From star-studded Beverly Hills to backcountry New Hampshire, havens of hospitality are revived
Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, Calif. — The pink, palace-sized landmark, considered by historians to be one of the most splendid examples of Mission Revival architecture in California, is back in business again.
Closed in 1993 with the intent of reopening in its original 1913 splendor, the $100-million makeover has largely been successful. It returns the massive, cupola-topped structure to a fresh and vivid incarnation of its southern California youth, when this town was a country crossroads in the foothills far west of Los Angeles.
Annual pilgrims - and local preservation purists who wanted only structural reinforcement and no substantive or cosmetic alteration - can breathe a sigh of relief: The essential look and structure remain the same.
If anything, the hotel seems more itself than ever.
The trademark pink stucco glistens beneath the original twin California fan palm trees that mark the hotel's entrance, and the red carpet under the candy-striped green-and-white porte-cochere feels comfortably familiar.
What's new are additions to the lobby. A swank new tea room sits off the main desk, where the opulence of a hand-painted, gold-leaf Steinway reminds the visitor that this renovation was done under the auspices of the sultan of Brunei, the hotel's current owner. A new grand staircase sweeps guests up from the lobby.
But the famous Polo Lounge, where Hollywood producers gather to initiate and close major deals, is intact, as are the 52 phone and fax lines at the adjacent pool. And there are luxurious bungalows, as usual, for the likes of Walter Annenberg, who has long rented Bungalow No. 5 for $2,750 a night.
This Hollywood landmark, home to the original ''power breakfast,'' has been due for a major overhaul.
Gensler Associates, the firm in charge of the makeover, was faced with pre-World War I plumbing and wiring, and there was no central air conditioning.
Despite its cachet as being home to tinsel-town power brokers, the hotel was beginning to lose business to more modern luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons and the newly opened Peninsula Hotel.
Most of the regular guest rooms have been enlarged, reducing the total number to 194 from the pre-renovation number of 253. The updated rooms now offer such amenities as three phones with private lines, plain-paper fax machines and computer-modem capabilities, two TV sets and a CD/cassette player, walk-in closets, and large marble and granite bathrooms.
Local boosters point to the improvements as one more sign that Beverly Hills is in the middle of an economic boom.
Barney's, the upscale New York department store, recently opened, and Saks Fifth Avenue just finished an expansion on Wilshire Boulevard. At the same time, Bloomingdale's is negotiating to build its West Coast flagship store on Beverly Drive, and a huge Nike Town shoe and clothing store is pending on Wilshire.
Posh Rodeo Drive is nearly 100 percent leased for the first time in years, according to city officials.
The hotel does not offer corporate reductions to the business traveler. With rooms starting at $275, some are wondering if the Beverly Hills Hotel can get back in the game after having been out of the loop for nearly three years.
Hotel officials aren't worried. Business is brisk. Besides, they are quick to point out, about 2.8 million passengers fly between New York and Los Angeles every year, making it the nation's No. 1 air route. Nearly half those fliers are business travelers - with fat expense accounts.