January 14, 2020

Did Somebody Say ‘Free Ice Water’?

The Historic Davenport Hotel, opened on September 1st, 1914, was the first hotel with many featured amenities, including air conditioning, a central vacuum system, housekeeping carts, accordion ballroom doors and more. The most notable of them all, though, is that The Davenport was the first hotel in the country to deliver ice water to each guest – for free! – through specially designed faucets in each of the 405 rooms.

In a contract pulled from July 20th, 1913 with Louis Davenport, James Smyth Plumbing, The Keystone Well Drilling Company and J.H. Harris, it is stated that “the distilled, refrigerated, circulating well water service of the new Davenport hotel will be one of the most unique and also one of the most important features of the many innovations of hotel service.” This service cost the hotel $25,000 for its installation alone, and over 25,000 feet of pipe was necessary to execute the ice-water dream. Every inch of the pipe was insulated with cork casing, and a 25 horse-power pump was installed in the subbasement, with a capacity of 150 gallons a minute.

The contract reads: “This will pump the water from the private well of the hotel into a big tank in the subbasement. This tank will be cooled by ammonia coils to a temperature of 40 degrees. A thermostat will keep the water at an even temperature. The water will then be pumped through a large pipe to the top of the building, where it will pass through a large bypass and from it will be forced into every room of the hotel.”

The pumps forced water through in order to change the supply every four minutes. Thus, fresh ice water was on tap every minute of each 24 hours. These specially designed faucets were put into every room so that the “guest can have ice water at all times without ringing for a bellboy and paying the customary fee.”


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