Thursday, April 17, 2014
Portland’s historic Eastland Hotel turned away former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1946 because she wanted her dog, Fala, to stay in her room.
The “S” of the old Eastland Hotel sign is visible out the window of the 15th-floor Presidential Suite of the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel. The hotel is keeping the iconic Eastland sign along its roofline as a nod to its past.
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer
The Ballroom of the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, formerly the Eastland, receives finishing touches in preparation for its grand reopening Thursday.
Now, with a $50 million renovation, new owners and a new name – the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel – any guest’s dog will be welcome in a hotel that marries tradition with modern service and style.
“It highlights the revitalization of a historic property with the coupling of modern, upscale amenities,” said Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. “It’s an important renovation, and the mix of old and new really helps make it a destination property.”
Although it will open Thursday under the Westin name, the hotel will keep the iconic Eastland sign along its roofline as a nod to its past. The hotel first opened in 1927 as The Eastland and later operated as the Eastland Park Hotel before it closed two years ago for the renovation.
“The Eastland is part of the DNA, the fabric of the community. People have a love affair with what used to be,” said General Manager Bruce Wennerstrom. “We want to share the great history, story and heritage while providing another 85 years of great memories.”
The hotel has hosted such celebrities as aviator Charles Lindbergh, four U.S. presidents and Ozzy Osbourne, who was escorted out of the city after one of his parties in the rooftop pool led to furniture being tossed onto the street. The pool was closed after other guests started mimicking the rock star’s furniture-throwing.
The original hotel took a year to build at a cost of $2 million. The renovations cost $50 million and took a year and a half. The Westin will open Thursday as Maine’s largest hotel, with 289 rooms.
“It would have been easier to build a brand new hotel from scratch than to build a hotel inside the historic framework,” Wennerstrom said.
But the pairing of historic details – such as the carved stairway into the ballroom, the tops of the decorative columns in the main lobby and the historic door into the restaurant – along with an expanded Top of the East lounge, conference spaces and a spa run by Akari, will make the hotel a unique draw, he said.
BOON FOR AN EXPANDING MARKET
The Westin, with room rates ranging from $150 to $450 and a $1,400-per-night presidential suite, is entering a market that already has several hotel projects in the works.
Near Portland’s waterfront, a 131-room Courtyard by Marriott is being built at the corner of Commercial and Maple streets, and a 123-room hotel is under construction on Fore Street. On Congress Street, a 110-room boutique hotel is planned in the former Portland Press Herald building.
And two hotels opened in the past four years – a 179-room Residence Inn by Marriott and a 122-room Hampton Inn.
Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association, said the Westin hotel at Congress and High streets “is an iconic destination that has been around for more than 80 years. It’s been the focus of hospitality in Portland for generations. That it’s opening with a beautiful renovation is a boon for the market.”
“Along with the Holiday Inn by the Bay,” he said, “it introduces an excellent property to help attract citywide conventions.”
Ouellette, with the Maine Office of Tourism, said the Westin adds a property at the upper end of the spectrum, while the other hotels fill niches for business travelers and tourists.
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