A Century of Gnomes at the Hotel Du Pont

Monday, January 24, 2022

I have worked with the library’s collections for several decades and continue to be amazed by items discovered during my research. While assisting Hotel Du Pont management with a project, an interesting item was found in an old dusty envelope – a fairy tale of sorts about Gnomes.

Opening boxes in the stacks of the library is always exciting, especially when it contains this…

AVD2013.269 Hotel Du Pont photographs – original artwork Gnomes

The Gnomes existence in the Hotel can be traced to the original Grille Room Cafeteria, located in the lower level. Entered from 11th Street, guests descended a tomb-like stairwell. Resplendent with brass railings and wall sconces, the rathskeller tone was set. 

In a 1951 Hotel Du Pont booklet, Kurt, one of the Gnomes, told the story of how they were originally unpainted and positioned atop walnut-stained columns around the Grille Room. They all were updated with color during the kitchen renovation. 

AVD2013.269 Hotel Du Pont photographs – painted Gnomes

Meet Kurt! 

AVD2013.269 Hotel Du Pont photographs – booklet, 1951

During a recent meeting with Executive Manager Greg Kavanaugh, my last question was ‘where are the Gnomes?’  Laughing, he took me down a closed set of stairs to the bowels of the building where the employee cafeteria is located.  The area is in complete disrepair awaiting renovation.  Greg points up, ‘here they are.’

Gnomes still stand guard, peering down from the ceiling, ready to keep your secrets and give you a knowing wink.


Marsha Mills is Foundation Archivist at Hagley Museum and Library.