Memories we take with us, reflections and reports of places that in some ways – by chance or voluntary – ran into our way in the world often marking the path.
We ideally build little big maps managing among websites, stories, events and characters crossing them over time.
We must talk about it – to whoever has desire to listen to us and sometimes to ourselves – through writing, words and photography.
My travel tales from the States (and from the world) are born like that.
The discovery of a special place, the desire to find out more, the exploration, the emotion, the unavoidable sharing.
Like my visit at Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, the last authentic and fascinating “day hotel” in New York, already working in the first half of the 1800s.
What does it mean New York day hotel?
I mean the last extant place today in the city where businessmen, travellers and entrepreneurs just landed at South Street Seaport (the old harbor in Lower Manhattan) and groups of ladies looking for fun chose to spend their time in the early 1800s.
Often even for only few hours or a half day, for business or for fun, as guests of a bright and comfortable luxury dwelling in the open country, far from the chaos, the dirt and the troubles of the rising New York, which arrived “only” as far as the 14th Street at that time.
A picturesque stone and white wood farmhouse.
Survived almost 200 years of transformations of the Upper East Side: still today it resists proud – with its load of stories, traditions, famous characters, creaking floors, vintage furniture and objects – at the shadow of the huge Queensboro Bridge and the skyscrapers that unavoidably neighbor it, by now.
The Mount Vernon Hotel is one of the last eight buildings prior 1800 remained in New York.
It was built around 1795 as Carriage House, that is an outhouse for the carriages of a big estate on the East River, belonged to Abigail Adams Smith – the daughter of the second President of the United States and Founder of the Homeland, John Adams – and her husband, Colonel William Smith.
The successive owner, Joseph Coleman Hart, exploiting the raising river traffic of the newborn Erie Canal – opened in 1825 to link New York to the Great Lakes – decided to turn the building into a day hotel.
He aimed to attract tourist and traders just arrived to the city, scared of the little hygiene’s conditions and of the plagues troubling Lower Manhattan, who desired to rest and have fun in a clean and comfortable atmosphere.
The Mount Vernon had as guests also ladies of the high society and gentlemen who desired to form new friendships and to take part into outdoor play in the wonderful frame of the East River coast, which arrived few meters far from the hotel entrance at that time.
The guided tour through the perfectly preserved rooms allows to discover some curious aspects of a “day hotel” life.
Women met in the rooms on the third floor reading novels, playing the harp writing, chatting and embroidering while men met in the rooms on the first floor reading newspapers, playing cards, smoking cigars and talking about business and politics.
A big wooden and masonry kitchen and a little dining room assured hot meals but running water was forbidden.
The fear of cholera and plagues, widespread in Lower Manhattan, by now, called for it as a very strict rule.
In 1833 the Mount Vernon Hotel became again for a short time a private residence.
In 1924 the site, perfectly preserved, was purchased and successively turned into a museum by the Colonial Dames of America, an only women no-profit association: they are proud descendents of the first colons, and deals with preserving over time and telling the new generations about historic New Yorker buildings.
The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden – famous in the past as Abigail Adams Smith Museum – is located in the Upper East Side at 421 East, 61st Street, a stone’s throw from the East River.
The nearest subway stop is the Lexington Ave/59th Street.
Once gone out the subway, reach the 61st St. and go along it towards the East River as far as the street number 421: the building is almost under the Queensboro Bridge and turning the look up you can see in traits the passage of the cableway to Roosevelt Island.
The Mount Vernon Hotel is opened to the public Tuesday-Sunday 11am-4pm.
The house can be visited only by guided tour (45 minutes about). Admission fee: 8$.
Weekly or upon request guided tours for children and/or little groups are planned.
Look the official website up for further info.