Chapter 2: A Hotelier Career Begins


     Jonas and John? Blake partnered to operate the Mansion House hotel on Benefit Street, Providence, probably in August 1832. Blake was already an experienced hotel proprietor there. After high praise for previous managers, a newspaper report says "The two gentlemen who have now assumed the duties of "mine hosts" in this ancient and well known establishment are gentlemen of taste, and are both duly intricated in the business which it will now to their pleasure as well as their duty to excel in. The public may rest assured that this hotel will not deteriorate under its president incumbents, but will present additional claims for patronage, may its enterprising landlords find sufficient encouragement to continue it, as it has been one of the best publications in the country."(7) The proprietors themselves published this advertisement:(8)



     The Mansion House was an old business dating from the late 18th or early 19th century. It was first called the Golden Ball Hotel, which hosted presidents and other statesmen perhaps due to the shouting distance from the State Capitol (known as the State House, and later served as the Court House). There are several engravings of the building and photographs taken in 1941 for the Historic American Buildings Survey.



     


     The engraving above doesn't give a good idea of the large size of the hotel. These 1941 views, just before demolition, show the building with the verandah's removed and several other alterations like the fire escapes, but it generally retains the appearance it had when Jonas was proprietor, although now in a more urban setting. The brick portion, to the right in the right-side photo, is the part that is clearly seen in the engraving above. Trees in the latter shroud the major part of the hotel that is featured in the left-side photo. Another old engraving shows a view from the same angle as the right photo and confirms that this is the same building. The site is now a parking lot.
     Jonas married a 19 year-old Providence girl named Harriet Holbrook in 1833. A newspaper notice says it was by "Rev. Phillips," and evidence surely points to William Phillips of the Third Baptist Church. The latter was very near the Washington Observatory. Harriet's parents were married by the minister of the First Baptist Church, which was near the Mansion House. Church may have brought Jonas and Harriet together, but much is unknown about where Harriet lived after her parents died, and where she may have worshipped.



     Perhaps something about life in Providence wasn't satisfying or the draw of a bigger city was too great to resist for a hotelier. Jonas, Harriet and their brand new baby Sarah moved to New York by City about late July 1834.(1) In 1835 he appears in a city directory as proprietor of the North American Hotel at 30 Bowery, corner of Bowery and Bayard Street. By settling here, the Bartletts found themselves in the middle of a "plebeian recreation zone...Working people gravitated there after hours, attracted by the life and color, the array of services, and above all the vitality of crowds of people determined to have a good time."(2) It was, in many ways, similar to Times Square in the last quarter of the 20th century.
     Old Bowery Days says of the North American that "Its front was surmounted by a wooden statue of a ragged boy, gaudily painted and supposed to represent the proprietor, Peter B. Walker, in the early stages of his career. It was a favorite stopping place for performers from the indoor circus across the way, and they might be seen o'noon-times in flashy attire, lounging about its door. The hotel was likewise a Native American and Know-Nothing headquarters for several years."(3) Despite some of the rough associations, a travellers guide named it among the principal hotels in the city.(4) No reference has been found about Jonas' political leanings in the 1830s, but he was very likely then what he was later: a Whig. Although the Whig party was generally associated with favoring the rights of the native-born, it was no different than modern political parties and had its factions. Some meetings at the North American were politcally extreme, expressing the strongest anti-catholic and anti-immigrant feelings ever voiced in public, but if Jonas was a sympathizer, it isn't yet known. When the Whigs took the seats of the mayor and the common council in 1837, Jonas hosted a "grand Whig dinner" for two dollars a head.(5) The New York Herald and The New York Spectator were politically allied, but not to each other. The Herald ridiculed the celebration: "...the grog shops were in their glory, so was Niblo's, Adams's [sic], Welsh's, and the North American Hotel in the Bowery...Tallow candles out of number were burned, until they burned themselves out...The men [who were to march in the evening parade] had been walking into wine, whiskey, and brandy the whole afternoon [and] were just able to steal off to bed...whence they arose this morning sick, sorrowful, sleepy and stupid."(6) The Spectator said that it was a "proud festival" and that "many of the public and private houses of the city were brilliantly illuminated. Among those which came under our notice were...[the] North American Hotel."(7)




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1. Stanton Smith said that they moved when their daughter Sarah was six weeks old, placing the move in July. The 1855 New York State census (Kings Co., 1st Ward, 2nd ED, dwelling #191) says that Jonas, Harriet and Sarah had been living in New York city for 21 years.
2.5 abstracted at a website: http://www.home.eznet.net/~dminor/NYNY1833.html.
3. Old Bouwery Days,
4. The New York Herald, 21 November 1837.
5.
6. The New York Herald, 24 November 1837.
7. The New York Spectator, 24 November 1837.
8. Baltimore Patriot, 16 Dec. 1828, p 4. He was at the Maryland Museum, and this was billed as his first public performance. He is sometimes erroneously called "Saunders."
9. Issue of . The circus probably performed at Washington Hall in Macon.

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(branch closed). NYT, 2 May 1855, p. 2.

NYC&A adv. in the Rep. Compiler, Gettysburg, 13 Aug 1839, with a separate notice of the giraffe. Hobby's circus & menagerie united also advertized and was noticed as coming into town on the 22nd ad in the Adams Sent & Daily Adv., 6 and 13 Aug both of the above had the giraffe graphic 16 Aug Hagerstown Mail adv. both the NYC & A and Hobby's. Hobby's mentions having purchased a giraffe, but this must not have been live. Margaret Lametti, widow of Joseph, 192 Chatham 1839/40 John P. Ware, clothier, bus. at 192 Chatham The Emancipator was ed. by Joseph Leavitt 23 Mar, adv one day added to the exhibit due to bad weather the previous day. Welch, Bartlett & Co., New York Circus, were at the Bowery Theatre from Nov to at least Jan, adv. in the Herald. Levi North was attached Pavillion Circus program in Macon: Grand entree, Court of Queen Elizabeth, led by Mrs. Nixon; ground and lofty tumbling; comic song "Unhappy Jeremiah" by Mr. Carter; Master William "The Pride of the Arena;" horsemanship; plate balancing and Spanish Column by Mr. Harvey Whitlock; Indian by Charles Bacon; double leaping by Mr. Batcheler; Mr. Nixon and Mr. Bacon, two chargers enact truant lovers; posturing by Mr. Nixon and pupil; Mr. Whitlock on an Arabian courser; laughable scene grand ? and her son Jonathan; pulling against horses by Signor Dow; Mrs. Nixon (late Miss Caroline Divine) on her favorite steed Selim; minstrel band Messrs Carter, Bathcheler and Daniel; German barber or the Mistfortunes of Col. Tilton, Col. Tilton - Mr. Bacon, Barber - Mr. Huntington. Levi North re-engaged for more performances, 1st ad 12 1 40 12 28, B Theatre 75c boxes, Amphi was 50 1st ad for phantom monarch was 12 26 1st ad for NYC at Bowery Theatre, in Herald 11 9, long ads 9th and 10th, then reduced Levi NOrth benefit 1 27, doesn't appear in an ad for 1 28, Turner still at Amphi North reappears in ads on feb 1st Monsieur Le Tort is with Amphi on feb 9th last ad with turner at amphi is feb 6th, no Le Tort in ads, first ad with Amphi is 8th last ad with north is Mar 13th, Turner appears in ad of 15th Rockwell and Miss Wells switched companies by feb 15th NY Herald 9 21 1840 BRANCH HOTEL - No. 36 BOWERY FORMERLY kept by Captain Samuel Seely, having passed in to the hands of Messrs. J. BARTLETT and W. A. DELAVAN, is now opened on a scale not to be surpassed by any other establishment in this city. Their accommodations are of the first rate order, having been fitted up entirely new, and ready for the reception of gentlemen, who wish to partake of good lodgings, &c. Every attention will be paid for the comfort of all who may wish to patronize them. Their bar is stored with the choicest of liquors of brands of all kinds, with all the delicacies that persons may require to refresh themselves with. JONAS BARTLETT W. A. DELAVAN 10 25 1841 BARTLETT'S BRANCH HOTEL AND REFECTORY, 36 Bowery - The Bowery may now boast of an establishment in point of elegance, comfort and taste, superior to any yet presented to the public in that section of the city. Mr. Jonas Bartlett, at 36, has added to his already well established and popular place of resort, a refectory, which has been satisfactorily tested within the last few days since its opening, by numbers, upon whom this long wished for and elegantly arranged accession to the citizen's comfort, burst with grand and unexpected brilliancy. In point of interior elegance it has no competitor. While the choice selection of all that contributes to the appetites, is served in a style of unequalled taste. A visit to the Saloon, where, independent of the usual atractions, the only perfect copy of the magnificent French plates, of the removal on board the Belle Poule of the remains of Napolean from St. Helena to Paris, and the procession to the Church of Invalids, may be seen, well deserving the study of the artist, the historian and the politician, is in itself a rational source of enjoyment; the officer, crew and ships being now in this port, attach to these exquisite paintings, regularly arranged, a peculiar fascination. Mr. Bartlett's spirited enterprise justly entitles him to a continuation of that patronage that he has successfully enjoyed, and no doubt his porsperity will be commensurate with his merits.