Quietly, for more than a decade, the Americus Hotel on Sixth and Hamilton Streets in downtown Allentown has undergone changes that many thought were impossible.
As you enter the renovated and restored hotel, which is open for dining and overnight, with a comfortable lobby, large ballroom, mezzanine, ‘Windows on 6th’ restaurant and five floors of 85 well appointed guest rooms , you can’t help but marvel at the transformation.
It is best summed up by something that hotel developer and proud owner Albert Abdouche of Whitehall has said from the start: “I’m going to give the old lady a facelift”, always with a smile, always with a smile. great intention.
Abdouche, 61, who emigrated from Syria at age 16, brought with him a determination that recalls the grassroots efforts of those who built America through projects that required great acts of faith and courage.
This is what happened when Abdouche decided to buy the closed Americus Hotel for sale from a Lehigh County Sheriff for $ 676,000 in 2009.
The enormity of the project included every aspect of the infrastructure that not only was overhauled, but emptied from inside the Americus, from its roof to the three-level basement. Technology updates included new electricity, telephone, internet, cable, fire alarm system, security system, water pipes and drains, as well as a heating and softening system. water without tank.
Once the sanitation was complete, there was also a new fire extinguisher system (sprinklers) and Americans with Disabilities Act compliant access. There is a new fresh air system on the roof through which filtered air is supplied throughout the building and into every room. Air conditioning units have been installed in areas of the hotel. The Americus originally had over 310 wood-frame windows that were in poor condition. These have been replaced by isolated Pella units which can be opened.
The elevators for customers and services were completely inoperative. A manual car during most of the initial work moved construction workers and materials upstairs. After $ 1 million in repairs and new equipment, the elevators are running, with a historic look.
The restaurant and banquet kitchen have been updated with state-of-the-art appliances, a new range hood and commercial epoxy flooring.
Long time to come
It has been a long time coming.
If you’ve walked through downtown Allentown in the mid-2000s, you might remember the scaffolding surrounding the Americus, erected to protect passers-by from falling debris. When acquiring the building, Abdouche made it a priority to remove the scaffolding. The facade of the building was stabilized with repointing and washing of the bricks by a specialized contractor.
The “merchant row” of storefronts along North Sixth Street had also been closed for safety. The shops are again occupied by independent businesses, including a laundry, barber, salon services, cafe and creperie. Walgreens has taken over the commercial space overlooking Hamilton Street.
At the time of the hotel’s acquisition, there was no area for improvement or funding that Abdouche could draw on. In many ways, the Americus hotel project was one of the first in the decade and more of downtown revitalization.
All around the Americus, new projects have sprung up including the PPL Center, office buildings and apartment buildings, primarily funded by the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Area Development Authority. (ANIZDA), or NIZ.
Abdouche says he was approached by developers who wanted to buy the Americus and tear it down. Even though he was offered large sums of money, he says, he was convinced he was doing the project for himself, his family and the community.
At first, the ANIZDA board did not believe that Abdouche could complete the project for $ 13.2 million. Abdouche said he knew he could.
After an initial amount of $ 4 million from Abdouche’s other business ventures and a work team of around 10 people for five years, he was given the green light in 2014 to obtain financing from banks, such as the board of directors of ANIZDA requires it. Of the banks he applied to, Abdouche says each turned him down.
Another approval requirement was the hiring of a construction management and hotel hospitality company. Abdouche contracted with Marshall Hotel & Resorts, Inc. and secured a $ 9 million loan and a $ 1.5 million bridge loan from First Keystone Community Bank in Columbia County. A grant of $ 1.5 million was provided by the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
The ANIZDA board of directors voted unanimously in January 2018 to approve the Americus project.
Abdouche worked closely with the Pennsylvania Historical Society to preserve the appearance of the hotel.
Americus is open
The Americus Hotel, Trademark Collection by Wyndham, opened in 2021. A doorman welcomes you. Valet parking is available on Hamilton Street. A disembarkation parking area extends from the corner of Sixth Street to the front door.
Walking up the small hallway to the lobby office, you can admire original majestic chandeliers and restored works of art on the beams and ceiling. A Starbucks facility at the “Americus Cafe” and sundries for hotel guests are available. A gift shop will open.
Golden handrails surround the stairs and the mezzanine, a perfect place to sit and talk with friends or work with your laptop.
Windows on 6th, the restaurant run by Executive Chef Peter Quinones, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a small bar with large mirrors where you can enjoy a cocktail after a long day.
As you explore these areas, you will hear pleasant music filling the space, giving an uplifting feeling of knowing you are in a special place in Lehigh Valley.
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the Grand Ballroom with its original 1927 green crystal chandeliers and floral medallions on the ceiling partition that have been meticulously repaired and restored. The furniture has been chosen for the sake of beauty, style and comfort.
Once you reach floors one through five, there are 80 modern guest rooms. Photographs of historic Allentown landmarks and businesses adorn the lobbies and guest rooms. For guests, there is a 24/7 fitness center.
As the story goes, the Hotel Americus, named after Amerigo Vespucci (born 1454, Florence, Italy; died 1512, Seville, Spain), a New World explorer, was built in 1926 by Albert D Gomery in an architectural style that replicated old world Spanish design.
The hotel later belonged to Albert and Ann Moffa. In a popular era for the hotel at the end of the 20th century, the hotel’s smörgåsbord was a calling card and it hosted civic events, concerts, films and VIP guests.
There was a time when Mark Mendelson owned and operated the Americus. Some improvements in the hall, still visible, have been made. But the infrastructure was ignored. The hotel has fallen into disrepair. It was closed by the town of Allentown in 2002.
Albert and his wife, Anne Abdouche, and their five children are now enjoying the newly opened grandeur of their hotel, the Americus, taking inspiration from Gomery’s original intention “to have a place where all can experience elegance and class through hospitality. “
Plans for the still-developing hotel are to open floors six through nine into 48 extended-stay suites with fully equipped kitchens. On the 10th floor are large conference rooms and business suites.
Another ballroom is planned with a full kitchen on the 11th floor with spectacular views of Allentown. A rooftop lounge, located above the Grand Ballroom, will have light entertainment, a small menu, and could be hired for events.
The lower level of Hamilton Street is being redeveloped back to being a nightclub with entertainment for all ages, including music and comedy.
“They gave me $ 9 million and I did. It’s done, ”says Albert Abdouche, seated in the restaurant with Anne as they overlook a stage of bustling people, staff and guests in the open-plan lobby.
After all the years that have passed and the toll it took on Albert’s health and finances, he and Anne can now enjoy the years to come and watch the next generation create memories and appreciate the accommodations offered by the hotel Americus, the great lady, the queen of Allentown, the queen city.
According to Albert Abdouche, “We need people to come and see this building for all events. We have the experience. My whole family has run the Palace Center for 13 years and we have won awards with The Knot for several years. So now we bring the expertise for events to the Americus, as well as a place to spend the night.
Information: The Americus Hotel, Trademark Collection by Wyndham, 555 Hamilton St. Allentown. 610-437-2327
View from the Grand Ballroom towards the “Windows on 6th” restaurant at the Americus Hotel, Sixth and Hamilton streets, Allentown.
PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK Above: Albert and Anne Abdouche, owners of the Americus Hotel, in the Grand Ballroom, which features a staircase to the mezzanine, original chandeliers and restored painted medallions.
The lobby of the Americus hotel and the “Windows on 6th” restaurant. Two chandeliers once hung in the Hess Department Store on Ninth Street and Hamilton Street in Allentown.
Right: Ten hand-painted medallions have been restored in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Americus.
Americus Hotel Controller Carolyn St. James in one of the hotel elevators displaying newspaper articles and announcements relevant to the hotel’s history.
PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK Hotel Americus Executive Chef Peter Quinones at Windows on 6th Restaurant.
An example of one of the 85 rooms available at the Americus Hotel, Allentown.