In emerging from Colonial days into those early years of the American Republic it is quite easy to find the dividing line that must be crossed when one has to do with political history, but it is not so easy to set a limit to the colonial and a beginning for the new epoch when one is discussing inns, taverns and hotels generally. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the French word hotel was not applied to the American inns until some years after the constitutional government of the United States had been in operation, and in a general way the time may be said to have been synchronous with the close of the eighteenth century.
While it is always hazardous to assert anything was the first, it may be said, until evidence to the contrary is presented, that the first inn in the United States to be boldly named a hotel by its proprietor was Francis’s Union Hotel in Philadelphia, which was opened early in the year 1801. John Francis was a Frenchman who came to Philadelphia in 1793 and opened what he described as a boarding house on Fourth Street, south of High, or Market Street. Whether he had fled his native France on the outbreak of the Terror, or whether he had been in this country before, is not known, but his place was immediately favored by members of Congress, then meeting in Philadelphia, which at the time could not boast of a hostelry in keeping with the demands of a nation’s capital. Francis had two private houses, numbered 11 and 13 South Fourth Street, and next to the latter was the Indian Queen Inn, the second house of that name to occupy approximately the same site. His wife was an American woman, described as much his junior in age. As a hostess she was most popular.
We get an excellent idea of both Mr. and Mrs. Francis and their high-class boarding house from Thomas Twining’s “Travels in America,” which little book was not published until 1893, long after its author was dead. He was a young Englishman in the East Indian Civil Service, who was making a trip around the world for his health. He arrived in Philadelphia in a ship in the spring of 1796. He looked in at the London Tavern and decided he wanted something better in lodgings; so he asked a passerby on the street where the members of Congress stopped, and was directed to Francis’s house. Let Twining introduce us to the historic boarding house:
“I thought,” wrote Twining in his journal, “it would be very desirable to be admitted to this house, or rather into its society. I accordingly walked immediately to Fourth Street, and found old Mr. Francis and his American wife sitting together in a small dark room at the end of the passage. I did not at first know who Mrs. Francis was, for she appeared too tall and handsome to be the old man’s daughter, and too young to be his wife. Mr. Francis, who seemed to have lost the politeness of his own country, said without stirring from his chair, or scarcely raising his head, that his house was not a tavern but a private house for the reception of Members of Congress, of whom it was now full. I mentioned that I was a stranger in America, being just arrived from the East Indies. The little old man regarded me with a look of surprise as I said this, but repeated, in a tone of diminished repugnance almost amounting to civil regret, that his house was full. I was about to return to my indifferent lodging at the London Tavern, when Mrs. Francis reminded her husband of a small room at the top of the house, which I might occupy for a day or two when a chamber next to the one occupied by the Vice-President would be disengaged. The mention of the Vice-President excited my attention, and the idea of being placed so near him at once obtained my assent to Mrs. Francis’s proposal; and the old man also expressed his concurrence, or rather allowed his wife to make what arrangement she pleased.”
At dinner, the traveller related, he met several members of Congress. “The seat at the head of the table,” he tells us, “was reserved for the Vice-President, Mr. Adams, but he did not come to dinner.”
Francis’s houseat one time he had twowas not a very large one, but it was select, as may be learned from the quotations just given. It had for its chief distinction the then Vice-President of the United States, John Adams; and it was from Francis’s house that Adams left to be inaugurated second President of the United States. When he gave up his room there to occupy the Presidential Mansion, only a block and a half further westward, on High Street, the new Vice-President, Thomas Jefferson, took his place at Francis’s. The day of the inauguration, and immediately after that ceremony, both Washington, the retiring President of the United States, and Timothy Pickering walked from Congress Hall to Francis’s to pay their respects to the new Vice-President.
Francis occupied the Fourth Street house until after the Federal Government removed from Philadelphia to the new Capital, Washington, D. C., in 1800. Early in the following year Francis leased the former Presidential Mansion on High Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets, and opened it as Francis’s Union Hotel, although he had been negotiating for two houses Washington was erecting in the Federal City. On March 4, 1801, there was a great banquet and celebration in the Union Hotel, to signalize the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States. In the winter of 1802, the first of the usual two City Dancing Assemblies, was given in Francis’s Union Hotel; and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it may be supposed that the Second Assembly Dance also was held in Francis’s house. In 1804 Francis gave up the Union Hotel, and returned to Fourth Street, when he took the Indian Queen Tavern adjacent to his old house, for we find him occupying Nos. 13 and 15 South Fourth Street. In 1807 he evidently had either retired or died, for after that year his name does not occur in the Philadelphia Directory.
The Indian Queen, part of which structure stands to-day, although it has not been a hotel for more than half a century, was the second hotel of the same name to stand almost on the same site, and both dated from Colonial days. They were neither of them of historic importance, although of local interest. In the days when Thomas Heiskell owned the house, that is to say, in the 20’s of the last century, a sign board on the top of a pole in front of the hotel bore a painting of the Indian Queen, the work of John A. Wood-side, who achieved considerable celebrity in the first half of the nineteenth century for his artistic sign boards and his decorations of fire engine apparatus in Philadelphia and the immediate neighborhood. His sign of the Indian Queen was reproduced on the hotel’s bill-heads while Heiskell was proprietor. Owing to the fact that Jefferson, while Vice-President, lived at Francis’s boarding house next door, a legend arose that he wrote the Declaration of Independence there, which, of course, is erroneous, since we have Jefferson’s own statement on the subject.
In New York there was a hotel, which, if its predecessor was included in its story, belonged to both the Colonial period and that of the young Republic. This was, in later times, known as the City Hotel, and it stood on Broadway, New York City, where the Boreel Building now stands, at number 115, or at the corner of Stone, now Thames Street, and Broadway. In the Colonial period after it had become a hostelry, it had many signs, but, towards the latter part of the eighteenth century it was the centre of much of the social life of the city.
Like Fraunces Tavern, the original building was at first a private residence; and like Fraunces, again, it was erected by a member of the De Lancey family. Its builder was James De Lancey, once a Lieutenant-Governor of New York, and a ,son of that Stephen, or as his name originally was written in French, Etienne De Lancey, who had built the residence which was to be preserved as Fraunces’ Tavern. It seems that the house was first opened as a tavern in 1754, when Edward Willett hung out the sign of The Province Arms. But for years each new landlord hung out a sign to please his own sentiments, and we find it referred to at different periods as The City Arms, New York Arms, The York Arms, Willett’s, and Burns’ Tavern. A Frenchman, named Roubalet, was at one time the inn-keeper, but it was while it was known as Burns’ Coffee House, named for its landlord, that, on October 31, 1765, a meeting was held there and the Non-Importation Agreement, which was the Americans’ reply to the offensive Stamp Act, was signed, following the Non-Importation Resolutions adopted and signed in Philadelphia, six days before. The tavern was occupied as a military head-quarters during the greater part of the Revolution. Subsequently a great wooden building was erected in the rear in a garden that extended down to the East River, and this, for some years, was used for the City Dancing Assembly. This made it, as may be imagined, the resort of fashion and wealth in New York City at that time. Consequently, the first inauguration ball was given there. It had been arranged to give this ball, as has since been the custom, on the night of the inauguration of the President, which in Washington’s case was April 30, 1789, but Mrs. Washing-ton had not accompanied her husband, and it was desired to await her arrival from Mount Vernon. Then word came that the President’s wife would not reach New York until the end of May, whereupon the Committee decided to give the ball on the night of May 5.
This first Inaugural Ball was a brilliant function and about 300 distinguished guests were present, including President Washington, Vice-President Adams, members of Congress, foreign ministers and the reigning social queens of New York’s Society. At this time the hotel was called The City Tavern. A few years later it was decided to improve the property, and in 1793 the old house was razed. In 1806 a larger and more modern hotel was built on the site. The new house was variously known as the Tontine City Tavern and as the City Hotel.
A great deal of attention was being paid to Tontine plans at that time in both Europe and a few of the Eastern cities of the United States. In Boston, in 1793, a row of dwellings, very handsome structures, were built on this plan, and called the Crescent. Now, New York was erecting a great city hotel on the same plan, which briefly provided life annuities for loans, with the survivor obtaining the capital. The Tontine very probably received so much attention here at the time because news had come from England that a Mr. Jennings, who had originally contributed £100 to a Tontine company, had died in 1793, at the age of 103 years, and having been the sole survivor of the original subscribers, was worth £2,115,244. Evidently some Americans of the time were encouraged with the hope that they might live to be centenarians.
The City Hotel, on lower Broadway, continued as a hostelry until 1850, when it was removed to make room for stores, which later gave way to an office building. It is said to have been the first attempt at hotel building in New York City.
Providence, Rhode Island, has always held in high historic favor the ancient house known variously as The Golden Ball Tavern, The Roger Williams’ Hotel and The Mansion House, which last name is the one by which it has latterly been known. The old hotel stands in Benefit Street, behind the Old State House. In its early days, especially in the opening years of the nineteenth century, The Golden Ball Tavern was the scene of the most fashionable balls, receptions and similar entertainments given in Providence, the most magnificent ball being one held in the year 1813.
During President Washington’s tour of New England in 1790 he stopped in Providence, where he was escorted to The Golden Ball by an enthusiastic welcoming party, which is said to have been very largely composed of students of Brown University. In Washington’s suite at the time, May 29, 1790, were Governor Clinton of New York; William Smith, of South Carolina; Colonel Humphreys; Major Jackson, and Mr. Nelson. Washington appears to have stayed in Providence for very nearly a week, for on the Thursday following his arrival he was the chief guest at a dinner served that day in the Old State House, where he received the formal address of the town and replied in a speech.
When President John Adams was on his way to his home in Massachusetts in the summer of 1797, he and his family stopped in Providence, and were guests at The Golden Ball Tavern. He was greeted by an enthusiastic gathering of townspeople; cannons roared and bells pealed to announce his arrival. Esek Hopkins, then rather old but still a patriot, visited the President at the hotel. Hopkins had been the first Commander-in-chief of the American Navy during the Revolution, but in an engagement with the British ship, Glasgow, the latter seriously disabled the Providence, which ship Hopkins commanded, and escaped. While Hancock, John Adams and John Paul Jones praised him for his gallant conduct, his enemies were active, and Congress dismissed him in January, 1778. He always had admired John Adams, and when the latter as President stopped in Providence, Hopkins, then eighty-one years of age, hobbled in to pay his respects, and with tears in his eyes thanked the head of the nation profusely for having defended him at the time of his dismissal from the Navy. Adams, in his journal, after describing the affecting scene reported Hopkins as having said, “he knew not for what end he was continued in life, unless it was to punish his friends or to teach his children and grandchildren to respect me.”
Washington’s room in the old hotel has always been held for distinguished guests, and among those who have occupied it were President Madison, who was there in 1817, during his tour, when the hotel was called The Mansion House; General Lafayette, during his triumphal journey throughout the United States, in 1824; and later, James Russell Lowell.
In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a large, modern hotel which stands on a site that has been occupied by a house of entertainment for more than 150 years. There is no hint of this in the name of the new house, which was opened in 1914 as The Hotel Brunswick; but a tablet has been erected on the walls of the hostelry to record the visits of some of the country’s most eminent citizens, during the last seventy years, to the hotel which formerly stood on the site, at Chestnut and North Queen Streets.
The late W. U. Hensel, one of Lancaster county’s distinguished citizens and a scholar and philanthropist, just before his death read a paper, at the dedication of the tablet, in which he sketched the history of the inns and hotels that had occupied the property now covered by the magnificent hostelry, The Hotel Brunswick, from which paper the facts given here have been derived. The first inn on the site was one conducted by George Hoffnagle, who sold it in 1777. The inn was a two-and-a-half story stone building, which in 1843, as is shown by a picture in Sherman Day’s “Pennsylvania Collections,” was called the North American; whether “hotel” or “house” is not shown. At that time it was owned by David Miller, who was a son-in-law of the portrait painter Eicholtz. Miller was described as “one of the most brilliant and gallant Lancastrians of his time.” Mr. Hensel, in describing his activities, wrote of him: “Dave Miller was the only man in transportation who could entertain his patrons at his Lancaster hotel, transport them to Philadelphia cheaper than you could ride there now, and accommodate them at one of three hotels he successively kept there.” One of these hotels was the historic Indian Queen, on Fourth Street, already mentioned.
The North American Hotel was sold to Jay Cadwell, by the heirs of Miller, in 1860, and what is historic of the site really dates from that period, when the enlarged house was named for its proprietor, the Cadwell. It retained this name until 1871, when it was renamed for its last landlord, the Hon. Isaac E. Heister. On the tablet which was affixed to the wall of the Brunswick Hotel, the story of the historic balcony of the former hostelry is briefly given in these words : “1861-1912. Above this spot, on the outer wall of the Cadwell House, formerly occupying this site, was an exterior balcony. Abraham Lincoln addressed the people of Lancaster from this balcony, February 22, 1861, on the journey from his home in Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, for his first inauguration. James Buchanan, fifteenth President of the United States, was welcomed back to his Lan-caster home by a great popular ovation under this balcony, March 6, 1861. Horace Greeley, Democratic and Liberal Republican nominee for President, spoke to the people of Lancaster here, September 18, 1872. The Democratic nomination of General Winfield S. Hancock for President was first ratified by a great demonstration on and under this balcony, June 26, 1880. Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, candidate for a third term as a Progressive Republican, addressed a large gathering from this balcony, April 12, 1912.” This tablet was the gift of Mr. Hensel, and was unveiled April 9, 1915. Although Washington was in Lancaster three times in his life, it is not known where he stopped, and even tradition is not specific being, in the words of Mr. Hensel, “most likely at the Grape,” although he intimates that it is just as likely to have been at the North American.
Utica, New York, can boast of having had a hotel before the town, or village, had a name. This house, or rather the one which replaced it on the same site, Bagg’s Hotel, stands to-day at the corner of Main and Genesee Streets, which spot has known a Bagg’s Hotel since 1794, or for more than 130 years. Utica occupies the site of Fort Stanwix, later Fort Schuyler, which, before the Revolution, was occupied by a garrison. In the summer of 1777 Americans under Colonel Gansevoort occupied the fort when Colonel St. Leger, with about 700 Indians, invested the post. For three weeks he besieged the fort, and the day he began there was a throng of spectators numbering many hundreds gathered to see the Americans surrender. After trying for three weeks to capture the fort, Colonel St. Leger suddenly retreated, and in his haste to get away abandoned tents and most of his artillery and stores, which were taken by the Americans. The settlement which was made about four miles from the fort lay on the south bank of the Mohawk River, about ninety-four miles west of Albany, and as a permanent village dates from 1784. In 1798 a village charter was granted to the community, then named Utica, and by 1813 it contained about 1700 inhabitants.
In 1794 Moses Bagg, who was a blacksmith, purchased land in the settlement, on Main Street east of the Square. On the corner he built a log house and opened it for the accommodation of travellers. Success attended this pioneer effort, and in a few years he put up a two-story frame building on the same site, and continued to keep this as a tavern until his death, in 1805. In 1808 his son, Moses, became proprietor, and Bagg’s Hotel flourished. It was not a very large house, as may be imagined from the fact that when the Erie Canal Commissioners visited Utica, in 1810, Stephen Van Rensselaer and Gouverneur Morris, with their servants, hired the whole house for their use. In 181215 Bagg erected the central part of his brick hotel which later was extended on either side. In 1830, the firm had become Bagg & Churchill, and “The Traveller’s Guide” for that year described it as “a large establishment, well furnished and well kept, and may be justly ranked among the best public houses in the Union.”
Like Utica, Cincinnati is a city that was built beside a fort. Just after the Revolution a military post and fort, named Fort Washington, was erected in the North West Territory, on the north side of the Ohio River, opposite the mouth of the Licking River, large enough to accommodate a garrison of three hundred. Within a short time a settlement grew up nearby, which in 1788 was organized and the village named Cincinnati. In 1795 it contained 200 houses. Two years before this a Virginian, Griffin Yeatman, erected a tavern, which for a long time was the only town-hall or meeting place for the settlers. It was the centre of everything, and there the early history of Cincinnati was made. It stood. at the corner of Sycamore and Front Streets.
Although we would not regard it as of importance to-day, Yeatman’s Taverna frame building, two stories high and one hundred feet long-was regarded as a wonderful structure, as it was, considering it was set down in a wilderness. It boasted of a ball room, a very popular bar-room, and a dining room of good proportions. The proprietor was an enterprising, progressive man, who took an active interest in affairs.. He was one of the first members of the Masonic Lodge formed there. The first session of the Territorial Legislature held its sessions in Yeatman’s Tavern. Only unmarried men were accommodated in Yeatman’s Hotel, one of whom was Jacob Burnet, for whom the Burnet House was named. An epidemic of “chills and fever,” evidently malaria, broke out in the village in 1795, and Yeatman’s became a hospital. In the stable attached to the tavern the first theatrical performances in Cincinnati were given, although the first regular playhouse was not opened until 1815. In Yeatman’s was held, on March 11, 1800, a meeting “to consider the merits of an invention said to be capable of propelling a boat against the stream by power or elastic vapor.” Yeatman in 1801 became Recorder of the town, and served in that office for twenty-seven years.
Arndt’s Tavern, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was a rather famous hostelry in the last years of the eighteenth and the early years of the nineteenth centuries. John P. Arndt, who opened the house, came from Easton, Pennsylvania. Its most distinguished guests were: The Duke of Orleans, afterward King Louis Philippe, and his two brothers, the Duke of Montpensier, and the Count de Beaujolais, who stopped there in June, 1797, while on their way to Bradford County, where Robert Morris had purchased for them 1,200 acres of land on the Susquehanna River, at what is now known as Frenchtown. Some years later the beautiful and accomplished wife of Herman Blannerhassett, who had been ruined by the exposure of Aaron Burr’s conspiracy, was a guest at Arndt’s.
The tavern erected in Wilkes-Barre in 17878, at the corner of Washington and Northampton Streets, by Jesse Fell is still used as a hotel, although somewhat changed in appearance from the days when it was known as Fell’s Tavern. The house is a historic one from the fact that there Judge Fellfor he was a Judge as well as a hotel keeperfirst demonstrated that anthracite coal would burn. The coal had been used by blacksmiths of the vicinity in their forges since about the year 1768, but that the coal might be otherwise useful had not been imagined.
In a letter to Professor Silliman’s Journal of Science Judge Fell contributed a note on the history of anthracite and we may quote his words regarding his historic experiment:
“From observation,” he wrote, ” I had conceived an idea that if a body of this coal was ignited and confined together, it would burn as a fuel. To try the experiment, in the month of February, 1808, I had a grate constructed for the purpose, eight inches in depth, and eight inches in height, with feet eight inches high, and about twenty-two inches long (the length is immaterial, as that may be regulated to suit its use or convenience) and the coal, after being ignited in it, burned beyond my most sanguine expectation. A more beautiful fire could not be imagined, it being clear and without smoke. This was the first instance of success, in burning this coal in a grate, in a common fireplace, of which I have any knowledge; and this experiment first brought coal into use for winter fires (without any patent right)”.
This grate is now in the possession of the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
When it was opened as a house of entertainment in 1807 the Exchange Coffee House, at Third and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia, was the most magnificent hotel in the United States. This fact seemed to gradually dawn upon the proprietor, William Renshaw, for in 1809 he advisedly changed its name to the Mansion House Hotel, by which name it was known until its end, about forty years later.
Erected originally by William Bingham, one of the first senators from Pennsylvania, as his town mansionhe had another estate, Lansdowne, now a part of Fairmount Park in the same cityno expense was spared to have it equal to the wealth and social standing of its owner. Mrs. Bingham, who before her marriage had been Miss Ann Willing, also came of a family of social prestige and wealth. During the period when Mr. Bingham was a United States Senator and until her untimely death in 1801, she was the real leader of Philadelphia Society, and, in those days, the close of the eighteenth century, that was equivalent to regard her social influence as being high in the so-called “Republican Court.”
They were married in 1780, and in 1784 went to Europe, where they remained for nearly five years. Mr. Bingham’s wealth and position gained them entrance to circles of importance in the European Capitals. For instance, they were presented at the court of Louis XVI. They were known to all their country’s diplomats. They were entertained by Adams and they were dined by Lafayette. While in England they took a fancy to the design of the house of the Duke of Manchester, in Manchester Square, London, and decided the mansion they intended to build in Philadelphia should be modelled after it. Upon their return they purchased an extensive lot at the northwest comer of Third and Spruce Streets and there, in 1790, their new home was erected. One of William Birch’s “Views of Philadelphia” shows the Mansion as it appeared in 1800, and Wansey, whom we have quoted in the previous chapter, dined with the Binghams during his visit to Philadelphia in 1794. He was a very observant guest, so we have an informative word-picture, as well as Birch’s view.
“I found,” wrote the English traveller, “a magnificent house and garden in the best English style, with elegant, and even superb, furniture. The chairs of the drawing-room were from Seddon’s in London, of the newest taste, the back in the form of a lyre, with festoons of crimson and yellow silk. The curtains of the room a festoon of the same. The carpet one of Moore’s expensive patterns. The room was papered in the French taste, after the style of the Vatican at Rome. In the garden was a profusion of lemon, orange, and citron trees and many aloes and other exotics.”
Mr. Bingham’s mansion was conducted on the system long used in the mansions of the British nobility. We find Samuel Breck, who was a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, with town house and country estate as well, declaring in his entertaining volume of “Recollections,” that “the forms at his (Bingham’s) house were not suited to our manners.” He then continues, “I was often at his parties, at which each guest was announced; first at the entrance door his name was called aloud and taken up by a servant on the stairs, who passed it on to the man in waiting at the drawing room door. In this drawing-room the furniture was superb Gobelin, and the folding doors were covered with mirrors, which reflected the figures of the company, so as to deceive an untravelled countryman, who having been paraded up the marble stairway amid the echoes of his nameofttimes made very ridiculous by the manner in which the servants pronounced it–would enter the brilliant apartment and salute the looking-glass instead of the master and mistress of the house. and their guests. This silly fashion of announcing by name did not last long, and was put a stop to by the following ridiculous occurrence:
On a gala evening, an eminent physician, Dr. Kuhn, and his step-daughter, drove up to the door. A servant asked who was in the carriage:
” `The doctor and Miss Peggy,’ was the reply.
” `The doctor and Miss Peggy,’ cried the man stationed at the door.
” `The doctor and Miss Peggy!’ bawled out he of the stairs, which was taken up by the liveried footman at the door of the drawing-room, into which Miss Peggy and her papa entered amid the laugh and jokes of the company. This and several preceding blunders caused the custom, albeit a short one, to be suppressed.”
Mrs. Bingham, who was regarded as the most beautiful of all the Philadelphia belles of her period, was only thirty-seven years of age when she died in Bermuda, whither she had been taken to recover from a cold contracted during a sleigh ride shortly after the birth of her only son. Mr. Bingham soon afterward went to England, where he died in 1804. One of his daughters, Ann Louisa, was married to the Hon. Alexander Baring, who became Baron Ashburton, of Ashburton.
In 1807 William Renshaw took the vacant Bingham Mansion and opened it as the Exchange Coffee House. In 1809 he changed the name to Mansion House Hotel, and for many years it was the most fashionable house of its kind in Philadelphia. All important visitors to that city became guests at the Mansion House. George Frederick Cooke, who was one of the most famous English tragedians of his time, stopped at the Mansion House Hotel during his various visits to Philadelphia in the year 1811, when the theatre managers had to use the greatest diplomacy to keep him sober enough to appear on the stage in which effort occasionally they failed. The hotel soon became the popular place for meetings and banquets. The Society of the Sons of St. George held their meetings there, and on one occasion they had the actor Cooke brought from his apartment, although he had been suffering from a debauch, and sat him in the president’s chair at the festive board.
Thomas Leiper, a wealthy tobacconist and snuff manufacturer, whom we mentioned in the last chapter, purchased a lot of ground at Eleventh and Market Streets, Philadelphia, in 1812, and erected what was regarded as the largest hotel ever built in this country for that purpose, and he induced Renshaw to manage the new house, which was called the New Mansion House. The period selected for this experiment was the year the War of 1812 was begun. Even Renshaw, who was a practiced hotel-keeper could not make the house a success and after four years of effort he returned to his Mansion House Hotel, and the new hotel had a varied career, but there was a hotel on the site until 1923, when the Earle Theatre was erected there.
Back to the Mansion House Hotel, Renshaw made it a popular resort as of old. Next to it the Washington Benevolent Association, which had been recently formed, erected a large building which they named Washington Hall. This building was constructed with an entrance to the hotel, and the picture of it made in 1817 shows both structures. When Lafayette visited Philadelphia in 1824 he was taken to the Mansion House Hotel, where he stayed while in the city. A banquet was given for him the night of his arrival, September 28,, when seventy of the foremost citizens acted as hosts; on October 4th he dined at the Mansion House with Revolutionary officers, and on October 5th he dined with prominent Frenchmen in Washington Hall, ad-joining the hotel, where there was ample room for a large assemblage. Among those who responded to toasts were John Quincy Adams, who the following March was inaugurated President of the United States; Lafayette’s son, George Washington Lafayette; Charles J. Ingersoll, who as an attorney represented Joseph Bonaparte and other distinguished Frenchmen in the United States. This probably was the largest and most historic dinner that had been given in Philadelphia up to that time.
Renshaw was followed in the management by his son, Benjamin Renshaw, in 1822, but the latter relinquished the Mansion House in 1828 to become proprietor of the United States Hotel, on Chestnut Street, opposite the Bank of the United States, now the Custom House.
The property was purchased in 1831 by the Masonic Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which occupied Washington Hall as a Masonic Hall until 1855. A little later the Mansion House and Washington Hall were removed for modern buildings.
At the time William Renshaw was converting the Bing-ham Mansion in Philadelphia into a hotel Boston was constructing a Coffee House which was admittedly gigantic for its day. Two and a half years had been required to build this structure, which was called the Exchange Coffee House. It was seven stories in height, and contained two hundred and ten apartments, as well as quarters for a merchant’s exchange, and rooms for Masonic lodges. Half a million dollars were spent on the enterprise whose projectors had neglected to appreciate the comparatively small demand for so huge a hotel at the time it was opened in 1808.
Erected on Congress Street, with entrances on Devon-shire and State Streets, the Exchange Coffee House, which at times was called the Tontine Coffee House, was in the very centre of business in the Massachusetts capital. Stages stopped at its door. It was unsuccessful from the start and it is said that consequently many mechanics who had labored on the building were ruined. For ten years the Coffee House continued to be the chief hotel in Boston, and during that decade, which ended in 1818 when the structure was destroyed by fire, it had a historic career.
In the concert room of the Exchange Coffee House Mr. and Mrs. David Poe, parents of Edgar Allan Poe, closed their Boston theatrical careers on May 16, 1809, five months after their famous son was born in the same city, as has been related by Miss Mary E. Phillips in her recent life of Poe. Captain, afterwards Commodore, Hull made the Exchange his headquarters while in Boston during the War of 1812, and in the register of Marine news which was kept there he wrote his tributes to the worth of his young Lieutenant, Charles Morris, who subsequently rose to the rank of Commodore in the United States Navy. After Hull succeeded in escaping from the British fleet in July, 1812, he reached Boston, and going to the Exchange wrote in the register:
“Whatever merit may be due for the escape of the Constitution from the British Fleet, belongs to my first officer, Charles Morris, Esq.”
Later, after he had had that historic engagement with the British Man-of-War, Guerriere, in which Lieutenant Morris was wounded, Hull sailed back to Boston with his captive, Captain Dacres, of the Guerriere, and both went to the Exchange. There, again, Hull, generously wrote a tribute to his first officer. Dacres was lodged in the Exchange. After Bainbridge who succeeded Hull as Commander of the Constitution returned to Boston, in February, 1813, having captured the Java, he was given a sumptuous banquet at the Exchange Coffee House.
When President Monroe, following the custom of some of his predecessors in office, made a tour of the Eastern States, he visited Boston in July, 1817, and had apartments in the Exchange Coffee House. There, on the nation’s birthday, July 4th, a memorable dinner was served for the President and a distinguished company. Ex-President John Adams was a guest; Commodores Perry, Bainbridge and Hull; Generals Cobb and Humphreys, of the Continental Army; and Judge Story were in the party. The dinner was presided over by General Swift, Superintendent of the West Point Military Academy. The hotel was destroyed by fire on November 3, 1818, and being soon rebuilt in a less ambitious manner was maintained as a tavern until 1853, when the building was removed. It was this second Ex-change Coffee House which was the scene of the great popular dinner given to Lafayette during his Boston visit in 1824.
It is said that Henry Clay was a guest in the old Exchange Coffee House when it was burned. Legend has it that he was engaged in a card game at the time and was interrupted, as he held three aces.
On the Corydon and New Albany Pike, about one mile east of Corydon, Indiana, still stands the old Capital Hotel, one of the oldest and most historic inns in the Hoosier State. The structure, which was built in 1809, is constructed of a native hard blue limestone. Although the building does not seem large, it is designed in the form of an L, and contains many rooms. Enthusiasts have calculated that the stone in the building weighs the enormous and surprising amount of 618,790 tons.
Here many of the first statesmen of Indiana boarded in 1816, when Corydon was the first state capital, while they attended the Constitutional Convention. Jacob Conrad, who built the house, was a Pennsylvanian, and his popularity as a hotel keeper may be imagined when it is considered the legislators had to walk a mile along a country road, to reach it from the first State House in Indiana. But The Capital Hotel had a most agreeable host. He furnished good pasture for the horses of travellers who stopped at his house, and that convenience was gratis. He also had a stock of discarded horseshoes which furnished the implements for the pitching game. When the weather was fair, the legislators found various athletic amusements possible when they were not required to be at the State House. The old building, with its blue-ash flooring, and its joists shaped by means of a broad ax and a whip saw, is still in excellent condition.
Lafayette’s visit to the United States in 1824 gave a prestige to a large number of modest inns and hotels, for at that time the modes of travel were still of a primitive character and the distinguished visitor had to make his historic tour in a carriage over the great post roads connecting the large cities in the Eastern part of the country.
A reminder of this visit is still pointed out to the curious in New Rochelle, New York, where, in August, 1824, stood Captain Peler’s Hotel, crowded with gaily dressed ladies, while the Main Street was filled with an enthusiastic populace ready to welcome the nation’s guest. The General made a halt at the hotel, where he had refreshments, before continuing on his triumphal tour of New England. The hotel was erected in 18012 on the New Turnpike road at what is now Centre Avenue: At first the house was called the Cross Keys. Captain Peler died two years later and his widow continued the management of the hotel for a few years longer. n its later days the place was known as the Mansion House. While the building is standing at present, store fronts have been added and other structures crowd it on either side so that little of its glory is perceptible.
Detroit, Michigan, had a rather famous tavern as early as 1771, when William Forsyth, who had been a private in the 60th British Regiment, called “The Royal Americans,” and fought under General Wolfe at the taking of Quebec, erected what was regarded as a large house, on the bluff facing the Detroit River, near the citadel. It was constructed of logs. Later the Forsyth Tavern was bought by John Kinzie, and in the conflagration of June 11, 1805, it was destroyed with the town. Kinzie was one of the original settlers of Chicago, and through his descendants became connected with several noted families. His son was a fur buyer for the first John Jacob Astor.
Several other early Detroit hotels became famous stopping places for visitors to that city. Wales Hotel was the result of a transformation of the mansion of General William Hull, who built it in 1807. This was the first brick building erected in Michigan. Later the house was enlarged and named The American Hotel, at which Harriet Martineau and Mrs. Anne Brownell Jameson stopped in the early thirties, when they were taking notes later to be used in writing their opinions of Detroit and the Great Lakes. Another English traveller who was similarly occupied was Captain Frederick Marryat, who was there in 1837. He did not tarry long, however, since his remarks regarding the Canadian Rebellion incensed Detroiters, who gathered all of his books they could find in the town and made a bonfire of them in front of the hotel.
The Michigan Exchange Hotel was built in 1834, and for some years, while he was practising law in Detroit, Daniel Fletcher Webster, son of the great lawyer and states-man, resided there with his wife. His father visited him in the hotel in 1838. For a period during the Civil War Governor Blair, of Michigan, made the Michigan Exchange Hotel a military headquarters for raising troops and issuing commissions.