838 Chestnut Street
The monster was the result of one of the most badass Quakers in history, Junius Edward Kingsley. This guy was the Steve Wynn of his time. He got educated in an old-timey country schoolhouse and then blasted and bombarded his way through the hospitality industry. He ran all the way up the ranks of cruise line service crewmen until people were offering him management of entire line of cruise line and then partnership in big city hotels.
In the late 1850's Kingsley was approached by another badass hotelier, Paran Stevens, with a plan for the largest hotel in the world located in the most badass city in the world, Philafuckingdelphia. The Philadelphia Museum and Equestrian Circus, a famous city landmark of the time, had recently burned down, leaving a large plot of land in the middle of the city's central business district. At this part of the 19th Century, the largest buildings in town were Churches and the occasional 6-8 storey thin-ass commercial building.
The gruesome twosome came up with the idea of a super-massive modern hotel, many times larger than any in the city at that time. They found a young architect named John MacArthur, Jr. who was up to the job. MacArthur was a badass. He didn't just design buildings, he loved designing gigantic stone megaliths with a million superlative qualities. 35 years later he would go on to design Philadelphia City Hall, which is still breaking records. He gave Kingsley and Stevens a brownstone juggernaut that wrapped all the way around the property from Chestnut, down ninth, then front George Street (now called Sansom) around the back.
|Under construction across the street from John MacArthur's previous gigantic building, the Girard House Hotel.|
|This style of architecture is called Badassisism|
|The lobby as it first appeared when the place opened.|
The Continental had single-sex reading rooms, entrances, and lounges. It held stores with the finest products of the day. It even had its own goddamn merchant exchange so you could network with the other rich-ass tycoons that were staying at the hotel.
The hotel opened for business on February 1860 and by the next year the place was so famous that anyone who was anyone in the WORLD intended to visit. Abraham Lincoln stayed in the hotel while president-elect in 1861. He spoke from his balcony to the thousands of citizens that surrounded the hotel due to his presence. All of the most famous 19th Century celebrities stayed there. The Emperor of Brazil, P.T. Barnum, Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, King Edward the Seventh, Sarah Bernhardt, and the Japanese Ambassador are but a few of the famous figures to come by.
|Buffalo Bill daydreaming about the Continental Hotel as an albumen print.|