Bentley Hotel, Alexandria Louisiana
The Bentley Hotel was built in 1907-1908 by Joseph A. Bentley, a prominent citizen of Alexandria who in the course of his life was a banker, lumberman, and philanthropist as well as hotel owner. The building's architect was George R. Mann and his assistant was J.L. Howard. Their firm was based in Little Rock, Arkansas. The contractor was Hull Construction Company of Jackson, Mississippi, and the construction crew was under the supervision of D.H. Shenk. The cost of construction was $750,000, including the furnishings.
In addition to its association with Bentley, who is almost a legendary figure in Alexandria history, the hotel also has associations with some important figures of World War II. During the war there were several military installations in the area, and according to the reminiscences of a longtime employee, among the famous soldiers who stayed at the hotel were General Omar Bradley and Colonel Dwight Eisenhower. Other guests were Huey Long, Gary Grant, and John Wayne.
The Bentley Hotel is set in downtown Alexandria one block back from the Red River levee. Because the Bentley is almost completely surrounded by other downtown buildings, there is no open view in which the grand facade can present itself to any great effect.
The hotel was built in 1907 as a five-story brick building, with a monumental, colossal colonnaded entrance and an English basement. In 1936 an eight-story rear wing was added. The seven-bay Ionic, colossal entrance colonnade runs along the main block of the building, between a pair of massive end wings.
The main interior spaces are characterized by Beaux Arts axial planning. The main lobby is. a. seven-bay, two-story domed cortile with massive marble faced Ionic pillars and pilasters on all four sides. At the rear of the cortile is an open columned passageway which runs practically from end to end of the building. Set on axis with the front entrance, the imperial main staircase passes between a pair of false marble columns, and leads from the lower level of the cortile to the mezzanine level.
West of the cortile is a large, one-story hypostyle ballroom with an elaborate coffered ceiling. A drop ceiling has been installed and the room has been redecorated. However, the old ceiling is intact and could be exposed with the removal of lower fiberboard ceiling.
Most of the rooms, like the restaurants and bars on the basement level, have been variously modified and remodeled over the years. The cortile was recently treated with red velvet panels. However, these have had minimal visual impact because they are overpowered by heavy, gold painted, ceiling panels, bay leaf garlands, volutes,consoles, modillions and the elaborately tiled floor. The overall effect is that of a jewel box of grey marble, gold colored ornament, crystal chandeliers, and tile.
The building has a grey brick exterior with terra cotta ornamentation in the turn-of-the-century Renaissance Revival style. The eight-story rear wing has touches of art moderne ornamentation.