No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Poughkeepsie Hotel
Every town that attracts visitors needs someplace for those visitors to stay. Even in Poughkeepsie’s humble beginnings, people came into town in order to conduct business. Farmers had to travel from outside of town to buy and sell goods, which would sometimes mean an overnight visit requiring taverns and inns. Right in the center of things, the Poughkeepsie Hotel was one of the oldest and longest lasting hotels that the city ever had. The hotel operated for well over a century and hosted some interesting guests over the course of those years. Today, we only have a few pictures of what once was, but it gives us a glimpse of how the streets of Poughkeepsie have changed.
The Poughkeepsie Hotel started off as the Baldwin’s Hotel sometime around 1803, though it is believed that there may have even been a hotel here as early as 1797. It sat on the north side of Main Street and stared directly down Market Street (essentially the top of a ‘T’). In 1804, members of the Republican party purchased the hotel from Robert Williams for the sum of about $9,000 to be used as a political headquarters. Members of the party all bought shares in the hotel, with some of the biggest names in New York State political history signing on, including New York State Governors George Clinton and Morgan Lewis, New York State Assemblymen Smith Thompson, and Gilbert Livingston. The hotel was renovated (or perhaps rebuilt entirely) in 1829, and at this point it received its famous verandas, which were on the first, second, and third floors.
Perhaps the hotel’s most famous visitor was the renowned French general, the Marquis de Lafayette. When he visited Poughkeepsie in September of 1824, the entire village came out to see him (you might say they rolled out the red carpet). Lafayette was invited to the Poughkeepsie Hotel for a lovely breakfast with 65 villagers before making his way north to Staatsburgh to visit the home of Governor Morgan Lewis.
Local historian Helen Wilkinson Reynolds told the Poughkeepsie Eagle News that the hotel received a bit of a facelift in 1885, when the façade was completely altered. This included the removal of those lovely exterior verandas. Bay windows were also installed on the first level and by 1917, an archway had been cut through the building on the first level to allow traffic to pass under. The hotel became the annex to the Nelson house by the early 1900s and for a time it was also known as the Pomfret House.
The 1920s would see a major change in the Main and Market Street intersection, with the creation and widening of New Market Street, which is now known as Civic Center Plaza. By 1926, it was decided that the old hotel was in the way of progress and must be torn down. An auction was held in February of 1926 for the sale of the furnishings of the old hotel. By August of 1926, work had begun in razing of the old structure; within months it was all gone. Check out the Sanborn maps (to the right): the one from 1913 shows the hotel as a going concern, while the map from 1950 shows us that it and the old buildings that once stood behind it are long gone. Just another reminder that nothing lasts forever.
Platt, Edmund. “The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie”
Poughkeepsie Eagle News, Feb 1926, 5 Mar 1926, 31 Oct 1965
01 – Early print of the Poughkeepsie Hotel. – LH Collections
02 – Slee Brothers photograph of the Poughkeepsie Hotel. – LH Collections
03 – Overhead view looking down Main Street with the Poughkeepsie Hotel on the left. – LH Collections
04 – Postcard looking north up Market Street before 1926. – LH Collections
05 – Photo of the hotel from the back, not long before it was torn down. – LH Collections
06 – Image from the Sanborn map from 1913
07 – Image from the Sanborn map from 1950