By Richard Carreño
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
Back then, the Adelphia Hotel, designed by Philadelphia's great Horace Trumbauer, at 13th and Chestnut, was like the old Taft in New Haven. That town's Shubert was Philly's Forrest, a try-out theatre. What was also memorable was that loads of New York theatre folk here, including John O'Hara, who used to hang at the Adelphia with the other New York brethren and Broadway sharpies. Some also stayed there. Not O'Hara, who was partial to the Warwick, further uptown. Where he was the night when Pal Joey (viz Broadway sharpies) was playing previews at the Forrest. Actually, he and Bud Shulberg, who was tagging along, were actually probably spending more time at the Adelphia, in the bar, the English Tavern. (When they weren't boozing at the Pen & Pencil Club, that is).
A contemporary (circa 1950s) Guide to Philadelphia, written by Nancy Love, notes, 'The name of the room suggests an English tavern but the menu is eclectic: roast beef, corned beef and cabbage, braised ox tails, clam stew, and some Continental fare.' For late, late night mellowing out, there was the Coffee Shop in the lower level.
This was the time when Philadelphians ate at Bookbinders, shopped at The Blum Store, and entertained at the Bellevue-Stratford. Sort of like a vanilla mid-Western flavour, in the East. Still, New York, as in the threatre try-outs, had an influence. Bonwit Teller had a branch here, as B. Altman and Peck and Peck. O'Hara, when not shopping at 346 Madison Avenue, was an habitue of the Brooks Brothers branch at 15th and Chestnut.
The Adelphia bar is long gone. So is the hotel. It's now Adelphia House, a new-ish, renovated apartment house, where, coincidentally, a friend, Leon Robbins, now lives. I was hoping that Leon could show show me skeletons from the past era. I dropped by the other day. We met with the building's manager. 'Nothing's left,' she said. 'The place was gutted when we renovated.'
Thankfully the exterior remains. And the memories.