Biltmore Hotel


11 Dorrance St. Providence, RI

Physical Status


Detailed History

The Biltmore Hotel’s Green Book listing reveals a key aspect of the hotel’s history that has never been told: that it was open occupancy. Between 1947 and 1955, African-Americans were welcomed there and could avail themselves of the hotel’s many services. These services included a drugstore, printer, postal-telegraph office, a barber shop, gift shop, cigar stand, public stenographer, multiple clothing stores, and six different restaurants. It would have been a key destination for African-Americans travelers during this time. The Biltmore was designed by Warren and Wetmore and constructed in 1922. It was the first major hotel constructed in Providence. The hotel was legendary during Prohibition, mainly because Rhode Island was so lax in enforcing the anti-drinking laws. The hotel quickly became a Big Band-era hot spot, hosting the likes of Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey. As time passed, the Biltmore kept with the times, hosting John and Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Rocky Marciano, among others. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman have also 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. After being summoned to a table by a button, the Bacchante girls passed through the bar, where pink lighting streamed up through the bar’s glass floor through their diaphanous skirts, and showed off their legs. The Biltmore’s relationship with its African-American clients has yet to be fully understood. Among the Rhode Island Green Book sites, it stands out as a meeting place and as a public site. It can’t have accidentally been listed, especially for all those years. Further research is definitely needed.

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