Pittsburgh’s Omni William Penn Hotel shines bright after yearly cleaning of chandeliers
The lobby inside the Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh shined a little brighter Thursday.
The annual cleaning of the three $250,000 chandeliers took place. It’s a ritual to get them extra sparkly for the city’s annual Light Up Night. The event, held this year on Nov. 22, kicks off the holiday season.
The light fixtures are known as Maria Theresa Chandeliers, named after Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, because she was enchanted by the lyre-shaped crystals, according to press materials.
Made of Czechoslovakian Bohemian lead with hand-cut crystal prisms, each chandelier is 12 feet high, eight feet wide and weighs approximately 450-500 pounds. Each has 84 bulbs and 1,754 crystals.
Lowering the chandeliers for cleaning requires 386 turns by hand of a large crank located in a crawl space just above the lobby, said Stephen Monticone, director of engineering for the hotel.
“It’s a pretty tight space,” Monticone said. “We have a guy on a radio below talking to us so we don’t lower it too much. The chandeliers are connected by an electrical wire and a cable.”
Cleaning requires five room attendants for eight hours.
The chandeliers were acquired in 1950 from a casino in Cannes, France, said Bob Page, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.
“You can really see the difference once they are cleaned,” Page said. “They collect a lot of dust in one year.”
The five room attendants are chosen for the cleaning by Kim Sakanich, director of housekeeping. They dress up for the cleaming in white shirts, black pants and vests and bow ties because they take pride in their work.
“This is something to share with the public,” Sakanich said. “They get to see what I see every day, a little piece of our everyday life we can share with them.”
The workers create a solution of glass cleaner and warm water. With a fiberglass cloth, they wash each piece. They also use a duster to reach some of the brushed brass.
“Two years ago we converted to LED lights,” Page said. “I am here to check for flickering of the lights. These chandeliers are the focal point of the lobby. This is so cool because people get a chance to see the chandeliers up close. If you feel the crystals, they are so heavy and thick.”
The crew started at 6:30 a.m. They use scaffolding to reach the top of the chandeliers.
“The tradition of cleaning the chandeliers has been passed down by previous employees,” said the hotel’s lead carpenter, Bill Swartz. “I want to keep that tradition going for the next generation. It is fun and one of the reasons I work here. It’s my favorite time of the year.”
Stacy Urban, the housekeeping manager, cherishes the ritual. “We know when we are done with this the Christmas decorations are going up,” she said. “Everyone gets so excited about this it’s because it’s a huge tradition within the hotel family.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .