DuPont...More Than Just Antron...Hotel DuPont, Wilmington
Jan 6, 2002 (Updated Jan 28, 2002)
Review by Tom Barnes
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Excellent dining rooms, beautiful rooms, top-flight service
Cons:Recreational offerings limited, downtown Wilmington hasn't got much to do
The Bottom Line: For excellent service and a great downtown location, this is the place. The rooms are beautiful and the dining rooms are really very good indeed.
Wilmington's Hotel DuPont is far and away the best hotel in this small, and often overlooked city. A fifteen storied , dun colored, brick box, the size of a square block (it is the first twelve floors of the DuPont Office Building)its exterior was seriously diminished with the removal of its projecting cornice, thus giving a naked appearance to the upper floors. The central location is convenient for business or leisure travel.
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A Very Brief History
Built in 1913 by the DuPont company, the hotel was managed by the Bowman-Biltmore group, and was known in its early days as the DuPont-Biltmore. After several heady years of expansion in the post World War I period, the Bowman-Biltmore company went bankrupt, and the hotel became simply the Hotel DuPont. Through the years, the DuPont has always maintained stringent standards of service and excellence. Many celebrities, from Duke Ellington and Charles Lindbergh to Ingrid Bergman and Bob Hope have stayed here. The 1950's brought some unfortunate changes, some of which are still all too evident here and there. Recently updated and "restored" by the Burt Hill Group to the tune of $40,000,000.00, the DuPont is in a strong position to face the new century. It has received the Four Star Award from the Mobil Travel Guide for many years. I would be extremely surprised if it did not make this year's list. It is affiliated with Preferred Hotels and Resorts, and is a member of the National Trust's Historic Hotels of America.
Still bearing the scars of a ham-handed 1950's modernization, the lobby bravely shoulders forward with fresh furniture and stupendous flower arrangements, beneath its gilded Renaissance-revival ceiling. The columns have been streamlined, and there is a strange, modernistic wood-block panel running around the mezzanine. On most fronts, however, the lobby works admirably.
Registration was no problem at all, as there were not too many guests during my visit. I was pleased to be upgraded to a junior suite.
Rooms and Suites
The Junior Suite had a very large bedroom in connection with an even larger drawing room. In the bedroom, the pencil-post king bed had triple sheeting and great pillows. Doubtless, you will have pleasant dreams here. The large drawing room in connection was filled with solid, traditional furniture and had a mostly beige palette. The two rooms were divided by twin armoires which concealed the television, mini-bar, and stereo system. Fresh flowers were brought in daily.
As it is owned by the DuPont Corporation, it is natural that the rooms should be a showcase of the company's products. The very large bathrooms are veritable showroom displays of Corian. The dressing room was very large, and had enormous closets, generous counter space, and twin basin sinks. The thick towels and bathrobes, good amenities and other touches like a scale, all made this bathroom very special.
The Green Room, with its oak paneling and handsome coffered ceiling, is almost a landmark in its own right. Tall, arched windows let in streams of light. Only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, one may have breakfast or lunch here, if it has not been booked for a private function. I did go in for breakfast one morning. Eggs, oatmeal and wheat toast had never before seemed as grand as when served in this formal and elegant setting. Nearly every detail was perfect, right down to the silver toast racks. The evening menu is mostly French, with very formal service.
The Brandywine Room is windowless, but this major defect is more than compensated for by the rich walnut paneling and the huge fireplace. The vibrant Jamie Wyeth painting over the mantel looks just slightly out of place here, but it is real. As a whole, the room suggests a gentlemen's club out of the 1920's, with its red leather chairs, crisp linen, and doting service. I had the lobster risotto and a beautiful clear pea soup to start. For the main course, I had cedar plank roasted salmon. Everything was properly prepared, and served with a refreshing minimum of fuss. The live music was straight out of a 1960's country club. One can't have everything.
The bar, just off the lobby, does not appear to have its own name, a welcome change. Another relic from the '50's, it is usually a quiet and sensible place. The quiet ended with the noisy arrival of a wedding party, the bride almost knocking glasses off the tables with her flowing gown.
The informal Grill has a less ambitious menu, and I did not venture in to try it.
Both dining rooms received three stars from the Mobil Travel Guide in 2001 and four diamonds from the AAA. Entrees range from $21 to $35 in both dining rooms.
If there was a fitness room somewhere here, I never found it. I don't think they actually have one, though one may have since been slipped in somewhere.
Guests at the Hotel DuPont have access to the DuPont Country Club, about five miles away in the Brandywine Valley. The club house looks like a 1950's Post office set on a stunning greensward, but the 18 hole golf course is immaculate.
You really should not miss the opportunity to visit Winterthur, Henry Francis DuPont's magnificent house museum and gardens. Winterthur is about ten miles outside of town. Its collections of American furniture and whole rooms taken from early dwellings are legendary. The rooms on view change periodically, so one visit is really not enough, if you like this sort of thing.
Please note that this review replaces an early one which did not begin to do justice to this fine hotel.
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