Monday, April 23, 2012

Ladies Dining Room, Ladies Writing and Reception Room at the Hotel Vendig

Hotel Vendig
Ladies Dining Room, Ladies Writing and Reception Room at the Hotel Vendig

Location: 13th and Filbert, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: 1891

Closed: Doesn't appear to be still operating under this name, but have yet to verify when it was closed.

I have found almost no information on the Hotel Vendig, apart from a few old postcards. But this was obviously a very nice (if not super luxurious) hotel for this era. The postcards tell us that it was run on the "European Plan," that it was "Absolutely Fire Proof, " and that "Special Sample Rooms" were available. Best of all,  "Every Room has Bath or Shower and running Ice Water." So relieved to hear that! But as a better hotel, this also meant that it had distinctly separate areas for ladies and gentlemen.

So rather than spend too much time on analysis, let's just take a peek at what those ladies' spaces looked like.

Ladies Dining Room, Hotel Vendig

Ladies Writing and Reception Room, Hotel Vendig

Even to the casual observer, it is clear that the design of the designated ladies' areas favored a light and airy aesthetic, with lots of white.

As we have discussed before, ladies were generally not welcomed in the "main" dining areas of these hotels, though men very often "escorted" ladies into the ladies cafe. So these were not women-only spaces strictly speaking.

The Ladies Writing and Reception Room met with at least one woman's approval as scribbled on the back of the postcard is the following message: "This room is very pretty as well as useful. " I have to admit that this is a first for me--I had never seen a writing space for women before, at least before some of the writer centers, workshops, and retreats created by the second wave of the feminist movement. I'd like to think that some fine stories and poetry came out of this space, in addition to all the chatty postcards and letters sent off to the loved ones back home.

Lobby, Hotel Vendig
But check this out. We see a similar light and airy design scheme in the lobby, which is somewhat neutral or "mixed" territory. So apparently this design was not limited to the ladies' spaces.

As for the gentlemen's areas--which are seldom explicitly identified as gentlemen's areas--we have one general postcard depicting what they looked like:

Hotel Vendig - general views

Of the areas illustrated, three are more or less neutral--the bedroom (upper left), the Filbert Street entrance (lower left), and the 13th Street entrance (lower right).

The two middle photos are basically gentlemen's eating areas: the Buffet (on the left) and the Grill (on the right). Even comparatively recently, the "grill" has been associated with men-only areas in country clubs and the like. Both of these spaces seem to be a little darker and "clubbier" in appearance than the ladies' areas.

The intention behind the Exchange (upper right hand corner) is not entirely evident. But I suspect it was something like the Men's Lounge at New York's Hotel McAlpin, which was "a long gallery fitted up in the manner of a sumptuous clubroom with easy chairs, library, smokers' necessities, bar, stock ticker and public stenographer." You know, all that business stuff that the silly little females needn't worry about.

But apart from all that, I'm still finding myself in serious desire of a ladies writing room. And I'm sure that a lot of other women writers would love to have one too....

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