By Mary Ellen Shaw
There is talk of building a hotel in downtown Rutland in the same location where the Berwick Hotel once stood. That hotel was destroyed by fire 50 years ago and since then the spot has been a vacant lot, known locally as “The Pit.” Recently there have been both TV and newspaper stories “rekindling” the details of that fire.
The time seems right to have a downtown hotel once again. You know the expression, “Build it and they will come.” I hope we get to find out if that is true!
Back in 1849 when a railroad station began operation in downtown Rutland it created a hub of activity. Having hotels in close proximity to the station was ideal.
The Bardwell Hotel was the first one on the scene. Let’s take a look at that hotel and then the others that followed its lead.
The Bardwell Hotel
The Bardwell was built in 1851 on the corner of Merchants Row and Washington Street. Otis Bardwell and E. Foster Cook, his son-in-law, were the first owners. The interior was considered elegant. The Gold Room served as a restaurant and was the site for many social events. The hotel accommodated 200 guests. Among the famous guests were John Brown’s wife and the people who were bringing his body back to North Elba, New York, in 1858. There was a bad fire at the hotel on Dec. 30, 1917. The upper story burned away but other sections of the hotel did not suffer severe damage. Thus, the hotel was able to be restored.
By the 1970s the Bardwell Hotel was known as a popular place for skiers to stay. Large groups would arrive by bus to ski at Killington or Pico. Fall foliage buses also could be found there. By the 1980s the hotel was no longer in operation. Today it serves as an apartment house for seniors and disabled adults.
The Berwick Hotel
The Berwick Hotel was built in 1868 on the corner of Wales Street and Center Street (currently “The Pit”). There were two additions to the hotel in the late 1800s. Among its famous guests were presidents Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Coolidge. Henry Ford and John Philip Sousa also stayed there.
In addition to hotel rooms there were businesses located within the Berwick. As time went on it became a popular hotel for both tourists and skiers. Some people, particularly those in the senior population, had permanent room there. Inv 1971 the Godnick brothers, Gilbert and Ed, along with James Cibotti, bought the hotel and changed the name to The Town House. The lounge area was a popular place to go for a drink and listen to music. Renovations were planned after the sale but there was not enough time for that to happen as a fire destroyed the Berwick in 1972. Unfortunately, five people were killed in that fire.
The Rutland Directory begins listing the Hotel Hamilton in 1914. It was located on the corner of West and Evelyn Street and George Trask was the proprietor. The overnight rate was $2. But apparently you could also become a “boarder” there at the rate of 50 cents per day. Boarding must have been popular as each year the Rutland Directory lists several people as “boarders” at the hotel. A couple of local women were listed as waitresses there indicating that there was a restaurant on the premises. In the 1920 directory it is referred to as simply “The Hamilton.” An ad in that edition states that hot and cold baths are free! I wonder how many requests there were for a cold bath.
1980 is the last year that The Hamilton appears in the Rutland Directory.
Hotel Saint James/Morris Inn
The Hotel Saint James began appearing in the 1920 Rutland Directory at 59 West St. By 1930 it was known as the Morris Inn and ads show it offering both rooms and meals.
The United States Hotel Directory in the ’50s lists it as a 40-room hotel. By 1970 the Morris Inn was gone and New England Telephone had its plant, construction and traffic departments at this location. The street must have been renumbered at some point as the telephone building is now considered to be at 55 West St.