Although the Four Seasons is right across the parkway from The Barnes Foundation, I wanted to check up on The Rittenhouse, a 98-room hotel on leafy Rittenhouse Square. After receiving a number of complaints about the property a few years ago, I removed it from the Harper Collection. But its location near much of Philadelphia's best shopping and dining remains unparalleled, and I hoped to be pleasantly surprised.
Our stay was not problem-free, but certainly that was no fault of the congenial and efficient staff. After a quick check-in, we had an enjoyable chat with the bellman who escorted us to our room. Whenever we saw him thereafter, he would greet us by name, as did the doorman and the fine concierge, Frank Marandino. He provided well-considered advice about sightseeing, dining and logistics, and speedily confirmed a number of restaurant reservations for us. Housekeeping maintained our room beautifully, and a room service breakfast came hot, precisely on time (to the minute) and exactly as ordered. The entire staff seemed eager to help and determined to ensure that we wanted for nothing.
The main public spaces also impressed. Area rugs, oversize porcelain vases, floral arrangements and a grand piano decorated a bright lobby-lounge further enhanced by marble floors, richly upholstered furniture and evocative landscape paintings. A few steps down, afternoon tea is served in the conservatory-like Mary Cassatt Tea Room and adjacent vine-draped courtyard. A ground-level outpost of Smith & Wollensky caters to carnivorous businessmen, and upstairs, the elongated floor plan of gourmet Lacroix guarantees that almost all tables overlook the treetops of Rittenhouse Square.
Guest rooms occupy only the first 10 floors of the tower, but the views of the square are still memorable. Our resolutely traditional Superior Room had expansive ninth-floor views from both the sleeping area and the separate nook with a work desk. The spacious layout allowed for two comfortable armchairs, a granite-topped credenza with a large flat-screen television, a decadently comfortable king-size bed, a well-lit dressing counter and an ample closet. The taupe-marble bath felt snug, however, with a single vanity and a walk-in shower, but no tub. A watercolor of the city's skyline and a vintage map brought touches of Philadelphia to the room, as did a large black-and-white photo of a bronze standing in Rittenhouse Square.
Regrettably, our room did show a few signs of wear, such as scuffed walls and an aged tile floor in the shower. The hotel's fitness center is also in dire need of updating, with its scruffy wood lockers, dowdy swimming pool and co-ed sauna set at a chilly 106 degrees. But after enduring the aloof staff of many a gleaming hotel, I'll take the genuine warmth and friendliness of The Rittenhouse any day, nicks and all.
90 Superior Room, $450; Superior One-Bedroom Suite, $700. 210 W. Rittenhouse Square. Tel. (215) 546-9000. The Rittenhouse