Hotel History
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Hotel History

As a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America, the hotel holds a special place in history.  From the clock above the Front Desk depicting ancient Nordic Runes to the original 1926 brass letter box in the Lobby, our Newport hotel offers a wonderful combination of style, comfort and modern amenities. Brimming with stories of famous dignitaries and celebrities, the Hotel Viking has offered gracious hospitality for over 80 years. The employees and associates of the Hotel Viking are very proud to share more of the Hotel Viking's heritage and character with the public.  The "city by the sea" is as beautiful today as it was many years ago.  We hope that by sharing these special memories with you, you will understand why the Hotel Viking is indeed so very special to us.

Historical Timeline

Historical Timeline:

  • 1924 - Locals saw need for a grand hotel to keep pace with the economic growth in Newport.  Fundraising began.  Shares of common stock sold out in one day.
  • 1926 - Hotel opened to an awestruck public on May 25, 1926.  Two lavish parties  were held.  One for the workers and one for the general public.  Tickets to the event sold for $5 and both events sold out.  The American Hotels Corporation was the opening Management Company and ran the Hotel until the late 1960’s.
  • 1962 - The first motel unit was opened, an outdoor pool and patio built in a beautiful landscaped setting.  The name of the hotel changed to The Viking Hotel and Motor Inn and guests could drive up to a two way camera in the parking lot to check-in.
  • 1964 - The second motel unit was added in the 1970’s.  The hotel added a 30 thousand square foot convention center on the lower level, replacing the outdoor pool and surrounding area.  This former convention center is now the Viking Ballroom, Spa Terre and back of the house areas.
  • 1980’s - The new ownership of the Hotel Viking connected the two freestanding motel units to the main building, making one large complex.
  • 1999 - LaSalle Hotels purchased the property and appointed Noble House Hotels and Resorts as the new Management Company.  Under their direction, an initial 3 million dollar renovation began to bring the hotel back to its original splendor.
  • 2003 -  An additional 5 million dollars created beautiful public space, the Viking Ballroom, Spa Terre and much needed back of the house space.
  • 2007 -  The original Viking guest rooms undergo a 6.8 million dollar renovation to restore them to their Gilded Age splendor.

The People's Hotel on the Hill

Article As Seen In Newport Life Magazine 2004  

Built as an investment in the community by residents of the community, the Hotel Viking was a harbinger of Newport’s 20th century recovery as a tourist and resort town.

Roughly 50 years before Newport, Rhode Island experienced its modern conversion to a tourist economy, the city took a step of extraordinary proportions in building one of its most recognized landmarks on Bellevue Avenue.

The venerable Hotel Viking, a shining five story brick testimony to the faith that people had in their city in the 1920's, was initiated by community leaders and built with community investment. It became known as the peoples hotel because local investors bought the common stock that furnished the half million dollars needed to erect the magnet that would attract tourists to Newport at the dawn of the automobile age.

And did the city ever embrace the Viking… imagine modern Newport welcoming a new hotel with a parade fireworks a community inspection a gala dinner with music an dancing. They did all that and more in May of 1926 when the Viking opened.

This stately Georgian colonial with brick façade remains reminiscent of a bygone era when hotels were not just a place to lay your head for the night but an experience to be savored. Listed on the national register of historic places the hotel Viking represented hope for the future in 1926, not nostalgia for the past despite its architectural nod to Newport’s colonial history

The roaring twenties didn’t roar all the much in Newport at least not for the general economy. Five years before the Great Depression would envelop the country Newport found itself losing tourists to locations in Florida and elsewhere because cities were building hotels as Newport was losing many of its 19th century bellwethers.

By the early 1920's many of Newport’s grand wood frame hotels had disappeared, either engulfed by fire or torn down because of disrepair. Through the 1920's the city struggled to keep one of its other great sources of income the naval training station which later became more prominent because of World War II. Still its economic future as always was in doubt. The world was changing rapidly even then with the automobile becoming a more convenient way to travel and Newport was essentially cut off from that as well.  The vision of community leaders prominent businessmen such as dry goods merchant, William M Leys, and contractor, James T O’Connell, helped shape Newport’s tourism economy in the manner that allowed it to survive the depression and the war and to position it for a future that brought the Newport bridge in the 1960's and the charge of summer tourist brigades that have been the staple of the city’s economy since the mid 1970's. They along with dozens of other leaders including familiar Newport names such as William H Vanderbilt, Packer Braman, William Sheffield and Edward A Sherman formed the community hotel corporation. The chairman of the hotel campaign executive committee, Harry A Titus, typified the men who proposed this bold step.

The inheritor of his family’s 19th century furniture business Titus fit the oft used description of pillar of the community. Born in 1869, he went to Newport public schools and then to Harvard before returning to run the family business first on Thames Street and later on Pelham street. Over the years he served as president of the Chamber of Commerce (where the seeds for the hotel were sown) and the YMCA and he was one the business leaders who lobbied to keep the naval training station. Twice a losing candidate for mayor his political skills appeared of less standing than his business acumen.

He and the others who proposed the new hotel realized that Newport’s to call their own. Its infamous Skoal Room was the place to meet naval officers and a rash of visiting celebrities from Vanderbilt and Astors to movie stars and political figures not the least of whom was John F Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, who stayed at Hammersmith farm in Newport. Americas favorite humorist, Will Rogers, reportedly rejected an offer to stay at a friends mansion preferring Vikings comfortable confines on his visits to Newport.

During the Great Depression weekend conventions enable the hotel to hold its own.  In 1933 at the height of the depression the hotel still returned a dividend for stockholders and was one of only 13 hotels in the American hotels corporation chain to show a profit in 1930 the first year of the depression according to Eileen Warburton in her book, in living memory.

According to Marlen Scalzi the Vikings current director of sales and marketing, many people met and married at the Skoal Room. And she would know as taking on her current role was a literal homecoming. She spent the first 17 years of her life as the resident Eloise at the hotel. Her father Leonard Scalzi came to the hotel Viking as general manager shortly after World War II. The family lived on the second floor of the main building and soon became entrenched not only in running the hotel but in the community as well.

Living in the hotel as grand as the Viking was indeed as wonderful as it sounds. Marlen was treated like royalty by the staff. She remembers being welcomed home from school by the hotel chef with a fresh roast beef sandwich. Her father had her practice her handwriting by preregistering guests and Marlen recalls grumbling about one of her chores bringing the room service trolley back to the kitchen each day.

As its original promoters understood the mere presence of the Hotel Viking helped draw many events to Newport over the years and it was always a significant factor in defining the areas reputation for travelers and business people.