RPG Locations: The Dorothea Hotel
The Dorothea Hotel is meant to be an RPG location for RPG games in the modern and horror genres. It can also work in Ghostbusters, Steampunk genres, and Weird World games. Or any game that needs a location full of occult lore, mystery, horror and hauntings.
Using his family fortune, Commodore Philoman Cole started construction on the hotel in 1829. He envisioned a grand building worthy of European Royalty, specifically his friend Princess Sophie of Bavaria. The vision of his hotel was wildly publicized in New York papers and was soon mentioned around the world. Sparing no expense, and using all the latest technologies and building techniques of the day it was completed in 1831.
VIP guests from the world were invited to attend the inaugural opening. Among them Princess Sophie of Bavaria and President Andrew Jackson. By all accounts the opening was a success. The Dorothea Hotel was mentioned in the same sentences as the great hotels in not only New York but around the world. Reservations were being made years in advance. Buoyed by the art of some of the finest cooks in the United States at the time, the Dining room and ballroom both became hubs for the rich, famous and influential to be seen at. Newspaper men, authors, poets and various hanger ons would congregate in the lobby to watch the comings and goings of the influential and perhaps gather a bit of news to write about.
Unfortunately tragedy quickly struck the hotel. Unexplained disappearances of guests at the hotel immediately plagued its reputation. Most attributed the disappearances as merely those trying to escape creditors and the stories immediately dismissed. But muckrakers among the ever present press corps could not let the stories go, and stories of the grand hotel circulated among the lower classes.
An unexplained fire in 1835 that took the life of the wife and daughter of an investing owner in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Rumors of murder, insurance fraud, and shoddy workmanship were all floated about. The uproar and promises of investigation into the management of the hotel were front page news for weeks. Investigations by private detectives uncovered the remains of an incendiary device in the damaged hotel room, which in turn triggered more rumors and front page news.
A mere two years later, news of “The Midnight Murders” became the talk of the town. The dismembered bodies of young boys were found scattered around the neighborhood over the period of a single month. One of the victims was an employee at the Hotel. A through search of the building for the missing boy finally revealed mass murderer Cornelius Hunt in the middle of the gristly act. Hunt later revealed in his confession that he needed the blood of thirteen strong but innocent boys to complete a dark ritual meant to make himself immortal.
The newspapers of course had a field day with that story, and despite the Commodores best efforts, the reputation of the hotel seemed to be permanently tarnished. To make matters worse, residents and employees started reporting strange activities in the hotel. Most were merely mischievous noises and objects randomly moving around. But the Russian Ambassador reported the definite feeling of hands shoving him just before he tumbled down the main stairs.
At the behest of friends, and an attempt to “clean” the hotel of spirits and return it to its former glory, Commodore Cole became interested in the Spiritualism movement in 1841
After the death of his father, and his own return from fighting in the Civil War, William Cole came back to take over ownership of the hotel. Between the rumored hauntings of the hotel, and his own experiences in the building and on the battlefield, William became interested in the occult. By 1868 as home to the Chimercial Sanctuary of the Forbidden Lexicon, The Dorothea Hotel had become one of the centers of Occult studies in the United States.
Founded the year before, by William Cole and his compatriots, the Chimercial Sanctuary of the Forbidden Lexicon became one of the premier Occult societies around the world. The
Rewired for electric in 1890s
Remodeled into apartments in the 1930s
The Dorothea Hotel is a Gothic Revival building tucked away on what is now a dead end alley just a few blocks away from Central Park in New York City. The building looks worn and dilapidated, but still maintains an air of faded elegance. If the game settings calls for it, the building could easily have a feeling of menace if needed.
While it maintains the name, the hotel is actually now an apartment building. The original rooms were combined and remodeled into a variety of residences with individual plumbing and utilities added. They still maintained their original high class grandeur, although like rest of the building they feel old and worn.
Once famously written about in newspapers, the hotel has managed to avoid redevelopment over the decades.The main thoroughfare past the hotel was closed off in 1901 and development of nearby properties further reduced the road width until it was only an alley way wide enough for wagons and the first automobiles to access. The alley way is still paved with good quality cobblestone although it is mostly filled with trash and recycling containers.
The six story building is festooned with turrets and gargoyle statues. Combined with sturdy stone walls of expensively mined stone from New Hampshire they give the hotel the look of a Medieval Fortress. An imposing, by Victorian standards, front entrance still dominates the hotel although its glory is hidden by nearby buildings built close. The copper roof is long green with age. Ground and second floor windows are ornate stained glass, while the upper floors are expensively glazed glass.
Inside the main entrance is an exquisitely tiled floor depicting the Bavarian Crest in once inch black and white tiles. The 15 foot tall walls are lined with mahogany paneling and ornate brass gas fixtures transformed to electric in the mid 1890s. The room is still adorned with art from famous artists. Large paintings by masters are on each wall. Sculptures of marble and brass each sit in their own alcoves. The largest chandelier made of Tiffany Crystal hangs from the ceiling. It was rewired for electricity by the company at the same time as the rest of the building.
A large reception desk sits between two large columns, both made of mahogany also. Behind the desk and to one side are individually labeled mail slots. Spaced around the room are antique chairs, sofas and tables for hotel guests. All show signs of wear and long use but are in good shape. Two huge marble stair cases lead to the second floor balconies on each side of the lobby.
Behind the front desk is employee access to kitchens, offices and storage. To the left and behind two more sets of mahogany doors, is a huge library that extends upwards three stories. Floor to ceiling book shelves line each level and are accessible by ornate wrought iron stairways and rolling ladders to reach the upper shelves. Like the lobby, the library has reading nooks filled with worn antique furniture and bronze light fixtures.
To the right of the lobby is a formal dining room. In its heyday the room also acted as a ball room, reception hall, theater or meeting room. The walls hang with large red velvet curtains and there is a raised stage at one end. Concealed storage areas hide the chairs, tables, and furniture needed to configure the room as needed.
A set of retrofitted elevators that access the basement, first, second, third and fourth floors are to the left of the entrance. Each is equipped with custom made ornate brass gates and a lever that controls the floor. Like everything else in the building, they are obviously old and worn, but appear to be well maintained.
A balcony lines the lobby at the second floor, providing discrete views of the lobby and its visitors. There is access to the second floor of the library on the left side. To the right is another large ball room space that was modified into a moving picture theater in the late 1920s. Like the first floor lobby, all the hallways and public areas are lined with mahogany wood paneling, bronze lighting fixtures, and art by famous painters and sculptures.
The crowning piece of this collection is an 10 foot wide by 6 foot high painting of three ships in battle. Two of the ships are Spanish Galleons, the other a smaller merchant ship with pirate flag flying obviously getting the better of the galleons. The ships are fighting in heavy seas, and it is wildly historically inaccurate. It was an opening day gift to the hotel, commissioned from painter David Wilkie, by Archduke Franz Karl of Austria.
The elevators and granite stairs both continue up to the third floor. The floors are the same granite as the stairways, white, with a black granite around the edges.
On the third floor is another level of access to the library. Like the second floor, the hallways are granite floors and mahogany walls lined with art. Most of it by lesser known painters but still exquisite in their own way. To the left is access to the hotels original Empress Suite and Presidential Suite, reserved for important guests and named after their first inhabitants at the grand opening. The Empress Suite is named after Princess Sophie of Bavaria, while the Presidential Suite has named for President Andrew Jackson.
Like the rest of the rooms in the hotel, both suites are now private multi-room residences. Each has a separate grand kitchen, a master bedroom with a walk in closet and private bath. Two more bedrooms that share a bathroom, and a central sitting room with a dining area between it and the kitchen.
Fourth, fifth and sixth Floors
The original fourth, fifth and sixth floors each had between eight and sixteen rooms. Shared bathrooms and shower facilities were at each side of the building. After the remodel, the fourth floor has four two bedroom apartments. The fifth and sixth floors each have ten one bedroom apartments. The shared bathrooms and shower spaces are now laundry rooms and storage.
The original basement was accessed by stairs in the office space behind the reception desk. It included an extensive wine cellar once known for being the best in the City. An huge coal fired furnace dominated the space. When built, the coal storage was boasted as being the largest and most modern in the city. The furnace itself was a modified blast furnace originally designed for the metallurgy industry. It was the first effective central heating in the city.
The attic space consisted of a number of small apartments. Senior employees would have their families living here, while maids and maintenance people would share rooms with each other. All rooms had hideaway beds that rolled into the walls to provide more living space. A separate narrow stairway for servant use descends all the way to the basement. At each floor is a discrete door to maintain privacy for the residents.
These rooms were not part of the remodel. Today they are mostly storage spaces, holding the possessions of past and present residents.
At its conception, the library was meant to be one of the most complete historical archives in the United States. At the behest of Princess Sophie, Archduke Franz Karl provided copies of every historical document and book in his own Royal library to help start the collection. Commodore Cole contributed his own families extensive collection of historical texts and created a rather large endowment to copy tomes missing in the collection directly from the Library of Congress. That effort continued on until fire in 1851 destroyed a major portion of the Library of Congress when the endowment was reversed to donate missing texts back to the Library.
After the American Civil War, the librarian was instructed to start collecting and cataloging Spiritualist and Occult literature. With the prevalence of the movement, and the Hotel’s growing role at the center of the movement in New York’s high society, the collection grew by leaps and bounds. Members of Chimercial Sanctuary of the Forbidden Lexicon from around the world would send in copies of texts to be cataloged and stored at The Dorothea. Spiritualist authors who wished to lecture at the hotel were instructed to provide a copy of their works for archival and research.
William Cole got involved in the spiritualist movement instructed his librarian the rise in Occultism across the United States, a
The dining room
Ball Room/Movie Theater
Commodore Philman Cole
The Hotel is inhabited and staffed by ghosts. While some are trapped here, most simply continue on as they did in life.
The hotel, while well written about, is a mystery. People only find it if they need it, or can see between dimensions.