My paternal grandmother grew up in Apollo, PA, so every so often my dad would take us up there to visit relatives. One of the curiosities I always wanted to catch a glimpse of was the former Belvedere Hotel.
If you’ve ever been to Apollo you will know exactly which building I am talking about. Just before the bridge that takes you over the bridge into Apollo, located in Oklahoma Borough, sits a commanding structure located just feet from the road. This is the Belvedere Hotel.
The History of Apollo’s Belvedere Hotel
This hotel was built in 1905 by Joseph Gianini. The hotel was named Belvedere because the name means “beautiful view” in Italian. The hotel, which was built into a hillside, did have a beautiful view of both the adjacent Kiski River as well as the city of Apollo.
The hotel had had an ideal location, at the time, because of its close proximity to the West Apollo railroad station. Large numbers of passengers traveled through the station on the way to Apollo. Additionally, the last train of the day, known as the “bummer” train arrived well after midnight, leaving passengers needing a place to stay. The Belvedere Hotel was the natural choice.
In addition to offering a night’s lodging, visitors could also dine on French cuisine in the second-floor dining room, as well as an ice cream and candy parlor on the first floor.
Eventually, automobiles passed out passenger train travel, which led to the demise of the Belvedere Hotel. Parking and accessibility, as well as a decreased need for overnight accommodations, played contributing factors in the hotel’s closure.
Once the Belvedere Hotel closed as a hotel the guest rooms were turned into apartments but the building retained its charm. Apparently, rooms featured large oak fireplaces with mirrors in addition to incredibly detailed baseboards and parquet floors. The rooms even had ornate brass doorknobs. Unfortunately, most of those architectural elements are gone, and the ones that do remain it is probably impossible to get them due to the building’s condition.
The first floor of the Belvedere Hotel remained functional as a candy shop and ice cream parlor for years, but was eventually turned into a bar. It was called by different names over the years as well, including Gianini’s and the Tin Hut.
The Belvedere Hotel In Its Final Days
Today, the Belvedere Hotel sits in severe disrepair. It sits only 6 feet from Orr Avenue, 10 feet from Route 66, and 37 feet from the railroad tracks. Due to new zoning regulations the hotel can’t meet setback requirements and is not eligible for an occupancy permit.
Up until July 2017, a local woman was actually still living in the hotel and lights could be seen at night. Owner Lanna Planitzer is approximately 80 years-old and bought the hotel in 1979 when it was still a bar and apartments. She had hoped to restore and re-energize the hotel but those plans never came to fruition.
Local officials worry that a combination of a sagging roof, learning wall, and rotten and broken floor joists could mean that the hotel could collapse at any time and threaten the nearby roads and railroad tracks. The cost of demolition, however, could exceed $500,000 and Oklahoma Borough can’t pay for it.
Urbex and the Belvedere Hotel
In the meantime, there are some individuals who want to document what has been left behind in the Belvedere Hotel. Despite the owner living there until 2017, the hotel looks as if the place hasn’t been touched in decades, particularly the first floor.
Taxidermies hang on the walls, rotting, and a thick layer of dust and dirt covers everything.
In its current state it would be hard to recognize the first floor as the same place you see in the vintage photos, but if you look closely the pressed tin on the walls and ceilings matches. Honestly, it is amazing that it has lasted this long.
It’s always a shame to see buildings such as the Belvedere Hotel decay to the point of no return.
On July 23, 2019 a fire broke out inside the Hotel Belvedere burning the entire structure to the ground. The suspected cause was arson. The blaze was so all-consuming that the entire structure burned, leaving only the stone walls from the first floor and a pile of rubble. Although it was sad to see it go, it may have been a more dignified way to go than a wrecking crew.
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