Tontine Hotel, New Haven, Connecticut

The Tontine Hotel, at the corner of Church and Court Streets in New Haven, around 1900-1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene around 1918. Image from A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918).

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows the Tontine Hotel, which had been a New Haven landmark for nearly a century before the photo was taken. It was built sometime in the mid-1820s – sources differ on the exact date – and its design was the work of noted local architect David Hoadley. The Tontine was a prominent hotel in its early years, and its notable visitors during this time included Indian chief and orator Red Jacket, who gave a speech here in 1829, and Daniel Webster, who came here in 1832.

However, perhaps the most significant group of guests came a year later, when President Andrew Jackson came to New Haven in June 1833, accompanied by then-Vice President Martin Van Buren, Secretary of War Lewis Cass, Secretary of the Navy Levi Woodbury, and Governor William L. Marcy of New York. The party arrived in New Haven by steamboat at around 1 p.m. on the afternoon of June 15 and went to the State House, where the president was addressed by the governor and the mayor. Jackson was then escorted through the streets in a procession that took a circuitous route through the city, eventually ending here at the Tontine. Jackson spent the night at the hotel, and in the morning he attended Sunday services at Trinity Church before departing for Hartford.

The Tontine Hotel was still in business when the first photo was taken some 70 years later. At the time, it was known as White’s New Tontine, as its proprietor was George T. White. An advertisement in the 1902 city directory declared it to be “Under New Management. All the Modern Improvements. Refurnished Throughout,” and rooms ranged from $1.00 to $2.00 per night. The first photo also shows a restaurant in the basement of the hotel. The signs indicate that it was a buffet that offered “White’s steaks, chops and game in season,” and the directory described it as a “cafe, restaurant, and rathskeller” that was open from 6 a.m. until midnight. In addition to this restaurant, there are several other amenities visible in the first photo, including a barber shop and a “boot blacking emporium” that were both located on the left side of the building.

Despite its historic significance, though, the site of the Tontine Hotel was eyed for redevelopment soon after this photo was taken. It was demolished by around 1913, in order to make way for a new federal courthouse and post office. Unlike the fairly modest brick hotel, the new courthouse was an imposing marble structure. It had a Classical Revival design, including a large front portico with ten Corinthian columns, and it was the work of noted architect James Gamble Rogers. The cornerstone was laid in 1914, in a ceremony that featured a speech by former president and future chief justice William Howard Taft, but the building was not completed until 1919, a year after the second photo was taken.

Like the architecturally-similar New Haven County Courthouse, which stands nearby at the northeastern corner of the Green, the federal courthouse was threatened with demolition in the mid-20th century. However, like the county courthouse, it was ultimately preserved, and it underwent a major renovation in the 1980s. The post office moved out in 1979, but otherwise the building remains in use, as one of thee federal courthouses in the District of Connecticut. In 1998, it was renamed the Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse, in honor of the longtime mayor of New Haven who helped to preserve the building, and in 2015 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Ira Atwater House, New Haven, Connecticut

The building at 218-224 College Street, at the corner of Crown Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The building in 2018:

This large Federal-style house was built around 1817 as the home of Ira Atwater, a local architect, builder, and carpenter. He evidently built the house himself, and its completion coincided with his marriage to Roanna Buckingham. The couple would go on to have ten children, and Ira had a successful career as a builder, which included constructing the historic First Congregational Church in nearby Guilford. However, he died in 1849 from injuries he sustained after falling from the roof of his house. Historical records do not specify whether he was living at this same house at the time, although it seems likely that he was.

At some point around the early 20th century, the house was converted into commercial use, and the ground floor was altered with the addition of two storefronts. By the time the first photo was taken, the building was occupied by Phillips Restaurant on the left and Star Shoe Repair on the right, and a sign above the front door advertises for “Rooms,” suggesting that the upper floors were used as a boarding house. Many of these rooms were likely occupied by Yale students, as the campus lies just a block north of here.

Today, not much has changed in this scene since the first photo was taken. Despite the ground floor alterations, the Federal-style architecture of the house is still easily recognizable, and it is one of the oldest surviving homes in this part of downtown New Haven. It stands adjacent to another historic home, the Thomas Merwin House, which was built around 1840 on the right side of the scene. Its ground floor has likewise been altered over the years, but the two upper floors have survived intact. Both of these houses are now contributing properties in the Chapel Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Hotel Monat, Holyoke, Mass

The Hotel Monat, at the corner of Main and Mosher Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

This hotel was originally built in the mid-1880s as the Norris House. It was much smaller at the time, with only eight rooms, but the building was either significantly expanded or completely rebuilt around the turn of the 20th century, and by the time the first photo was taken it had 46 rooms. In 1906, the hotel was purchased by Henry Monat, a French-Canadian immigrant who renamed it the Hotel Monat.

It occupied a convenient location directly across the tracks from the railroad station, which is seen in the present-day view. The hotel was evidently used by both short-term guests and long-term residents, with the 1910 census showing 21 boarders living in the hotel along with Henry Monat himself. Nearly all of them were either single or widowed, and all but three were men. At least three of the residents worked in the nearby paper mills, three more worked in a livery stable, and other occupations included a waiter, a baker, and a policeman.

The first photo was taken sometime around 1910-1915, and was published in the book Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke, Massachusetts, which provides the following description of the hotel:

In a city like Holyoke, visitors look for the highest degree of comfort in their hotel accommodations and there is no place in the city where the traveller is made to feel more at home than at the Hotel Monat, of which Henry N. Monat is the genial proprietor. It is a house of moderate size and is equipped with a large proportion of the modern conveniences. there are forty-six rooms all open to daylight and sunshine, the hotel being nicely located on a corner. These rooms are all well heated and ventilated and furnished in a comfortable and homelike manner. The house is conducted on both the European and American plan and at popular rates. There is also a cafe connected with the hotel where the finest brands of liquid refreshments are served at all times. With its fine location and its modern equipment, the service is up-to-date and efficient in every respect.

The Hotel Monat building stood here throughout much of the 20th century, but it was ultimately destroyed by a fire in 1978. Today, its site is one of many empty building lots along this section of Main Street, and the property is used only as parking for the adjacent Holyoke Gas & Electric building. In the background, the Henry H. Richardson-designed railroad station is still standing, although it has been vacant for many years and its future is uncertain.

Windsor Hotel, Holyoke, Mass

The Windsor Hotel, at the corner of Dwight and Front Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

The Windsor Hotel was built in 1877, and was located just across the street and down the hill from city hall, which had been built a few years earlier. Both buildings had Gothic Revival-style architecture, and featured prominent towers that rose above the other buildings in downtown Holyoke. The owner of the Windsor Hotel, paper manufacturer William Whiting, also had a connection to city hall, serving as city treasurer from 1876 to 1877, and as mayor from 1878 to 1879. He would later go on to serve in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1883 to 1889, while also enjoying a successful business career as president of the Whiting Paper Company.

The first photo shows the hotel as it appeared around 1891. A year later, the book Picturesque Hampden provided a short description of the hotel, remarking that it “will compare more than favorably with many houses in the large cities,” and that “[t]he house has all the conveniences of the times, sample rooms, etc., and patrons will find a free carriage at the depot.” Aside from the hotel itself, this building also housed Besse, Mills & Co., a men’s clothing store that occupied the corner storefront, as seen in the first photo. Directly adjacent to the hotel building, and partially visible on the far right side of the scene, was the Holyoke Opera House, which had also been built in 1877 by William Whiting.

The Windsor Hotel remained a prominent landmark in downtown Holyoke until 1899, when it was destroyed in a fire on the night of February 28. The conflagration completely destroyed the building, leaving only the charred remains of the exterior walls, and it caused around $325,000 in damages, or about $10 million today. Fire chief John T. Lynch, who had been the hero of the deadly Precious Blood Church fire nearly 25 years earlier, was on scene for this fire as well. According to one account, he “was badly hurt by a fall downstairs; but, after he had been taken home, he rallied and returned to the fire.” It was described as the largest fire in the city’s history up to that point, but the fire did not spread to the neighboring buildings, preventing what could have been a far worse disaster.

This site at the corner of Dwight and Front Streets was redeveloped after the fire. but the neighboring Holyoke Opera House survived and stood here for many years. It gradually declined over the years, devolving from opera to vaudeville and burlesque, to movies, and then to second-run films, before finally closing in 1955. It was ultimately destroyed in another fire in 1967, and today there are hardly any remnants from the first photo. Today, only a single brick commercial block survives from the 1891 scene, near the top of the hill on the left side of the present-day photo. Otherwise, the site of the other buildings, including both the Windsor Hotel and the Holyoke Opera House, is now a parking garage. This garage is a far cry from an elegant 19th century hotel, but it does feature a small tower at the corner, which seems to echo the much larger hotel tower that once stood on the same spot.

Dwight Street from Main Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking west on Dwight Street from the corner of Main Street in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows a view similar to the one in an earlier post, but these photos were taken a little further back, showing the entire block of Dwight Street between Main and Race Streets. The first photo here, taken around the early 1910s, shows a busy Dwight Street, with a mix of trolleys, automobiles, and what appears to be a blurry horse-drawn carriage. On the right side of the photo is the Hotel Hamilton, which was built in 1850 and expanded and renovated in 1889-1890. Among its ground-floor tenants at the time was the Mechanics Savings Bank, which occupied the storefront on the far right side, at the corner of Dwight and Main Streets. Another bank, the Hadley Falls National Bank, was located directly across the street, in the building on the far left side of the first photo.

Another important building in the first photo was Parsons Hall, the third building from the left side of the photo. Also known as the Chapin Block, it was apparently built around the early 1850s, about the same time as the hotel across the street. Its large third floor, which took up about half the building’s height, housed an auditorium that was used for a variety of events throughout the 19th century. Several local churches, including the Unitarian Church and the French Congregational Church, temporarily worshiped here before constructing buildings of their own, and high school graduations were also held here for many years. The actress Eva Tanguay, a French-Canadian immigrant to Holyoke, made her stage debut here as a young girl in the 1880s, before going on to have a successful career as one of the most famous vaudeville performers in the country.

Further up the street, the first photo shows several of Holyoke’s factory buildings. On the left, just beyond Parsons Hall on the other side of the Second Level Canal, was the mill of the Beebe & Holbrook Paper Company. It was built in the early 1870s as the Hampden Paper Company, but later became Beebe & Holbrook in 1878. Then, in 1899, it became a division of the American Writing Paper Company. This trust included many of Holyoke’s paper mills, and controlled a significant portion of the nation’s writing paper supply. However, other Holyoke mills remained independent, including the Whiting Paper Company, whose mill is visible on the other side of Dwight Street, just beyond the Hotel Hamilton. Further in the distance, hidden from view in the first photo, was the William Skinner & Sons silk mill, and at the top of the hill was Holyoke City Hall, with its tower rising above the factories.

Today, there are still some identifiable buildings from the first photo, but most have undergone significant changes. Some of the Beebe & Holbrook buildings are still standing, but the one that is most visible in the first photo is gone. Similarly, several of the former Whiting buildings are also still there, but not the one shown in the first photo. Closer to the foreground, the Hotel Hamilton building now stands vacant. It was dramatically altered after the hotel closed in the early 1940s, including the removal of most of the fourth floor. Most of the storefronts have also been altered, except for the former Mechanics Savings Bank on the far right side, which still retains its early 20th century appearance.

On the other side of the street, Parsons Hall similarly lost its upper floor during the mid-20th century, and much of its Dwight Street facade was also rebuilt. However, the rest of the building is still standing in its heavily-altered appearance. Its neighbors to the left are gone, though, including the former Hadley Falls National Bank building and the site is now an empty lot at the corner of Main Street. Overall, the only building that has survived from the first photo without any significant changes is city hall itself, which still stands in the distance at the corner of Dwight and High Streets, and remains in use as the seat of the municipal government.

Hotel Hamilton, Holyoke, Mass

The Hotel Hamilton, formerly known as the Holyoke House, at the corner of Dwight and Main Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The building in 2017:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this hotel was built in 1850 as the Holyoke House, and was part of Holyoke’s early development into a major manufacturing center. It originally consisted of just the Dwight Street side of the building, and was only five window bays deep along the Main Street side to the right. However, it underwent a major expansion in 1889-1890, with a Queen Anne-style addition to the rear of the building, on the far right side of the 1891 photo. This section was the work of noted local architect James A. Clough, and it featured a design that contrasted with the less ornate style of the original building.

The renovations also involved a name change, and the Holyoke House became the Hotel Hamilton. The first photo was taken only about a year later, and shows the building as it appeared during the height of Holyoke’s prosperity as an industrial city. By this point, the hotel had become an important part of downtown Holyoke. Its ground floor storefronts housed a number of tenants, including the post office, and the upper floors had rooms for up to 150 hotel guests. The dining room could seat twice that number, and was used for a variety of functions in its heyday. Written a few years after the first photo was taken, the book Holyoke Past and Present 1745-1895 provides the following description:

The Hamilton has come to be quite a popular place for people giving dinner parties, receptions, etc., for care and attention are always insured, and the details of a social affair are carried out with exactness. The Connecticut Board of Water Works, Connecticut Valley Dental Society, Congregational Club of Connecticut, and many other organizations of like character, hold the Hamilton in high estimation as a meeting place. The number of so-called “swell” receptions held here increases each year, as the capabilities of the house and proprietor become better known. The Arlington Club, the leading and only representative organization of Holyoke’s four hundred, holds the assemblies and balls here. The house, for the time being, is given over to the bright array of society people who always come out to honor the Arlington management.

The hotel would remain in business for more than 50 years after the first photo was taken, but it finally closed in 1943. By then, some of Holyoke’s industries had already begun to close or relocate, and many more would follow in the subsequent decades. A few years later, the building was heavily altered with the removal of most of the fourth floor, except for the section in the distance along Race Street. The large pediment above the main entrance is also gone, most of the windows have been replaced with glass blocks, and most of the storefronts have been rebuilt. The former hotel was most recently used as the Massachusetts Career Development Institute, and was known as the Silvio O. Conte Center. However, it closed in 2003, and the building has apparently remained vacant ever since, with very little resemblance to its appearance in the first photo.