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Sunday, March 03, 1996

At old hotels, you slept with your boots on

Kristin Delaplane

‘Sample room’ offered people vendors’ wares

Third in a series
Suisun City’s major hotel was the landmark Roberts House located on the square. It burned down, but it was rebuilt in a most lavish manner. It featured three stories with a balcony and was renamed the Arlington Hotel.
In 1868, the site of Elmira was established to accommodate the train, and within a bit of time the Sample Rooming House and Bar was built.

It was a hotel, and like many hotels of the day, a sample room was provided for the traveling salesmen.

These salesmen would set out samples of their merchandise for the local merchants and the general public to view. Often the salesmen would call on merchants and farmers to advise them of their arrival and invite them to the hotel’s “sample room.”

Frank Marryat arrived in Vallejo in 1851. According to his journal, this was at the time when Vallejo was selected as the seat of government, circa 1851, and many came to make this a home base.

At that time, a friend’s ship laden with iron houses sunk somewhere in the bay during a fierce storm. When the goods were raised, they were unfit for sale and were to be discarded. Marryat decided to bring the materials to Vallejo and use them as building materials.

He landed his cargo on a beach, cleaned the materials off and within six months had erected a hotel, which he painted and furnished.

Unfortunately, this bit of entrepreneurship failed when the State Capitol was relocated to Benicia and most of the citizens and business departed Vallejo as well.

Could his creation be the famous Union Hotel, a 10-by-10-foot building, that is recorded in Vallejo’s history?

Marryat also described accommodations on a steamer bound for Stockton.

A few sleeping bunks were provided for travelers. “It is not customary to undress when seeking repose in these bunks; in fact, decency forbids you doing so; for they are openly exposed on either side of the saloon, and this latter is generally filled up, for the best part of the night, by card-players.

“A placard informs you that ‘gentlemen are requested not to go to bed in their boots’; but as the proprietors do not guarantee that your boots shall not be stolen if you take them off, this request is seldom complied with.”

When the town of Vallejo reawoke, it was noted for its hotels. Hotels did a good business as Vallejo was a point of call for steamers, ferries and stages and trains.

The Metropolitan Hotel, long a landmark in Vallejo, was built in 1859. Its name was changed to the Sherman House after the Civil War to commemorate the general with that same name.

Then in later years, the hotel’s name was once again changed, this time to the Astor House.

Prior to 1880, the Astor, with William Torney as the proprietor, was one of the city’s two leading hotels, the other being the Bernard House.

By 1888, the Astor House was a boardinghouse upstairs. A tailor shop occupied the ground floor. The building was razed in the early 1960s.

By 1870, John H. Lee was the proprietor of Vallejo’s Metropolitan Hotel. This was a brick building and was noted as the largest hotel in Vallejo with a total of 55 rooms. These rooms featured spring mattresses that could be had with our without a board.

Suites of rooms were available for families. The dining room was advertised to be supplied with the delicacies of the season. The hotel provided a stage to take passengers to and from the train depot, the wharf and to and from any part of the city.

Vallejo’s Washington Hotel was operated by Henry Connolly and featured 42 rooms. Each room was furnished with the spring mattress of the day and the restaurant provided with the “best edibles of the season.”

A bar and elegant billiard room were attached to the hotel. Free carriage service to and from the rail depot and wharf was provided.

The Capitol Hotel in Vallejo was advertised in 1870 as being furnished in a style unsurpassed for elegance in the city. It was located within two minutes of the steamship and ferry landings, and all the main stages stopped at the hotel’s main entrance.

Rooms for families were reportedly quite large.

As with most hotels, boarders were welcome and special terms were offered for those staying a week or more. Wines and liquors were available in the bar.

The proprietor’s newspaper ad ended with the following: “Thankful for a liberal patronage heretofore bestowed he hopes by untiring efforts to please to merit and secure a full share of the public patronage.”

Around 1870, William Hoskins arrived in Collinsville from England. He became the proprietor of the Collinsville Wharf, Store & Hotel.

At this date, Collinsville boasted two hotels. However, the predominant hotel was this two-story hotel.

The store was rated as a first-class country store, with groceries, hardware and liquors. The store also transacted a general commission business for the farmers in the area.

The produce was local butter, eggs, poultry, etc. Hotel patrons included those who would arrive by ferry, and the hotel advertised superior spring mattresses and clean beddings.

The Antioch Ferry left the wharf daily and provided ample accommodations for stock and stockmen and travelers desiring to cross Suisun Bay at that point.

In the nearby vicinity, two hotels were under operation by the mid-1870s. In about 1875, Denverton had a hotel, and the following year a hotel was erected at nearby Bird’s Landing.

Not only did hotels cater to travelers and boarders, but in at least one case, provided accommodations for those who had acted in a criminal manner.

Such was the case involving a Dixon man who was involved in a fray. He spent 50 days under house arrest at Appleby’s Hotel in Fairfield.

By the 1890s, two hotels were operating in Cordelia. The Cordelia Hotel (a k a the Bridgeport Hotel & Pittman House) and the Moiles Hotel.

The Moiles Hotel was under the management of Henry Moiles, who offered board and lodging by the day or week at reasonable rates.

The bar was supplied with wines, liquors and cigars. A livery stable was operated in connection with the hotel.

It was in 1898 that the Moiles Hotel put on a special event. “Weather permitting, Archie McNaughton will give a gramophone concer at Moiles Hotel barroom next Saturday evening. Over 100 of the latest and most popular songs of the day will be rendered. The exhibition will be free and we hope all will avail themselves of the opportunity to hear this wonderful invention.”