“Free from Care”: Resort and Hotel Brochures from the American Pamphlets collection
The first days of summer are a fine time to highlight pamphlets advertising the glories of two resort hotels and one city establishment. These three documents are from this month’s release of American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society. They are among many other pamphlets celebrating country rambles, local histories, and recreational pastimes.
Echoes from the Sea: Coleman House [by] Frank B. Conover (1901)
We begin our holiday tour at the ocean, specifically at Asbury Park, New Jersey, where “stands the Coleman House, the centre of coast life and gaiety.” Mr. Conover, the author, has the highest praise for this grand hotel and for “Mr. Frank B. Conover, whose management of the hotel has been most successful for the past three seasons.” His fulsome description of Asbury Park is a striking contrast to the contemporary condition of the resort. It has been undergoing significant revival but only after having fallen on hard times.
In 1901 Conover was able to write that “it is a refined resort, abounding in great natural beauty and numerous forms of enjoyment. It is not merely a seashore resort, but it is a city of the sea, comprising a beautiful blending of country, seashore and city life.”
The brochure is generously illustrated with photographs and drawings which depict the handsome hotel and grounds as they are described by Conover:
Beautiful flowers artistically and oddly arranged about the piazzas convert them into gardens of luxuriant beauty….The main entrance opens into a spacious and finely furnished exchange, which is a model of artistic architectural design and with its exquisite drapings and tapestries presents an exceedingly pretty scene.
We are taken on a tour of the public rooms and amenities which include a ballroom decorated with “myriads of electric bulbs [which] transfer the night into day,” the casino, a dining room that can seat 300 people, a barber shop, “modern sanitary closets,” and a smoking parlor.
Many other accommodations and vistas are given their due praise, and, perhaps best of all, we learn that “Mosquitoes, the bane of so many summer resorts, are unknown here.”
Somerset Inn: Bernardsville, New Jersey (1900)
We travel from the seashore to the mountains. Bernardsville is located in the New Jersey mountains west of New York City. In 1890 it was “an hour distant from New York, and reached by the Lackawanna road.” Because the hotel was at 850 feet above sea level the guests were assured that they would experience “dry mountain air, insuring cool nights and the best conditions for refreshing sleep.”
The collection has two versions of this pamphlet, the first of which was published in 1890 and the second printed in 1900 and called the Edition De Luxe. As with the brochure for the Coleman House, this one extols the natural beauty of the area and its healthful effects as well as the comfort and modernity of the hotel’s accommodations:
Drives in all directions present striking views, changing from very extensive outlooks over and beyond fertile valleys, to byways through gorges alongside mountain streams.
Large outside bathing pool of stone and concrete with ever changing fresh water. Comfortable dressing rooms attached.
Some of the photography does not always succeed in capturing the beauty described, but many of the illustrations are charming. Like the hotel in Asbury Park, the Somerset Inn is offering city dwellers fresh air, pure water, and wholesome food. And, “Comfortable seats in shady nooks. Malaria unknown. No marsh ground nor mosquitoes.”
A Traveler’s Sketch: Continental Hotel (1861)
From the seashore to the mountains, and now to the city, where we are introduced to the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia. In addition to its guest rooms and dining facilities, this large urban establishment also boasted:
a Hatters Warehouse, containing an assortment, also, of Gentlemen’s Furnishing Goods, Furs, and Ladies’ Shoes…a Druggist and Apothecaries’ Laboratory…a Tailoring Establishment, where Clothing is made to order; a wholesale and retail Cigar Emporium, connecting with the Hotel Smoking Saloon.…A Hair Dressing Room, Perfumery Shop and Bathing Room…and a Children’s Furnishing Shop…Everything of life—free from care, and at small cost!
Naturally, there were also parlors, a ball room, private dining rooms, and capacious kitchens:
It is pointed out that the upper rooms—which are more desirable for air quality, views, and quiet, but had always entailed “the usual labor of ascending stairways”—are now easily accessible.
At the left of Ninth street entrance hall, is the Vertical Railway, extending from the ground floor to the top of the house, on which a Car is operated by steam-power, that facilitates easy ascent, in comfortable seats to all of the upper floors. This is a highly important invention.
The brochure provides elaborate details about the inner workings of the hotel, including its kitchen, butchery, laundry room, and various inventories. Certain aspects of the hotel’s services provide glimpses into mid-19th-century life and habits. To wit:
Meals are served in private parlors at all hours. In the public rooms, Breakfast is from 5 to 12; Luncheon from 1 to 2; the First Dinner from 2 to 4½; the second Dinner at 5 P.M.; Tea at 6; and Supper from 9 until midnight.