Hotel du Pont's legendary Green Room closing for major renovations
The Hotel du Pont's legendary Green Room will close Jan. 1 for a complete revamping of the restaurant located inside the more than 100-year-old downtown Wilmington institution.
During the renovations, expected to last through spring 2020, the hotel's walnut-paneled Brandywine Room will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Green Room, known as the most lavish, ornate and sophisticated restaurant dining room in Delaware, will be "an entirely new French restaurant," according to hotel officials.
It is not yet known if the name will be changed. The room has not had a face-lift in 15 years.
Furnishings were last changed in 2004 by the Washington, D.C.-based design firm Leo A. Daly, prime architect of the National World War II Memorial. At that time, hotel officials said the new chairs, tables, linens and window treatments were part of ongoing rejuvenation efforts to stem the declining tide of diners.
“Because it’s so large and open, the Green Room is a terrific place to spend a lot of money while letting a lot of people see you doing it,” former News Journal restaurant critic Al Mascitti wrote in 1992.
But the days of leisurely, fine-dining have been on the wane for years, and the Green Room seems to no longer be the hub of Wilmington activity.
Talk of changes at the Hotel du Pont's Green Room (a steakhouse, perhaps?) have swirled even before the Wilmington-based Buccini-Pollin Group purchased the hotel from the DuPont Co. in 2017.
Jacques Amblard, who retired as general manager of the Hotel du Pont in 2003 after nearly 30 years, told The News Journal in a 2016 interview that new owners should not be too nostalgic for the past.
Amblard said the perceived, buttoned-down, sit-up-straight stodginess of the Green Room needed to lighten up, especially if the facility wants to attract younger diners.
As it is now, he called it too much "like a museum."
"It would be very sad to change the Green Room. It would be the loss of an art. But it cannot be stuffy. It does not have to be like the good old days. It could be more progressive," Amblard said at the time in a phone interview from his native France.
Dave Pollin, co-founder and president of The Buccini/Pollin Group and chairman of PM Hotel Group, said in a prepared statement that the organization considers themselves "extremely fortunate to be stewards of the Hotel du Pont's Green Room, Delaware’s only Four Diamond restaurant."
"We look at our role as a public trust," he said.
"After consulting extensively with the community, loyal Green Room diners, historic consultants and an incredibly talented culinary team, we believe that the Green Room’s next iteration will honor its unparalleled pedigree while creating a dining experience today’s guests will want to enjoy frequently," Pollin said.
While the Green Room has long been considered the hotel’s main dining facility and its showpiece restaurant, for years weekday lunches and dinners also were held in the walnut-paneled Brandywine Room that was once known as Peacock Alley.
Starting in 2003, lights were turned on in the 56-seat room only for banquets, meetings and special functions.
The Brandywine Room and next door Christina Room also once featured the paintings of three generations of the Wyeth family. However, the collection was given to area museums when the hotel was sold.
Changes at the Hotel du Pont, which opened in 1913, aren't out of the norm.
Over the years, the hotel lobby and the restaurants have been revamped, but much of the original beauty has been retained including the polished travertine marble and coffered, gilded ceiling.
The Green Room, situated at the corner of 11th and Market streets with its arched, two-and-half story windows looking out onto Rodney Square, has long been known for its first-class, Old World charm.
The room never got its name from the hue of its furnishings. It actually comes came from Helena Springer Green, the wife of John J. Raskob, the builder of the Empire State Building who was once Pierre S. du Pont's right-hand man.
Raskob also designed Rodney Square.
In the evening, the dining room is stunning. Walk through the etched-glass doors into the gleam of the 2,500-pound, Spanish-made gold chandeliers and the soft lighting reflecting off the persimmon-hued fabrics flatters.
Guests can sink into lush, crimson chenille wing back chairs that look lived in, but not worn, like those in the home of a wealthy maiden aunt. The legendary Julia Child even filmed a "Good Morning America" segment in the Green Room.
However, in recent years, its fare hasn't matched its grand European opulence and sophistication. During dinner and lunch visits, the 97-seat Green Room was seldom full. The exception has been during holidays and theater nights at the Playhouse.
While the iconic, beloved Delaware landmark could be appreciated for its history and decor, as a stellar, splurge-worthy, four-star culinary experience, dishes were often hit or miss.
Hotel officials say guests should make their reservations at the Green Room through the end of the year, though longtime patrons know they need to call well in advance for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day seatings.
Starting Jan. 2, the Brandywine Room will serve breakfast from 6:30 to 11 a.m. from Monday through Friday; brunch from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner daily from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
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