On this date: 1,000 of Dayton’s best partied to open its biggest hotel in 1929

The opening of the Dayton-Biltmore Hotel nearly 100 years ago was cause for a lavish celebration that turned out the city’s movers and shakers.

The new 500-room hotel on Main Street had recently been completed and was deemed the “outstanding structure of 1929” in a Dayton Daily News headline.

The brick and terra cotta exterior of the new landmark was designed in the Second Renaissance Revival style, according to research done by the City of Dayton Planning Dept.

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Inside the hotel, the largest in the city, travertine marble columns and sculptured plaster coffered ceilings added to the elegance.

Referred to as “an epoch in the history of Dayton,” a grand dinner dance for 1,000 people was held Saturday, Nov. 16, 1929 to mark the opening.

John McEntee Bowman, president of the Bowman-Biltmore hotels and “the widest-known hotel operator in the world,” according to the newspaper, traveled by private train car on the New York Central to attend the party and inspect his hotel.

He told reporters he built the luxurious hotel to be “worthy of the progressive city.”

“Bowman is a clean-living, straight-thinking, industrious fellow who perhaps gets as much sheer enjoyment out of life as anyone,” wrote a reporter. “He will like Dayton and Dayton will like him.”

“The inaugural event was one of the most brilliant functions ever held in Dayton ... ,” gushed the newspaper.

The guests emerged from limousines, climbed a grand marble staircase and entered the “handsome architecture of the lobby and the main floor where davenports of deep red ... and huge baskets of chrysanthemums in glorious autumn hues” filled the space.

Guests passed “lacquer-tinted, jewel-studded elevators” on a path to the ballroom decorated in “walls of cream and gold hue” and illuminated by “crystal chandeliers, ablaze with light,” according to the newspaper.

The “perfume of roses scented the room while dance melodies by Marion McKay’s orchestra floated through the ballroom and the inviting lounges beyond.”

“Jewels sparkling on handsomely gowned women and the blending of the startling vivid coloring of evening gowns, created an atmosphere suggestive of one of the fashionable night clubs of the Great White Way.”

The next day, the elegant hotel was opened to the public and became the place to be for Daytonians and guests from further abroad.

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