Judson Hall, South Hadley, Mass

The view looking north on College Street toward the intersection of Hadley Street in the center of South Hadley, around 1912. Image from In Old South Hadley (1912).

The scene in 2019:

The first photo was taken sometime in or before 1912, and it shows Judson Hall, a dormitory for students at nearby Mount Holyoke College. This building was originally constructed in the late 19th century as the Hotel Woodbridge, which was owned by Joseph S. Preston Jr. References to the hotel first appear in local newspapers around 1896, and it appears to have been in business for about a decade or so. Most of these newspaper advertisements mention the hotel’s “spacious piazzas,” which ran along the south and east sides of all three stories, and an 1898 ad lists the rates as ranging from $8 to $14 per week.

The hotel was temporarily used to house Mount Holyoke students in 1896, after the main college building was destroyed in a fire on September 27. Then, in 1908 the college purchased the hotel and renamed it Judson Hall in honor of Judson Smith, who had served as president of the board of trustees from 1894 until his death in 1906. It was subsequently used as a dormitory for the next 24 years, before being closed in 1932.

Judson Hall was demolished two years later, and the property was sold to the federal government to construct a post office here. The loss of the old hotel-turned-dormitory was evidently seen as an improvement by many people at the time, including the Springfield Republican, which wrote in 1934 that “Not only has it proved inadequate as a residence and inappropriate for business activities, but also its style of architecture has disturbed the harmony and beauty of South Hadley for many years.”

Today, the post office is still standing here in the center of this scene, and the only surviving building from the first photo is the one on the far left. Although it looks like an ordinary colonial-era house, it was actually built around 1732 as South Hadley’s first meeting house. It was only used as a church for a few decades though, before it was replaced by a new larger church in 1764. The old building was then moved here to this site and converted into a house, and more recently it has been occupied by a number of different restaurants. It is currently the Yarde Tavern, and despite the many alterations it is perhaps the oldest surviving church building in western Massachusetts.

Wilson Hotel, North Adams, Mass

The Wilson Hotel at the corner of Main and Holden Streets in North Adams, around 1901-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The Wilson Hotel, also known as the Wilson House, opened here in 1866. At the time, North Adams was still part of the town of Adams, but this village was a growing manufacturing center. Between 1860 and 1870, the town as a whole grew from under 7,000 to over 12,000, and much of this increase was here in the northern section, which had a population of over 10,000 by 1880, several years after it was incorporated as the town of North Adams. During this time, the town’s prosperity was also aided by the ongoing construction of the Hoosac Tunnel nearby. Begin in 1851 and completed in 1875, the tunnel gave the town railroad connections to the east, and also put it on one of the major east-west routes through New England.

The hotel was owned by Allen B. Wilson, a former North Adams resident and inventor who made significant improvements to sewing machines. His company, the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company, was one of the leading American sewing machine producers of the second half of the 19th century, and Wilson used some of his profits to build a hotel here in his old hometown.

The building stood here at the northwest corner of Main and Holden Streets, in the midst of North Adams’s central business district. It stood four stories in height, with an ornate Italianate-style exterior comprised of brick and cast iron. In addition to about a hundred guest rooms in the hotel, it also included eight stores on the ground floor, plus a hall that could seat about 800 to 1,000 people. The hotel was intended to serve both travelers and long-term boarders, and it featured modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing, gas lighting, steam heat, and a telegraph office.

Around the mid-1870s, Foster E. Swift became the proprietor of the hotel. He and his wife Frances narrowly escaped death in the Ashtabula River railroad disaster of 1876, one of the deadliest train wrecks in American history, and he subsequently purchased the hotel in 1880. It appears to have been a foreclosure sale of some sort, because he acquired it from the Adams National Bank for just $65,000, barely half of the cost to build it 14 years earlier.

The 1880 census shows Foster and Frances Swift living here at the hotel. Most of the other staff apparently lived here too, with the census listing a clerk, a steward, two porters, two cooks, 12 waiters, and 11 other employees. About half were immigrants, with many coming from Ireland and a few from England and Germany. In addition, more than half of the staff members were female, most of whom were single and between 18 to 30 years old.

Also during the 1880 census, there were 40 residents living here as boarders. Some were families, but most were men in their 20s or 30s who lived here without any other family members. The majority of these were railroad employees, including nine conductors, two clerks, two agents, and a railroad contractor. Nearly all of these men were listed as being married, but they were evidently working and living away from home at the time when the census was taken.

Swift continued to operate the hotel for the next few decades, and during this time he was even elected to the state senate, representing the northern Berkshire district in 1883. He remained here until around the turn of the century, and the property was subsequently sold to John F. Sullivan, who was running the hotel when the first photo was taken around 1901 to 1910.

The first photo shows a busy scene in front of the hotel. Although around 40 years old by this point, it was still considered one of the finest hotels in western Massachusetts, and it housed a variety of other businesses on the ground floor. In the center, with the large awning, was the dry goods store of Tuttle & Bryant. To the right of it was a small postcard shop, and at the corner in the foreground was the Wilson House Drug Store, which advertised Coca Cola for 5 cents at its soda fountain.

However, the largest sign here on the front of the building was for the Empire Theater, a 1,400-seat theater that opened in 1901. It was located in the rear of the hotel, but the entrance was here on Main Street, just to the left of the drug store. The theater was ultimately in existence for just over a decade, but it hosted at least one distinguished visitor when Theodore Roosevelt made a brief campaign stop here on April 29, 1912, during his bid to capture the Republican nomination for president. He spoke for 15 minutes to an enthusiastic crowd of about 2,000 people. It was reportedly the largest audience for a political speech in the city’s history, and Roosevelt himself remarked that “It was a bully crowd, it was a fine gathering.”

This event proved to be something of a last hurrah for the old Wilson Hotel, though. Just over two months later, the entire building, along with the Empire Theater and several other adjacent buildings, was destroyed in a massive fire. The fire, which was suspected to have been the work of an arsonist, began around 2:30 a.m. on the morning of July 2, in either the kitchen or laundry of the hotel. There were about 30 guests in the hotel at the time, and all of them were able to escape safely, although most lost all of their belongings. In the end, the fire caused about a half million dollars in damage, equivalent to over $13 million today, and it completely gutted the old hotel, leaving only the burned-out brick shell still standing.

In the aftermath of the fire, the site here on Main Street was soon rebuilt, although on a much smaller scale. Instead of the grand four-story, 100-room hotel, its replacement was a far more modest two-story commercial block. This building has survived far longer than its predecessor, though, and it is still standing here, as shown in the present-day scene. It is one of a number of historic buildings that line the north side of Main Street in North Adams, and it is part of the Monument Square – Eagle Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mount Holyoke Summit House and Inclined Railway, Hadley, Massachusetts

The inclined railway leading up to the Summit House on Mount Holyoke, around 1867 to 1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in the previous post, the summit of Mount Holyoke was the site of one of the first mountaintop hotels in the United States. At just 935 feet in elevation, it is not a particularly tall mountain, yet it rises high above the surrounding landscape in the otherwise low, flat Connecticut River valley. It is part of the Holyoke Range, a narrow ridgeline that runs east to west for about eight miles. This, in turn, is a sub-range within the much longer Metacomet Ridge, a traprock ridge that extends from Long Island Sound in Connecticut to just south of the Massachusetts-Vermont border.

Mount Holyoke is not the highest peak in the Holyoke Range, as it stands nearly 200 feet lower than Mount Norwottuck. However, it forms the western end of the ridge, with the Connecticut River passing through a narrow gap between Mount Holyoke and the Mount Tom Range. This prominent location makes it a major landmark for travelers in the river valley, and it also means that the summit has nearly 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

The combination of dramatic views and proximity to large large population centers made Mount Holyoke a popular destination in the 19th century, and the first building at the summit was built in 1821. In the spirit of a traditional barn raising, it was built with the help of nearly 200 townspeople who climbed to the summit to lend a hand. Consuming, as one 19th century account described it, “a little water with a good deal of brandy in it,” the group completed the summit house in just two days. It was a modest structure, measuring just 18 by 24 feet, but it was dedicated with much fanfare, including a speech by Northampton native and U. S. Senator Elijah H. Mills.

This first building was soon joined by a rival establishment nearby, but the two buildings were consolidated under the same ownership in 1825. The business operated here for several more decades, and during this time the view from the top of the mountain was made famous by Thomas Cole’s 1836 painting The Oxbow, long regarded as a masterpiece of 19th century American landscapes.

However, despite the mountain’s growing popularity, the accommodations at the summit remained primitive until mid-century. This began to change in 1849, when Northampton bookbinder John French and his wife Frances purchased the property. They soon began making improvements, most significantly a new hotel at the summit, which was completed in 1851. It was named the Prospect House, and it had two stories, with a dining room, sitting room, and office on the first floor, and six guest rooms on the second floor. Above the second floor was a cupola, which was equipped with a telescope. The hotel was later expanded several times, but this original 1851 structure still survives as part of the present-day building.

In addition to constructing a more substantial building, French also improved access to the summit. Prior to his ownership, it was relatively easy to reach the spot where these two photos were taken, whether on foot or by carriage. In terms of elevation, this spot is more than halfway up the mountain, but from here the slope becomes significantly steeper, as is made particularly evident in the first photo. The only options for visitors during the first half of the 19th century were either to take the long, winding, narrow carriage road to the summit, or hike the short but steep path up the mountainside, gaining over 350 feet in elevation in just 600 horizontal feet.

Neither option was ideal for most visitors, and the situation also made it difficult for French to bring supplies up the mountain. Even water had to be either carted or carried up to the summit, requiring him to sell it for around three to five cents per glass, or about $1.00 to $1.50 today. However, in 1854 he solved both problems with the construction of an inclined railway. It began here at this spot, next to French’s residence, which was known as the Halfway House, and it rose to the top of the mountain. It was originally powered by a stationary horse here at the base, although in 1856 French switched to steam power. The railway itself was rebuilt several times, but it had largely assumed its final form by 1867, as shown in the first photo. By then, the railway had two tracks, was completely enclosed, and brought its passengers directly into the basement of the hotel.

In the meantime, the hotel also grew, with the first major addition coming in 1861, when it was expanded to ten rooms. Then, in 1871 French sold the property to South Hadley businessman John Dwight. However, John and Frances French remained here to manage the hotel, and they continued in that role until their deaths in the 1890s. Then, the hotel was expanded even further in 1894, with the addition of a large wing on the south side of the building. This increased the hotel’s capacity to 40 guests, along with a dining room that could seat 200 people.

By then, the hotel had several local competitors on the nearby Mount Tom Range, with the Eyrie House atop Mount Nonotuck, and the Summit House on Mount Tom. However, both of these were plagued by fires, which was a constant danger for wood-frame buildings on isolated mountaintops. The Eyrie House, built in 1861 and later expanded, burned in 1901, and the same fire also destroyed the partially-built structure of what would have been a new hotel. The Summit House on Mount Tom faced similar problems, with the original 1897 hotel burning in 1900, and its replacement suffering the same fate in 1929.

However, although older than the other nearby hotels and built of similar materials, the hotel here on Mount Holyoke managed to avoid catastrophic fires. It faced different challenges, though, most significantly the declining popularity of mountaintop hotels in general. John Dwight died in 1903, the property was subsequently acquired by a group of prominent locals, including Holyoke silk manufacturer Joseph Skinner. The new owners made significant improvements, including electricity and modern plumbing. The railway was also electrified, and the first automobile road to the summit opened in 1908.

Skinner would ultimately acquire full ownership of the hotel, and he continued to modernize it throughout the early 20th century. It continued to face challenges though, particularly with the onset of the Great Depression, but the hotel was ultimately closed after the September 1938 hurricane. The older section of the building survived, but the storm destroyed the large 1894 addition. A year later Skinner donated the property to the state, and it became the Joseph Allen Skinner State Park.

Both the hotel and the inclined railway deteriorated after the park was established, and much of the roof over the railway was destroyed in a heavy snowstorm in 1948. The remains of the railway were removed in 1965, and the hotel itself was also threatened with demolition around this time. Despite many years of neglect, though, the building was ultimately restored in the 1980s, and it is now a museum.

Today, nearly all of the historic 19th century mountaintop hotels in the northeast are gone, most having been lost to fire, neglect, or both. However, the Summit House on Mount Holyoke is still standing as one of the few surviving examples. This scene has changed considerably since the first photo was taken around 150 years ago, including the loss of the railway and the significant tree growth on the previously bare slopes, but the Summit House is still visible from this spot.

Windsor House, Windsor, Vermont

The Windsor House on Main Street in Windsor, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

This hotel was built in 1836 in the center of Windsor, an important town located along the banks of the Connecticut River in Vermont. At the time, Windsor was a prosperous manufacturing center, and it was one of the largest towns in the state by population, with over 3,000 residents during the 1830 census. By the following decade, it was also one of the first towns in the state with a railroad connection, when the Vermont Central opened in 1849 between Windsor and Hartford.

The Windsor House was one of the finest hotels in the area during the mid-19th century. In 1840, the Boston Traveler published a glowing letter to the editor by an anonymous writer who praised the hotel with the following description:

The Windsor House is a handsome brick edifice, 3 storys high. It contains 90 rooms; 10 private parlors, 6 of them having 2 sleeping rooms attached; 2 large parlors on the first floor; a dining hall; a reading room; 1 office. The halls on each floor are 15 feet wide. Besides the above rooms, there is a wing containing 30 sleeping rooms, and in the 4th story of the house is a large hall. The whole house is well furnished, and in the latest style, and will easily accommodate 150 persons.

The politeness of Mr. S. A. Coburn, the host, who for 7 or 8 years had charge of the Merrimack House, Lowell—the activity of his head clerk, Mr. Mitchell, (who was formerly attached to one of the first houses in New York,) the general attention of the domestics, and all the internal arrangements will insure a liberal public patronage. As a summer residence its location contains many advantages, which it might be well for such travellers as seek for a spot where they can breathe the pure mountain air, personally to make enquiry into. To all who have occasion to pass through that pleasant country, we can only say, that at the Windsor House they will find every attention and comfort which can be desired.

By the early 1840s, the hotel had evidently changed hands, as it was being run by Jehiel H. Simonds, who subsequently owned it for many years. During this time, the hotel apparently catered to both travelers and long-term residents, with the 1850 census showing 43 people living here, including Simonds himself and his wife Harriet. It is difficult to determine how many of these were hotel staff, but one of the resident employees here was Henry Parks, a 30-year-old African American who worked as a groom. He would later go on to enlist in the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first African-American units in the Civil War.

Simonds was still living here and running the hotel when the first photo was taken sometime around the 1870s. The 1880 census is much more helpful in determining the occupations of the people who lived here around this time. That year, there were a total of 17 people living here. Two were Jehiel and Harriet Simonds, and seven more were hotel employees, including a chambermaid, cook, porter, two waiters, and two laborers.

Of the eight boarders who were listed here during the 1880 census, five were from the Richards family, originally from Charlestown, New Hampshire. They included 60-year-old Harriet Richards and her son Jarvis, along with E. Jane Richards, who was the wife of Harriet’s son DeForest. DeForest, who would later become governor of Wyoming, was not living here at the time, but his two young children, Inez and J. DeForest, were here at the Windsor House with their mother, uncle, and grandmother. J. DeForest was five years old at the time, and he eventually went on to become an accomplished college football player at the University of Michigan, where he played halfback and quarterback during the mid-1890s.

In the meantime, Jehiel Simonds operated the Windsor House until his death in 1885 at the age of 83. The hotel remained in business for many years afterward, and it has long been a prominent landmark in downtown Windsor. It was threatened by demolition in the early 1970s, but it was ultimately preserved and repurposed, with a variety of commercial tenants. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and it is still standing today, nearly two centuries after it was completed. The neighboring 1824 Pettes-Journal Block on the far left side of this scene is also still standing, and there have been few exterior changes to either this building or the Windsor House since the first photo was taken.

Pease Hotel, Hartford, Vermont

The Pease Hotel on Main Street (now Maple Street) in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Gateway of Vermont: Hartford and its Villages (1903).

The scene in 2018:

During the first half of the 19th century, this village was the main commercial center of the town of Hartford. The village is located along the banks of the White River, about a mile and a half north of its confluence with the Connecticut River, and it was the site of several early hotels. One of these was opened on this spot in 1801 by Asa Richardson, and during its early years it was known as the Richardson Hotel. However, over the next few decades it went through a number of ownership changes, before eventually being acquired by Luther Pease.

Around this same time, the town of Hartford was undergoing a transformation with the arrival of the railroads. Given its strategic location at the meeting place of two major rivers, the previously sparsely-developed eastern side of the town would soon become one of the most important railroad hubs in the state, with four different rail lines meeting there by 1850. White River Junction, as the newly-developed village came to be known, soon eclipsed the traditional town center in economic importance, and it was also the site of a new hotel, the Junction House.

Despite these changes, though, Luther Pease continued to run his hotel here, along with a nearby hardware, paint, tinware, and stove store. After his death in 1876, his son Charles W. Pease took over the hotel. Charles retired from active management of the hotel in the mid-1880s and began leasing it to a different landlord, but he retained ownership of the building until January 24, 1889, when the hotel was destroyed by a fire that began in the livery stable.

The fire left nothing standing except for the chimneys, but Charles Pease was undeterred. He began using his own house as a temporary hotel, and he soon started planning a new building. He died in 1890, but his family completed the new Pease Hotel in 1893, at a cost of about $22,000. Its exterior design was a late example of Second Empire-style architecture, featuring a mansard roof and a tower at the southeast corner of the building, as shown in the first photo.

As it turned out, though, the new hotel was not particularly successful, perhaps as a result of the continued importance of White River Junction over the old town center. It ultimately closed around 1906, and in 1908 the Pease family sold the building to Addison Ely, a New Jersey resident who reopened it as the White River Tavern.

Under new ownership, the hotel marketed itself as a place for tourists, with advertisements describing it as “An ideal Health and Rest resort. Modern improvements. Newly furnished. Excellent Cuisine. Select patronage. Moderate prices. Open all the year.” However, it continued to struggle, and even closed for a period of time during the winter of 1911-1912 because of financial difficulties. The hotel finally closed in 1919, and the building was subsequently demolished, although a portion of it evidently survived and stood here until 1941, when it was destroyed by a fire.

Today, there is nothing left here in this scene from the first photo. The site of the hotel is now a gas station and convenience store, which was constructed around 1950. Directly behind it is a house, which is partially visible in the present-day photo. Aside from the loss of the hotel, though, many of the other historic 19th century buildings here in the center of Hartford are still standing today, and they form the Hartford Village Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Junction House, White River Junction, Vermont (2)

The Junction House, at the corner of South Main Street and Gates Street in White River Junction, around 1900. Image from The Gateway of Vermont : Hartford and its Villages (1903).

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in the previous post, the first Junction House was built here in 1849. It was located on land that had previously been the farm of Samuel Nutt, but his property became far more valuable in the late 1840s, when this area became one of the most important railroad crossroads in northern New England. Anticipating the need for a hotel, Nutt purchased the Grafton House in nearby Enfield, New Hampshire, dismantled it, and rebuilt it here in the newly-created village of White River Junction.

This original building stood here for nearly 30 years, and during this time it provided meals and accommodations for rail travelers, while also serving as a meeting place for locals. However, like many wood-frame hotels of the period, it was vulnerable to fire, and it ultimately burned on August 10, 1878, after a fire began in the kitchen and spread throughout the structure.

The owner at the time, Asa T. Barron, quickly rebuilt the hotel with the building shown in the first photo. It was completed in 1879, and it was about one and a half times larger than its predecessor, with four floors and a capacity of about 200 guests. The exterior design was somewhat of a blend of Second Empire and Queen Anne styles, and it was topped by a Mansard roof and towers on either end of the main facade.

Upon completion, the new hotel was praised by the Green Mountain Freeman of Montpelier, which declared that it will “take rank among the best of our many first-rate Vermont hotels.” In the same article, the newspaper provided the following description of the building:

The front is shaded by a fine wide piazza, which gives a comfortable lounging place or a fine promenade. On the first floor is a reception room, hall, billiard room, wash room, office and proprietor’s private office, a boot and shoe store, drug store and watch-maker’s shop. Leaving the office for the dining room one enters a fine, large room, lighted on both sides, finished in brown ash (carefully selected for its beauty) finished in Eastlake style, joining which is a perfectly appointed kitchen. A broad, handsome stairway leads to the next story, where are reception room, ladies’ parlor, bath room, closets, etc., besides rooms in suites and handsome single rooms. The rooms on each of the other floors are of the same size, furnished in the same style, and all are furnished with black walnut, marble-topped chamber sets, and the excellent spring beds are furnished with 40 pound pure hair mattresses and nice blankets.

Within a year after the new hotel opened, it was again threatened by fire, this time from an attempted arsonist in July 1880. The perpetrator, who was apparently never identified, ignited rags and shavings in the basement in the middle of the night. However, it was extinguished soon after the night clerk discovered it, and it caused minimal damage to the building.

In 1887, the Junction House played a role in the aftermath of a far more serious disaster. At 2:10 a.m. on February 5, a northbound passenger train departed the depot here in White River Junction, across the street from the hotel. It was headed for Montreal, but just ten minutes later the four rear cars were derailed by a broken rail at a bridge less than five miles northwest of here. The cars fell off the bridge, landed on the thick ice over the White River, and caught fire when the coal stoves and kerosene lamps toppled over. The fire subsequently ignited the wooden bridge, and the burning timbers began raining down on top of the cars.

About 115 people were in these cars, and many found themselves trapped within the burning wreckage. Further compounding the problem was the air temperature, which was 20 degrees below zero, meaning that those who survived the flames were then at risk of hypothermia. Ultimately, an estimated 37 people died in the disaster, many of whom were burned beyond recognition. Among the dead was Frank L. Wesson of Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Smith & Wesson co-founder Daniel B. Wesson.

Of the survivors, about 50 were injured, and the Junction House became a temporary hospital, along with the Pease Hotel in the nearby village of Hartford. Frank Wesson’s sister-in-law, Emily Lovell, was brought here to the Junction House, but she had only minor injuries, so she spent most of her time here tending to others. Some of the more seriously hurt passengers here at the hotel included Andrew Wheeler of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, whose injuries were described as “a bad cut over his eyes, bruised all over and somewhat burned, although not fatally hurt.” Another Fitchburg resident, Joseph Jacques, was also here at the hotel, with “a broken leg, a broken nose and serious bruises on the body,” in addition to frostbite on one of his feet.

Even as the injured were still recovering here, the state was already beginning its investigation. Just two days after the disaster, the Vermont Railway Commission convened here at the Junction House. The commission was chaired by former Governor Samuel E. Pingree, and the sessions here were also attended by then-Governor Ebenezer J. Ormsbee and Lieutenant Governor Levi K. Fuller. They heard testimony from various railroad employees and expert witnesses, and concluded that the broken rail had been defective. This, combined with the extremely cold temperatures and the fact that it was located at a slight curve in the tracks, caused it to break as the train passed over it. The commission also faulted the Central Vermont Railroad for using stoves and kerosene lamps, and reasoned that many of the victims would have otherwise survived the disaster if not for this practice.

Following this disaster, the Junction House continued to operate as an important railroad hotel, and in 1901 it was purchased by Lyman A. Gibbs and Nathaniel P. Wheeler for $50,000. The first photo was taken around this time, and it was published in the book The Gateway of Vermont : Hartford and its Villages in 1903, which provided the following description of the hotel:

The two hundred rooms of the house are maintained in perfect order, and the hotel’s cuisine, table, service and general accommodations are of a character that have won for the house a reputation throughout New England and the east. So many are the hotel’s daily guests that it in effect constitutes a community in itself, larger indeed than many a village. This daily assembly is preeminently a gathering of commercial men and representative of the country’s chief business interests. The management of the house is considerate, business-like and above all tactful. Large as it is and great as are the number of its guests there is that atmosphere about the house that causes the guest to feel at home, whether he be millionaire or commercial traveler on his initial trip. The house has every requisite of a hotel as respects heating, lighting, billiard room, barber shop, local and long distance telephones, and all else, but this does not mean that it has a bar for it has none, nor ever has had under its present management.

Under the ownership of Gibbs and Wheeler, the Junction House nearly doubled in size, bringing its total to 340 guest rooms. Then, in 1919, Gibbs sold his share of the business to Wheeler, who became the sole owner. A few years later, in January 1925, he renamed it the Hotel Coolidge, in honor of his close friend John C. Coolidge, a resident of Plymouth, Vermont whose son Calvin had just been re-elected as president.

However, only weeks later the building caught fire, on the evening of January 29, 1925, after an oil heater exploded on the second floor. All of the nearly 200 guests were safely evacuated, but the wood-frame hotel was quickly engulfed in flames and was a total loss. The fire caused the village’s electrical system to short circuit, leaving White River Junction in darkness, and it posed a serious threat to the surrounding buildings. The Boston Herald noted that local fire and police officials had initially called it a “1000 to 1 chance” of saving the rest of the village, but the responding firefighters, including crews from across the river in Hanover, Lebanon, and West Lebanon, New Hampshire, were ultimately able to prevent the flames from spreading.

Within a matter of weeks, Nathaniel Wheeler began construction on a new Hotel Coolidge building here on the same spot. Like the two previous hotels, it was built of wood, although it had a brick veneer on the South Main Street facade. In order to expedite its reopening, the front portion of the hotel was originally only two stories in height, with three stories along the Gates Street side of the building. It opened later in 1925, and in 1926 the front of the building was completed, with the addition of a third floor and two towers that echoed the appearance of its predecessor.

At the time, White River Junction was still a thriving railroad center, and the new Coolidge remained its leading hotel. A 1927 newspaper advertisement listed the room rates at $2.50 per night, or $3 for a room with a bath. According to another ad a few years later, the hotel had a total of 175 rooms, including 60 with tub baths and 40 with shower baths. During this time, its guests included President Coolidge himself, who visited here in May 1929 and spent a few nights at the hotel while on a fishing trip, two months after the end of his second term as president.

Both White River Junction and the Hotel Coolidge owed their existence to the railroads that brought prosperity to this village, but by the mid-20th century passenger rail travel was in a steep decline across the country. The village was also bypassed by the interstate highway system, with Interstates 89 and 91 meeting about a mile to the west of here. However, throughout this time the Hotel Coolidge has remained open, and it has retained much of its historic appearance on both the interior and exterior. Very little has changed in this scene since the mid-1920s, and the hotel’s neighbor to the right—the 1890 Gates Block⁠—is also still standing, as the only surviving building from the first photo. Both it and the hotel, along with many other buildings in the village, are now part of the White River Junction Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.