The oldest surviving hotel in one of the oldest U.S. cities, the 294-room Providence Biltmore has seen a lot over the decades. Orginally opened in 1922, this historic hotel has survived prohibition, numerous hurricanes, renovations, and politics, and remains a landmark in the heart of downtown Providence, Rhode Island.
(After this review was written, it became a Curio by Hilton and is now part of the Graduate Collection after a recent sale. This Providence Biltmore review does not include any changes Graduate has made since the 2017 ownership change.)
It remains a tribute to a kinder era, although still battles some practical modern problems.
With its gold and marble filled lobby, the hotel makes a wonderful first impression. The chandelier and gold filigree reminds me of a time when travel was infinitely easier and more gracious,and the glass elevator in the center of the lobby is kept sparkling, even though it is no longer in use. Some entry repairs were going on during my stay, but they were done quickly and quietly with only a small impact on guests.
I arrived late at night, after a long slog across the country. The check-in process took longer than it should have, not even getting an acknowledging smile or nod from the front desk clerk who helping someone on the phone. A simple smile or eye contact would have made a warmer impression and welcome.
My room was a junior suite and included a comfortable living area with sofa, chair, work desk, and refrigerator. The bedroom was spacious, with two custom King-sized beds, and the dividing wall between the two rooms had a television mounted on both sides. Wifi is complimentary, the bandwidth was strong, and there were ample plugs ins, including a USB plug in, for charging your gadgets. The room had a huge walk in closet, unusual for a hotel, and there was a full length mirror in the dressing area.
The bathroom had a sink and dressing area that was separate from the toilet and shower. The Biltmore has a full service spa on site, and its spa products were featured in the bathroom. Although I didn’t have time for a treatment, I poked my head into the Spa and took an unobtrusive look around. This is the only hotel that has a full service spa on site, so keep this in mind if a spa experience is part of your travel preferences.
My stay at the Biltmore began on May 1st. It was unseasonably rainy, windy, and cold. My room was cold, as in 63 degrees cold. I turned off the air condition, the overhead fan (which was also on upon my arrival), raised the temperature and crawled into bed assuming the room would warm up overnight. But no, it did not. The following day, when the room temperature crept up to 64 degrees, I learned that the hotel decided to turn off the heat. In all the rooms. And there was no way to get it turned back on.
The front desk offered up a space heater, which isn’t safe or practical at bedtime, and an extra blanket, which took an hour and a half and a second call to arrive. At a time when the outside temperture was in the 40s, a room without heat is simply unacceptable. It made for a difficult start to every day. Had I not been with a group, it would have been a serious enough problem to seek out another hotel – one with heat. This is likely to only be a problem if you are traveling in the shoulder season, that time when the weather is changing and may not be changing according to a calendar. If you’re traveling during this time, I’d recommend a call to the hotel to confirm that you will have heat or air conditioning available.
The Biltmore is located in the heart of dowtown, an easy walking distance to shopping and dining, entertainment venues, the central business district, and the Rhode Island Convention and Entertainment complex. If you want to venture a little further, a house car will transport you within about a three mile readius. If you don’t want to leave the property, Starbucks and McCormick & Schmick’s are located just off the lobby.
The Providence Biltmore is located at 11 Dorrance Street, Providence, Rhode Island. Rates start at around $165/night based on double occupancy, and are significantly higher during the summer months. The hotel is part of the Graduate Collection now. You can book online through their website, on Hotels.com, or on Expedia.
Special note: At the time of my stay, a very bitter strike was going on between labor groups and Verizon. On the morning of my last stay, I was woken by a picket line chanting “scabs go home” to the beat of a drum and air horn. I assume this had something to do with the eventual sale.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Rhode Island tourism for my time in Providence.