Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel at 11 Dorrance St.

The Biltmore Hotel at 11 Dorrance St.

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Known Name(s)

Biltmore Hotel


11 Dorrance St. Providence, RI

Establishment Type(s)


Physical Status


Detailed History

Research into The Green Book’s listings often yields answers to questions one had not thought to ask. In Rhode Island, The Biltmore was an open occupancy hotel; it was listed in The Green Book from 1947 until 1955. African-Americans could not only stay at the hotel, but they could avail themselves of the hotel’s myriad other businesses and services. The Biltmore was a key destination in Rhode Island, and its openness to African-Americans travelers casts this history in a new light.

The Biltmore, designed by Warren and Wetmore and constructed in 1922, was the first major hotel in Providence. The hotel was legendary during Prohibition, mainly because Rhode Island was so lax in enforcing anti-drinking laws. The hotel quickly became a Big Band-era hot spot, hosting the likes of Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey. Over the decades, the Biltmore kept up with the times, hosting John and Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Rocky Marciano, among others. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman have graced its doors. At one point, one might have even seen a handsome young senator by the name of Joe Biden.

The hotel was particularly famous for the Bacchante Girls, scantily-clad waitresses who served the “banquettes” in the Bacchante Room. Bacchante girls were summoned to the table by button, in the process passing through the bar. Pink lighting streamed up through the bar’s glass floor, lighting their diaphanous skirts and showing off their legs. 

Between 1947 and 1955, the years that The Biltmore was listed in The Green Book, the hotel was also home to about 10 other businesses, many geared towards the needs of the traveller. They included David Annesse, clothes presser and cleaner, Fredley’s ladies wearing apparel, the John F. Snyder cigar stand, the Sherton-Biltmore Beauty Salon, and various restaurants: The Baccante, the Fallstaff, the Garden, and the Town Room. Other institutions also made their home at the Biltmore, including the Jewelers Protective Association, the Northeast Manufacturing Jewelers & Silversmith’s Association, and the Narragansett Racing Association. Visitors could purchase theater tickets at the Biltmore Theater Ticket Agency and rail tickets at the Biltmore Ticket and Travel service. Eastern Air Lines set up an office at the Biltmore in 1948, followed by United Air Lines in 1949. The W.F.C.I Broadcasting station operated there between 1947 and 1951.

The Biltmore continues to function as a hotel today.


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