The Bellevue-Stratford opened in 1904 and quickly became one of the most luxurious hotels of its time, rivaling the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The building was an incredible work of French Renaissance architecture. It was 19 stories high, had over a thousand … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Mrs ninety, nine percent invisible I'm roman, Mars the Bellevue Stratford Hotel, open in Philadelphia in nineteen o four and quickly became one of the most luxurious hotels of its time. It was nice. Teen stories high had over a thousand guest rooms and what was said to be the most lavish and magnificent ballroom in United States. It also featured like fixtures designed by Thomas Edison in a grand marble staircase vote. El came to be known as the grand on a broad street and for years The grandam was the center of high society culture in Philadelphia. It hosted president in queens and all kinds of other, rich and famous guests that's producer, Ilona, Gordon from W H. Why wise the pulse in Philadelphia, the hotel? went through some harder times during the great depression and then again in the fifties and Sixtys it lost some of
prestige from its early days, but it was always considered one of the nicest places to stay in Philadelphia. That is until the mid seventys. When the Bellevue Stratford Hotel became the epicenter of a series of mysterious deaths that terrified the country it all started. In July of nineteen, seventy six more than two thousand veterans descended on Philadelphia for the convention of the american region, a support organization for wartime bats. This state, I'd convention happened every year when a nineteen seventy six was a really big deal. The time in place of the convention have been chosen to coincide with the two hundredth anniversary of the declaration of independence signed in Philadelphia in seventeen. Seventy six The convention would be held in you guessed it: the Bellevue Stratford Hotel, The gathering was gonna, be a big party for the members of the american region, a chance for the legionnaires to celebrate and reminisce so Bing get together.
Nevertheless, a wise and families and families there same time, that's jasper, staffer. I am department, commander of the American Legion, the drove to the convention from South Central Pennsylvania with his wife and they wrote up with another couple, some really close friends of theirs trot. Lee Berlin and his wife Henrietta here's Henriette whose now eighty six recalling the trip we were having a good time down there anguish going great the convention and four days and the whole thing ended with a big creative legionnaires through the Centre of Philadelphia led by a brass band on the same school March, Union, Russia, popular song Henrietta, husband, Charlie, had just been elected commander of his local legion post. So he was right up front, they re one carrying a banner prelim prayed in English. Wonderful, we had a wonderful died. After that
Charlie and Henrietta, began the drive back home with Jasper and his wife and Charlie fell asleep, which was still He seldom Iver slap in the car, but dear. Whenever we got on the Turnpike brandy wine, he went to sleep, He came home and went to bed at night, never gonna bad as China getting better than tat. He got worse. Charlie's body ate his temperature kept going up, one hundred and four degrees, one hundred and six degrees Henrietta took him to the hospital when putting under Irish, a nice blanket and then Friday he was dead. From a flu of unknown cause, the doktor said We too moon was dead at the age of forty eight again, and I want to thank everybody else knew at the average like the strange about it. It was a total shop, for everybody
Jasper staffer remembers that it was during Charlie's funeral that he realized his friends. Death was part of something bigger by one or the other members of the headquarters staff was there. And he said that they headquarters will get. No council calls from people, learn his guts can passed away.
Then a week of the Convention Legion Headquarters had started. Getting calls from around the state about members had fallen ill by that following Monday, nine days after Charlie Chamberlain fell asleep in staffers car news of this mysterious respiratory illnesses had spread across Pennsylvania. No one knew what had costed, but the legionnaires were getting sick had been at the pelvis Stratford for the convention. Fires working for the state of health and the federal government are still hard at work. This warning trying to determine the cause of a mystery. Does the use of sulphur health leaders back in Philadelphia soon caught with that something was off. Doktor Robert Shiraz was director of infectious diseases for the Cities Health Department. At the time All of a sudden. I had four lines coming from office off for larger, let up at the same time, Someone said: there's there's some sort of an outbreak going on there told logged by the state kept growing for death. Eleven does
They called in federal investigators from the centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the mansion, with overseeing that investigation was David, Fraser he's a region from Philly and he was thirty two at the time he was there. Director of the CDC special Pathogens unit spent very intense plane ride. Trying to figure out How would I systematically begin to approach? What looked to be a very complicated problem, within forty eight hours of his arrival. The death toll was nearing twenty with dozens more sick, some fear this. Mysterious pneumonia. Could be the start of a swine flu outbreak or worse, a flu pandemic like the one that had killed fifty million in nineteen eighteen. Authorities readied themselves for the worst. As many as one hundred state and federal workers were called in about fifty police detectives took part. This is the biggest investigation. Cdc undertook at the time we needed
Fine, the illness, because this was potentially a new disease news report we're already giving it a name. Legionnaire's disease laboratories worked all night medical data being flown and by helicopter, as a pressure increases to finally answer everybody. Misstated Pennsylvania knew about it. We had war, my recognition phone cosmos, far away as Australia asked questions about it but It is still had no idea what was causing the illness was a bacteria, a virus or some sort of talks in the head, to tease out a pattern, like Hell. Investigators we're talking to the more than one hundred patients who have that is, but ours that alive. What did they The American Legion Convention, where they are. Together at a single time or gathered in one location, question after question too fine, but common link
to find answers Dave Frazier and his investigative squad cast a wide net which music, send physician epidemiologists out to take histories from and examine along a number of people they monitored. People who had gotten SEC and their families, but they also wanted to talk to people who had been at the convention who hadn't gotten sick because there is no central list of who had attended. They destroy Question heirs to hundreds of Legion posts throughout the state enter a comparison group. They telephoned ran Some samples of people who were in even at the convention and throw this research. It became clear early on that. This was not the major flu pandemic that some had feared. The disease seem confined to the legionnaires convention, but still Frazier remembers public pressure mounting to figure this out this, at a time when surname. Infectious diseases were thought to have been largely worked out and controlled
challenged assumptions, and it increase the fear- maybe it was something people eight or drank some people or even thought it could have been an act of bioterrorism, disgruntled veteran instigators were stumped, but Robert Surer, with Philadelphia Health Department says it did have. One general suspect in mind, though, is the grand old lady of broad street. Unless that's what I've always heard it referred to- and she was the grand old Lady Prostrate Street survivors says the grand old lady, some say: the ground down. But yes, he is referring to the Bellevue Stratford hotel. Perhaps this conical landmark of the city. Was the killer investigators flagged it in their reports? And it didn't take long for this to become a media frenzy about me. Stratford may still hold the key to solving the mystery of Legionnaire's disease somewhere this hotel there may be an environment and it was like hysteria. That's Steve, horn steam. He was
doorman at the view. At the time of the outbreak, bright, eyed, twenty one year old, looking to break into the hotel business. He remembers pull started, calling into cancel reservations. They feared the place and anything anyone associated with it. I was dating young lady, and I remember a told me her mom didn't want me to come to the house any more, because I worked at the Bellevue hotel was losing guests, we were going down for the count and each day would get a lot worse. They would have the engineer turn on lamps broad street room so that the lights were on in the evening and it was an old dark. That's how bad it God, but for David free Sir, the director of the city sees special pathogens unit. There was one way to get to the bottom of this after spending the first. Sweep of the investigation in the state capital of Harrisburg. He and several others joined the Philadelphia crew on the ground and
so they stayed because there were rooms available, and we gotta. Good Price, Fraser Brown, his team to the Bellevue he really wanted to solve this mystery. There was part of me that was hoping that somebody got he's only half joking. This might give an important clue? They got to work. Trying to figure out the source of the disease. Maybe it was somehow travelling through the elevator shaft, and I thought perhaps The elevator would permit an agent to oft into the air as elevator went up and down but we found no evidence. Other theories blame the pigeons perched on the window ledges maybe the pigeons where the source, maybe the lady who feeds the pigeons out on the sidewalk, was the source in the They came up with two leads. First, the more time
well spent in the lobby of the hotel, the more at risk they were for contracting the disease and, second, the more time people spent just outside the hotel on the sidewalk, the greater the risk. Even some people who had nothing to do with a hotel or the convention had gotten sick. If they'd spend time the sidewalk none of David Fraser stop became ill while staying in the hotel, but they also couldn't figure out what it was about. The place that I've gotten everyone else, sick and so people's fear of the building, persistent and in November of nineteen seventy six, the Grande AMA Broad Street, was forced to close It had already been in financial trouble, but the outbreak was the final fatal blow. The end of an era for very elegant hotel with all kinds of memories in Philadelphia, history,
It was the final day today for the grand Old Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, battered finally done in by the fact that people died after attending that American Legion conventionally occupancy used to be afterwards final party, quarantine, helped lock the place up. We had. To change on the door at the front door and we put it around the grab handles senator first Pawn open where the padlock was like a death sentence, Think they'll never be another hotel that big and bustling like that. One was on broad street, back in the CDC lamps scientists, continued, reviewing samples and running more tests. We went by it was very high pressure, very frustrating Dave Frazier and his colleagues were eventually called into Congress to account for why they still hadn't solved the mystery. We expected be raked over the coals for failing to solve an outbreak, and we were right
However, the goals it was a very unpleasant cup of ours, Frazier worried about morale, some of the CDC scientists had spent years trying to solve other outbreaks with no success, which I was afraid was going to set in with Legionnaire's disease. To did you think maybe it would take years this hope, It would only take years five and a half months have passed since the first death around thirty. People had died, the ground down had closed. We're not looking good and then finally, The cdc caught of brake assigned just named Joseph make Dade was coming through all the biological specimens they collected from victims, lungs and re, examining them looking for something he might have missed. Mc Dade said this process was like looking for a contact lens on the floor of a basketball court, but then finally December. Twenty seventh, he fell.
Contact lens in his microscope. Look like a red cluster of tiny rods. Midday ran tests and found these tiny rods were part of a bacteria one. They hadn't seen before within a few weeks They confirm that this was indeed the bacteria that it caused the disease, on January, seventeenth, nineteen, seventy seven CDC scientists announced their findings with great fanfare. So excited this was such a spectre does a great weight off my shoulders and a great discovery of very, very special discovery. They called the new bacteria legionella, Numa fella. They had found the fatal bacteria, David Fraser and his colleagues went from being humiliated. Who congratulated but wait a minute where had the bacteria come from
This question will be answered until a couple years after the bacteria was discovered, David Fraser the grand steps around the outside of the Bellevue nearly forty years after the outbreak, the buildings Hotel was restored and reopen the nineteen. Seventy nine points up to the very top of the buildings roof. There are cooling towers which would operate to eject heat from from hotel. Fraser explains that legionella bacteria occurs naturally in the environment, which can make it hard to pin down a specific source but it really likes to grow in warm water and one ideal environment is the warm water basins and air conditioning systems when the sis sums, convert warm water into cold air they produce amidst as a by product, and that this can come across the edge of the roof
and lay down the side of a building for one of the curious things about airflow in cities. Is that miss carries legionella bacteria and his inhaled. It can make you sick. That's why people We're right outside the hotel and inside the front lobby were most likely to get infected Fraser. So contaminated from the Bellevue cooling tower would have likely drop down the side, it also would have been sucked into event near the ground that leads right into the front lobby. Exposing people there It also would have been sucked into event near the ground that leads right into the front lobby. Exposing people there the air conditioning system had always been a possible culprit as a breeding ground for the legionella bacteria, but the sea. He couldn't say for sure right away, because the Bellevue Stratford cooling system had been thoroughly com. In following the outbreak. The time the CDC got there to get samples there. Was no legionella? Bacteria present that as the years TAT,
there were more outbreaks of legionnaires and other places and in those senses, they were able to confirm that the bacteria had come from the cooling systems, researchers. A true actively linked the bacteria to previously unsolved outbreaks, including smaller one at the Bellevue a couple years before the seventy six legionnaires convention public health community. The story of Legionnaire's disease has turned into a sort of poster child for the power of epidemiology that shoe leather, detective work, that's used to map out patterns and understand how diseases move and strike But unfortunately, the discovery of the disease didn't need to its demise, The government now has recommendations for how to design and maintain cooling systems. So there now. Breeding grounds for legionella, but even though the disease is treatable, there are still a lot of cases in two thousand fifth.
In New York had an outbreak that was traced to an old opera house in the Bronx. Twelve people die In more than one hundred twenty became sick as further the Bellevue Stratford, cleaning the cooling tower is now a routine part of the buildings maintenance they are Analyze. Water samples and during a major restoration in the eightys. The hotel got it, Completely new heating and cooling system these days. Business is good for the grand on broad street. The hotel now by high it has been modernized still has the classic feel rooms. An upwards of five hundred dollars a night. Your king size beds, views of downtown Philly forty two inch, that's green tvs and, of course, in the summer time,
It's cold air conditioning. Ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by Ilona, Gordon Delaney Hall and Katy mingle, with same Greenspan every problem in Kirkwall Stead, Sharif, Youssef and me roman Mars. A version of the story originally aired on the pulse from W H. Why why in Philadelphia, the pulse covers stories at the heart of health, science and innovation. We are project of ninety one point: seven k, L, W San Francisco and produced the offices of arc side, the grandest architecture and interiors fur in beautiful, downtown Oakland.
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.