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Queen of the Queen City: Allentown’s Americus Hotel reborn

Quietly, during more than a decade, The Americus Hotel at Sixth and Hamilton streets in center city Allentown has been through changes many deemed impossible.

As you enter the renovated and restored hotel, which is open for dining and overnight guests, with a cozy lobby, grand 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’s summarized best by something the hotel’s developer and proud owner Albert Abdouche of Whitehall has said all along, “I’m going to give the old lady a facelift,” always with a grin, always with great intention.

Abdouche, 61, who emigrated from Syria at age 16, brought with him a determination that reminds one of the grassroots efforts of those who built America through projects that took great leaps of faith and courage.

That’s what happened when Abdouche decided to purchase the shuttered Americus Hotel at a Lehigh County sheriff’s sale for $676,000 in 2009.

The enormity of the project included every infrastructure aspect that not only overhauled but gutted from within the Americus, from its roof to the three-level subbasement. Technology updates included new electric, phone, internet, cable, fire-alarm system, security system, water pipes and drains, and tankless water heating and water softening system.

Once remediation was complete, there’s was also a new fire suppression (sprinkler) system and Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant access. There’s a new fresh-air system on the roof whereby filtered air is provided throughout the building and in each guest room. Air-conditioning units were worked into areas of the hotel. The Americus originally had more than 310 wood-frame windows which were in disrepair. These were replaced with Pella insulated units that can be opened.

Guest and service elevators were completely inoperable. A hand-operated car during most of the initial work moved construction workers and materials from to floor. After $1-million in repairs and new equipment, the elevators are running, complete with an historic look.

The restaurant and banquet kitchen were overhauled with state-of-the art appliances, new range hood and commercial epoxy floor.

Long time coming

It’s been a long time coming.

If you drove through downtown Allentown during the mid-2000s, you might remember the scaffolding surrounding the Americus, erected to protect passers-by from possible falling debris. Upon acquiring the building, Abdouche made it a priority to remove the scaffolding. The building facade was stabilized with brick re-pointing and washing by a specialty contractor.

The “merchants row” of store fronts along North Sixth Street had also been closed as a safety precaution. The stores are once again occupied by independent businesses, including a dry cleaner, barber, salon services, cafe´ and creperie. Walgreens took over the commercial space fronting Hamilton Street.

At the time of the hotel’s acquisition, there was no improvement zone or funding for Abdouche to tap into. In many ways, the Americus Hotel project was one of the first in center city’s decade-plus of revitalization.

All around the Americus new projects arose, including the PPL Center, office high-rises and apartment buildings, mostly funded through the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA), or NIZ.

Abdouche says he was approached by developers who wanted to purchase the Americus and demolish it. Even though he was offered great sums of money, he says, he had the conviction to do 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 says he knew he could.

After an initial $4 million from Abdouche’s other business enterprises and a work crew of about 10 people for five years, he was given the nod in 2014 to secure funding from banks as required by the ANIZDA board. Among the banks to which he applied, Abdouche says each turned him down.

Another requirement for approval was the hiring of a construction management and hotel hospitality firm. 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, Columbia County. A $1.5-million grant was awarded by Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The ANIZDA board voted unanimously in January 2018 to approve the Americus project.

Abdouche worked closely with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to preserve the look of the hotel.

Americus is open

The Americus Hotel, Trademark Collection by Wyndham, opened in 2021. A doorman greets you. Valet parking is available at Hamilton Street. A drop-off parking zone extends around the corner at Sixth Street to the entrance door there.

Walking up the short hallway to the lobby desk, original majestic chandeliers and restored artwork on the beams and ceiling are on view. A Starbucks installation at the “Americus Cafe” and sundries for hotel guests are available. A gift shop is to open.

Gold railings encase stairways and the mezzanine, a perfect area to sit and talk with friends or catch up on work with your laptop.

“Windows on 6th,” the restaurant led by Executive Chef Peter Quinones, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a small bar with large mirrors where you can enjoy a cocktail after a long day.

While experiencing these areas, you will hear pleasant music filling the space, giving an uplifting feeling of knowing you are in some place special in the Lehigh Valley.

Large glass windows provide a view into the Grand Ballroom with its original 1927 green crystal chandeliers and floral medallions on the ceiling bulkhead that were meticulously repaired and restored. Furnishings were chosen with an eye to beauty, style and comfort.

Once you reach floors one to five, there are 80 modern-amenity guest rooms. Photographs of historic Allentown landmarks and businesses adorn halls and rooms. For guests, there’s a 24/7 fitness center.

Americus found

As the story goes, the Americus Hotel, named for Amerigo Vespucci (born 1454, Florence, Italy; died 1512, Sevilla, Spain), an explorer of the New World, was built in 1926 by Albert D. Gomery in an architecture style that replicated old-world Spanish design.

The hotel was later owned by Albert and Ann Moffa. During a popular time for the hotel in the latter part of the 20th century, the hotel’s smörgåsbord was a calling card and it catered to civic events, concerts, movies and distinguished guests.

There was a period when Mark Mendelson owned and operated the Americus. Some improvements in the lobby that can still be seen were made. But the infrastructure was ignored. The hotel fell into disrepair. It was shut down by the City of Allentown in 2002.

Albert and his wife, Anne Abdouche, and their five children now enjoy the newly-opened grandeur of their hotel, the Americus, taking a cue from the original intention of Gomery “to have a place for all to experience elegance and class through hospitality.”

Plans for the still-developing hotel is to open floors six to nine as 48 extended-stay suites with fully-equipped kitchens. On the 10th floor will be 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 feature light entertainment, a small menu and could be rented for events.

The lower level off Hamilton Street is being remodeled to once again be a nightclub with entertainment for all ages, including music and comedy.

“They gave me $9 million and I did it. It is done,” says Albert Abdouche, sitting in the restaurant with Anne as they overlook a scene of bustling people, staff and guests in the open-concept lobby.

After all the years that have passed and the toll it has had on Albert’s health and finances, he and Anne can now enjoy the years to come and watch the next generation make memories and appreciate the accommodations offered by the Americus Hotel, the grand lady, the Queen of Allentown, the Queen City.

Says Albert Abdouche, “We need people to come 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 are bringing the expertise for events to the Americus, along with a place to stay overnight.”

Information: The Americus Hotel, Trademark Collection by Wyndham, 555 Hamilton St. Allentown. 610-437-2327


View from the Grand Ballroom toward “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 Grand Ballroom, which features a staircase to the mezzanine, original chandeliers and restored painted medallions.
The Americus Hotel lobby and “Windows on 6th” restaurant. Two chandeliers once hung in Hess's department store, Ninth and Hamilton streets, Allentown.
Right: Ten hand-painted medallions were restored in Americus Hotel Grand Ballroom.
Americus Hotel Controller Carolyn St. James in one of the hotel elevators that displays newspaper articles and ads relevant to the hotel's history.
PRESS PHOTOs BY LORI PATRICK Americus Hotel Executive Chef Peter Quinones at “Windows on 6th” restaurant.
An example of one of the 85 guest rooms available at The Americus Hotel, Allentown.