Only 150 of its 565 guestrooms were ready, and in many of the hallways of the sprawling, 19-story building, sawdust and the sounds of construction were testimony of work still in progress.
But none of that disturbed the grand opening Wednesday of the Fairmont Hotel, a $22 million reincarnation of the Bellevue Stratford, Philadelphia's premier hotel until 1976 -- when it died as the result of a strange malady called Legionnaire's Disease.
No one here Wednesday talked about the medical tragedy that took the lives of 29 persons who had attended an American Legion convention at the Bellevue Stratford. The hotel subsequently lost business and was forced to close Nov. 18, 1976.
Attention this week was focused on the hotel's stunning restoration, an apparently successful attempt to "restore the hotel to its original garce, charm and elegance," as the public relations department put it.
When it was built for $8 million in 1904, the Bellevue Stratford was Renaissance architecture. It had one of thelargest, most ornate ballrooms in the nation, an elaborate staircase and bedroom suites with colonial, French, Italian and Greek decor.
The bedroom eclecticism has been abandoned in favor of a more consistent French Renaissance Theme. And the number of bedrooms has been reduced from the original 725 to 565.
The result is larger, more comfortable rooms, none smaller than 14 by 25 feet. The feeling is luxurious.
The other changes were not changes at all -- just a correction of 1950s redecorative vandalism.
For example, the original hotel had two spacious banquet rooms, north and south, called the Cameo Rooms. They actually are rotundas with artfully crafted ceilings.
But in the 1950s, someone got the idea to paint over everything, including the beautiful stained-glass windows atop the rotunda domes. The paint was peeled away in the restoration, much to the delight of the thousands of spectators who trooped through the hotel Wednesday.
By mid-October, the Fairmont, with its 44,000 square yards of custom-designed carpet, new furniture, Portuguese marble and crystal on chandeliers and lighting fixtures, will be fully operational.
"It's going to be perfect -- it's got to be perfect," said Fairmont sales manager Liz Erikson.