
In 1903, after the anticipated gambling plan failed to materialize, a new chapter unfolded. In 1904, the Club House was renamed The Belvedere Hotel and remodeled to increase available hotel rooms to fifty-four. From 1904 until 1923, The Belvedere Hotel served a variety of functions. In addition to being used as an hotel, it held offices, a restaurant, and served as a gathering place for entertainment.
On March 31, 1923, a fire broke out in the hotel. The fire was believed to have started at a nearby store and threatened much of the resort. There was no local fire department at the time, however a bucket brigade was formed that was able to contain the fire from spreading. Despite this effort, the hotel was destroyed. Nobody was harmed, as the hotel was vacant, but it was a tremendous loss for Chesapeake Beach. It was never rebuilt because the insurance coverage was inadequate to cover the damage and patronage had been declining.
1 “Bay Shore Racing Plans, The Mile Track at Chesapeake Beach Nearly Finished.” Washington Times, 31 Oct. 1900, p.3.
2 “Big Game is Delayed, Opening of “American Monte Carlo” is Postponed, Chesapeake Beach Scenes.” Baltimore Sun, 11 Dec. 1900, p.6.
3 “For a Monte Carlo, A Gambling House to be Built for the Wealthy, Three Million Dollars Invested in a Vast Gaming Venture on Chesapeake Bay.” Topeka Daily Capital, 7 Nov. 1900, p.5.