Criticism from Rhode Islanders prompts Graduate Hotel owners to pull Cianci portraits.
The management of the Graduate Hotel in Providence –the name given to the renovated Biltmore Hotel—is removing campy portraits of former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci from the guest rooms.
The action comes after complaints about the move from Rhode Island residents on social media.
“The design of Graduate Providence includes references to the vibrant history of the destination and is intended to celebrate the optimistic energy of the community,” said Scott Williams, hotel general manager in a statement. “We strive to be a cornerstone of the community, and following feedback have decided to remove artwork referencing Buddy Cianci from our guestrooms. We look forward to continuing to offer an experience which pays homage to the destination and where both our guests and the local community feel at home.”
When word that Warhol-style portraits of Cianci would be posed in the renovated hotel’s rooms, some Rhode Island residents who don’t like Cianci’s legacy protested, especially on social media. The late Cianci was the city’s longest serving mayor and was a relentless cheerleader for his home city. But he was also a short-tempered and sharp-elbowed politician known for being convicted of two felonies –one for beating up his ex-wife’s lover, the other on federal corruption charges that landed in federal prison for almost five years. He once lived in a Biltmore suite after his indictment on the corruption charges. Cianci also often held campaign fund raisers and events in the 17th floor ballroom.
The hotel has long been a Providence and Rhode Island landmark. Built in the Roaring Twenties, the iconic structure has been home to family milestones, including wedding and celebrations and many, many retirement parties and social celebrations. It was long the hotel of choice for celebrities visiting Providence.
It was where John F. Kennedy, a young U.S. Navy officer in PT boat training at Melville in World War II, used to take his navy buddies to meet and dance with women during the war. Kennedy stayed at the hotel the night before the last day of his 1960 presidential election. He gave a speech near the hotel to more than 10,000 that day. After his 1963 murder, the area in front of the hotel and Providence City Hall was renamed Kennedy Plaza.
The hotel has a famous cameo in in one of the 20th Century’s most celebrated plays. The playwright Arthur Miller describes his character Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman as meeting “the mayor of Providence in the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel.”