Building Description Commodore Perry Hotel, Toledo Ohio
The Commodore Perry is located in downtown Toledo, two blocks west of the Maumee River, on the southwest corner of the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Superior Street. The hotel fronts northeast on to Jefferson Avenue and is surrounded by busy city streets and concrete sidewalks punctuated by small trees. To the south of the hotel is a surface parking lot and to the southwest a seven-story parking garage. When it was constructed, the Commodore Perry was the third and largest hotel to be built at the intersection of Jefferson and Superior, towering over neighboring buildings and dominating the streetscape. Today, the Commodore Perry Hotel is still a central focus on the Toledo skyline though taller modern buildings have since been constructed.
Of steel frame and concrete construction, the 275 foot tall, seventeen-story, nine bay Commodore Perry Hotel is in the Second Renaissance Revival style. Sheathed in textured yellow face brick, the building has limestone detailing, terra cotta decorative elements, and a flat, built-up bituminous roof. Designed by the architectural firm of Mills, Rhines, Bellman, and Nordhoff, the sedate structure has minimal decoration and a strong sense of symmetry. When it was constructed in 1927, the 500 room Commodore Perry Hotel was Toledo's largest building at 300,000 square feet. The building has a four-story, rectangular, limestone base housing commercial and public use areas, and two thirteen-story brick towers connected to form an "H" plan. A base for a third tower exists and, though architectural renderings used by the hotel for advertising purposes show the tower, it was never built.
The Commodore Perry displays features common to the Second Renaissance Revival style, a popular style for public buildings constructed between 1890-1925. These include a rectangular footprint, solid massing, symmetrical facade, rusticated lower stories and smooth upper stories, small windows on upper stories and large round arched windows on the lower stories, an emphasis on horizontal line, a flat roof, and classic details.
Based on the tripartite skyscraper design introduced by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan in the late 19th century, the design of the Commodore Perry mimics the three parts of the Classical column, with each part delineated by its detail and/or materials. In the Commodore Perry, the first level base is distinguished by the use of pale limestone bevel-edged blocks and tall arched windows. The shaft is of buff colored brick with little or no ornamentation while the cornice, or capital, is emphasized by decorative terra cotta belt courses, brick and terra cotta window surrounds, pedimented windows, and an arcaded cornice line.
The ground floor of the structure was designed for commercial use and consists of a series of rectangular storefront windows which run along the north and east elevations. According to the building permits, exterior storefront alteration began in 1938. The windows bordering Jefferson Street have all been modernized and altered over the years. Though the windows along Superior Street have been altered, they still retain some original elements including the configuration of a wide picture window and a recessed entryway with glass panel door and transom.
Originally, the main entrance to the hotel was located on Jefferson Avenue, in the center of the northeast elevation. The entry was sheltered by a flat-roofed overhang suspended from overhead chain supports, which still exits though the original decorative ironwork has been removed. The doorway itself has been replaced with a modern glass and metal frame door. In 1966, the hotel underwent one of its most extensive renovations. At that time, the main entrance was relocated to the building's southwest elevation to make it more accommodating to automobile traffic. A modernistic, seventy-five foot long canopy supported on precast concrete columns was constructed over a three-lane drive. A red brick and limestone addition houses a bank of automatic sliding glass doors, providing access to the newly relocated guest check-in station. The renovation was designed by the noted Toledo architectural firm of Samborn, Steketee, Otis, and Evans who were responsible for other modern style buildings in the city including the United States Post Office (435 S. St. Clair), the Community Services Building (1 Stranahan Square), and Edison Plaza (300 Madison). A secondary pedestrian entrance, which historically had been located on Superior Street near the building's southeast corner, was eliminated during the 1966 renovation and replaced with a rectangular storefront window.
In 1973, a seven-story, 720 space parking garage, adjacent to the southwest corner of the hotel, was constructed by the H. J. Spieker Company, the same contractors responsible for the construction of the hotel in 1927. In 1975, a glass and aluminum breezeway was built to connect the hotel's new entrance with the parking garage.
The lobby floor, used for public space such as dining rooms and conference rooms, is distinguished by tall round-arched window wells containing four-over-four double-hung wooden windows topped with fanlights; a row of paired, rectangular, one-over-one double-hung windows; and rectangular windows accented with balconets. Some of the arched windows on the east elevation, located in the hotel dining room, have been replaced with modern metal windows and the fanlights have been covered over. Two windows on the southeast corner have been filled in with glass block. Other decorative elements include swags and cartouches. A wide, dentiled belt course separates the building's four-story limestone base from the brick towers.
The thirteen-story twin brick towers, housing the guest suites, sit on their own limestone base. The windows located in the limestone bases have flat lintels supported on curved brackets. The towers themselves are devoid of decoration, punctuated only by simple two-over-two double-hung, wooden windows with limestone sills. The windows on the ninth and tenth floor were replaced with single-pane aluminum windows in the late 1970s when the space was occupied by the Toledo Hospital.
The cornice or "capital" of the tripartite design begins at the fourteenth floor and is marked by terra cotta belt courses that encircle both the top and bottom of this story. The windows above the top belt course are highlighted by window surrounds of brick that give it a rustic look. The windows on the fifteenth story are pedimented. The exaggerated cornice is of arcaded terra cotta and is accented with strong dentils.
Early photographs and postcards of the Commodore Perry do not show the existence of a penthouse and it was probably added in 1928, when the first major addition to the hotel appears on the building permits. The brick, flat-roofed structure has arcaded corbelling along its roofline and is located on the north tower of the building. On the east elevation of the penthouse, overlooking the river, is a curved bay of floor-to-ceiling windows with an exterior door of curved glass. A roof of pressure-treated lumber was added c. 1975. Exterior decks and a gazebo atop the north tower were also added. Other documented alterations to the penthouse occurred in 1941, 1945, and 1947. Other additions to the roof include a two-story mechanical room. Today, peregrine falcons roost in nesting boxes which have been placed on the building's roof.
In 1977, two raised platform tennis courts, with parking facilities underneath, were constructed to the south of the hotel building. These courts were used by hotel guests as well as rented to the public. They have since been removed.
Though much of the interior of the hotel has undergone several renovations, a number of significant and distinctive spaces and architectural features still remain.
As noted earlier, the main entrance to the hotel was moved to the ground floor of the southwest elevation in 1966. At this time a "modern" lobby area was created with dropped ceilings, wood paneling, and stylized metallic fixtures. The elevators, located along a central hall that connects the new lobby with the business arcade at the northeast end of the building, retain their original bronze doors etched with an elaborate floral pattern. While alteration has occurred to the interior of the arcade, including a dropped ceiling and modern carpet, it still retains its historic character through the retention of the original oak veneer and single glass panel doors with transoms, large display windows, and a heavily carved cornice molding which runs the length of the hall. The shop interiors have all been heavily altered with dropped ceilings, wall paper, carpet, and new light fixtures.
The original lobby level is accessed by a marble staircase with decorative wrought iron railings and balustrade. This staircase remains intact though a metal security gate has been installed on the landing. Once an open area running almost the full length of the hotel with marble floors and walls and square marble columns supporting a balcony or mezzanine, the lobby has been heavily altered over time with the addition of partitions and a dropped ceiling. The decoratively painted coffered ceiling, which was covered with acoustic tile when air conditioning ducts were installed, still exists though it has sustained some water damage. The original light fixtures, marble walls and columns, and carved cornice molding remain intact.
A large room, originally the hotel lounge (later known as the Crystal Room), runs along the northeast elevation. Decorated in the Colonial Revival-Adam style, the room is painted light blue highlighted with white trim. Decorative elements include paneled wainscotting, Ionic pilasters, crystal chandeliers, decorative panels, carved cornice moldings and festooned lintels over the doors, and fanlight windows. Paneled tri-fold doors are located at the east end of the room. The original coffered ceiling has been covered with a dropped ceiling and a portion has suffered severe water damage. Though no outward signs remain, newspaper reports of the hotel's grand opening indicate that a writing room with gold leaf walls was once located "adjacent" (northwest) to the lounge. Also located to the northwest of the lounge were the hotel gift shop, beauty salon, and barber shop. This area has all been heavily altered, though the green marble walls of the former twelve-chair barber shop are still intact.
On the lobby level of the southeast elevation runs the hotel dining room which has retained its historic function throughout the years of the hotel's operation. Originally known as the Travertine Room, this room has undergone a number of renovations. The Florentine marble walls that can be seen today are original. Covered by wood panels and glass mirrors in 1937, the marble was cleaned and restored in 1947 and again in the 1960s. The original coffered ceiling, elaborately decorative and painted in brilliant hues of madonna blue and red highlighted with gold leaf, can still be seen among the remnants of the acoustic tile dropped ceiling that now covers it. Though it has sustained water damage in some areas, a significant portion of the original ceiling is still in good condition.
The Maumee Grill, whose glass block walls once ran the length of the ground floor of the southwest elevation, was important to the social history of Toledo's downtown business culture. The grill was removed in the 1960s when the new entrance was created. The Maumee Grill was open only to men during the daytime (women were welcome for dinner only) and was famous for its nine murals depicting scenes from Toledo's history that were painted by William Matthews in 1934-5. These murals still exist though some were moved to other locations throughout the hotel when the grill was closed.
The grand ballroom is located at the rear (southwest) end of the mezzanine. Though heavily altered in the 1970s, this room contains at least four "Don Quixote" murals painted on site by the artist William Matthews during the room's first renovation in the 1930s. The murals remain in good condition. The black and white checkerboard floor of terrazzo marble is original. The room has sustained water damage to the ceiling.
In 1973, the hotel suffered a fire that started on the lobby level in a private room owned by Owens-Illinois. The fire caused extensive smoke damage to the building, especially to the space occupied by the Quarterdeck Lounge, at an estimated cost of $70,000.
The tower lobbies and guest rooms are as simple in design on the interior as they are on the exterior. Each floor had a number of two-, three-, and five-room suites. A key marketing feature for the hotel was that every room had an exterior window. A paneled look is achieved on the room walls by the use of decorative wood trim. "Servidor" doors, a room entrance door which can be accessed from both the interior and exterior of the room, are topped by a metal louvered ventilating transom. Bathrooms were decorated in black and white and included pedestal sinks, polygonal floor tile, and a decorative tile mural in the bath tub/shower area displaying a naturalistic scene. Porthole laundry chutes are located near the service elevator on each floor.
The penthouse has undergone a number of renovations over the years, though a few of the original features such as the round bay and cornice molding still exist. In the 1970s the penthouse was used for banquet and entertainment space and alterations, including a skylight and sliding glass doors to the exterior decks, reflect this.
In the 1960s, the hotel began to convert guest rooms to offices, and interior walls were removed to increase space. In 1978, the ninth and tenth floors were converted to an alcohol abuse clinic operated by the Toledo Hospital. These floors were completely remodeled to suit the new use and wood windows were replaced with metal throughout the entire two floors.