St. Joseph Hotel History
1831, Mansion House tavern, near the site of what would later be the Whitcomb Hotel, was owned by August B. Newell. Then Newell died in 1832.
In 1843 the Mansion House was kept by Judge Daniel Olds. It was a rough log cabin lodging house dubbed "The Mansion House". It became a well known stop over for the stagecoaches between Chicago and Detroit. In or about 1866 it was razed to make way for the St. Charles. Through the decades the later named Whitcomb became a favorite of travelers and tourists. But it could not compete in the newer decades of travel lodges and motels and in 1966 the hotel was closed. It was later converted to a retirement residence.
1833 - 1834 - - The Michigan House is thought to be the second one in existance about 1833 - 1834. It was a log building and stood below the hill west of State Street. Its landlords in 1837 were; Wm. McKaleb, Axtell and Chauncy, and James Dalton.
1835 - - The first hotel in St. Joseph is thought to be the Perkins House built by William Huff. The Perkins House, built in 1835, much earlier than the Hoyt House had a tough time competing which such opulence. The Perkins House, for a brief period of time, served as a court house. It held its own between the years of 1858 and 1890. This hotel would take on several names over the decades such as: Clifton Hotel, American House, and Hotel Brandon. It burned along with other buildings in September of 1901.
1867 - Hoyt House (1868 to 1941)
Property History - September 27, 1830 Calvin Brittain received his title to lot 103 which Front, now Lake Blvd, and Ship streets were a portion of. Benjamin Hoyt and Enoch Jones bought the lot from Britain on January 23, 1834. Hoyt gave Jones a mortgage on the property for both lots 104 and 103. Jones forecosed the mortgage amounting to $7, 327 on September 9, 1836 and a Henry N. Walker purchased the lots. Hoyt purchased the property back from Henry Walker on July 6, 1858. In 1867 Hoyt built Hoyt House which would be the biggest hostelry in southwestern Michigan at that time. It was a red brick, three story and in the middle of its hall was a sweeping staircase with twin stairs.
New hotel was advertised heavily in the 1868 newspapers. And a sparkling add was published in the St. Joseph Herald on 1 Feb 1868.
It boasted of First Class Board with or without lodging. Location was: foot of Ship street & Corner of Front Street St. Joseph, Michigan.
Everything from weddings to political meetings to even public auctions were held either in or on the front lawn of the hotel. And it was well known for good selection of menu's being offered. In 1870 a young man from Canada by the name of Albert T. Henry, only 25 years of age, was its proprietor.
1970 - In 1870 Hoyt House advertised in the St. Joseph Herald that is was now offering Hot Mineral Baths. This was done by a boiler over a large stove which heated and kept hot 30 gallons of water. The hot steam provided a constant steam for several baths for the men which were set up in the basement for the men and the several on the second story for the ladies. It was also advertised as a good cure for those who were ailing. In later years other businesses in the area would also embellish on this idea and people came from miles around to take advantage of the (we call them spas today) steam baths.
1871 - At the beginning of 1871 the hotel had a new boast of Gas lighting and auctioned off many of its "old fashioned" chandeliers and kerosene lanterns.
1873 - Unfortunately Mr. Hoyt, once again, fell into hard times financially and on Nov 28, 1873 a Mr. Lyman Collins, of the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company, took over the lots and hotel for payment of debt. Previous to this misfortune, Mr. Charles Krieger, another pioneer, built the Newport House later known as Riverview Tavern, attempted to lease the hotel from Mr. Hoyt who refused his offer. Angry, Krieger in 1866, erected a hotel one story higher, right across the street from the Hoyt and named it the St. Charles which would later be known as Hotel Whitcomb in 1891. In 1885 the St. Charles was sold to Chas. H. Nix of Chicago, Ill.
1878 - In June of 1878 A. M & C. E. Bruce took over ownership of Hoyt House.. And in the same year, under new ownership the hotel boasted of a 60 foot well with cool clear and clean water. Their menu and food quality was favorably discussed by patrons also. Even Oyster suppers were offered on some special occasions.
The Flag Staff on the roof of the hotel was used to hold a signal flag and on September 10, 1878 Mr. John King raised that warning flag as a storm approached. However, a gale blew in so strong that on September 25th of the same year, the flag staff at the hotel, along with the liberty pole on the bluff and the wagon shed of the St. Charles livery stable were all blown over.
Lake view house was of good size and could comfortably hold 50 or more couples for dancing, dining and games. As with the Hoyt House; Chancery sales (auctions) continued to be held at this place of business. All through the 1870's and 1880's many newspaper accounts were published on boarders and also improvements done to the Lake View House.
1885 - 1886 - - Hoyt House - In May of 1884 Mr. John Rice and Mr. Kingsley became the new proprietors of the hotel. In this same year a "magic lantern" show was in one of the many offerings. Then in March 28, 1885 a gentleman name Asher B. Chivvis became the proprietor of the Lake View and immediately started plans for yet more renovations. Previously, he along with Joshua Evans operated a livery stable behind the St. Charles. After running it for about a year, they sold out to Thomas W. Walker on December 7. 1886. Thomas Walker was a Civil War captain. Shrewd in business, Mr. Walker made extensive changes to the hotel one of which was to change its name to the Lake View House. He added the ship street wing, verandas, remodeled and embellished the place with new furnishings. He also offered an array of fine entertainment. Walker was always seen about town walking his two dogs, "John Brown" and "Satin". He previously had owned a farm in Benton Township and had lived near Alonzo Vincent, close to Watervliet. Walker a Democrat and Vincent a Republican. About the same time the Walker acquired the Hoyt House, Alonzo "Lon" Vincent was running the St. Charles across the street. Several political battles were fought between these two men. The two hotels were headquarters for the opposing political parties.
Lake View House
Basically from the 1870's on, the Hoyt House and continuing under the name Lake View was known as the social place to go. The hospitality was considered unmatched.
1890 's - Thomas Walker also purchased the stores along side the hotel toward the alley on Ship street, which had previously been the business of Dave and Lou Bell, black barbers, A. B. Morse Company,
and Editor Bowersox of The Evening Press. In 1890 Mr. Walker installed and opened the famous Palm Gardens, a drink emporium, adjoining the hotel. This area was filled with potted palms and decorated in the same motif. George Tucker, a black chef, whose chicken dinners were a masterpiece, presided over the chicken. Mrs. William Denny, at one time, was the pastry chef. The list of entertainment and guests went unmatched in the area. One very noted would be Poet Ben King who played the piano many evenings and his sister Cora would often sing.
1894 - - In 1894 the whole west section of the hotel caught fire. During the fire, Parrish Davis, Supt. of the electric light company, had been fighting the fire on the roof and reached out to slide down the electric pole and noted it was covered in ice. It was the major injury of that winter fire.
1900 's - - Early 1900's. Mrs. Margaret Kennedy became the cook in charge of meats. Charlie Howard, brother of John Howard was assigned as second cook. And R. A. Burnke was one of the bartenders. Miss Ida Cook and Miss Sadie Penn, both of Benton Harbor, were among the first waitresses. 80 guests could be served at a setting and Helen Sjodin was in charge of the dining room. A special late dinner was offered to passenger trade from the steamers off of Lake Michigan.
Between 1900 and 1910 a group of young men gathered at the Lake View for "Sunday Songfests". There they gathered before supper to play piano and sing. Some of those names were: Russell Brown, piano player; William and Leroy Howard, Sidney Zekind, Joe Nicolal, Dr. Frank Martin, Frank Gillespie, "king" Wurz, and Thomas Doherty, the postmaster.
1908 - - Thomas Walker died in 1908 survived by his widow, Mrs. Evelyn Johnson Walker, and his sons William A. and Arthur M. "Will" was left as administrator and continued the management of the hotel. Will continued to make improvements to the hotel, including running water. Later an elevator was installed and the veranda rebuilt with steel supports. Several of the rooms were made into suites. The Palm Gardens closed with the advent of prohibition. From about 1920 to its end in 1940, the Lake View became more of a residential hotel.
1929 on - - After William Walkers death, his widow, Mary B. Walker, leased the hotel in September 1929 until August, 1932 to Mr. and Mrs. James Christie of Escanabe. After that she managed Lake View herself.
After some legal dealings concerning William's brother, Arthur, a mortgage of $19,000 was to have installments made between 1935 and 1942 for Mr. Arthur Walkers interest in the Hotel. He died in 1937. The mortgage was eventually foreclosed on in 1940. In December of 1940, some of the long time residents of the hotel had to move. Among them were: Mrs. Worth Bean Sr., Mrs. Ella Carroll, Mrs. W. H. Hull, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Burkhard, Miss Ellen Garlanger and Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Croft.
Other Hotels and Resorts in the area
Through the decades, the Hoyt House and later known as the Lake View House, was in stiff competition with many of the hotels in the area. Among them was the Krieger House, the Perkins House, the St. Charles later, the Whitcomb, along with numerous hotels and resorts in Benton Harbor.
1890 - Plank's Tavern later known as (1893) Hotel St. Joseph was built by Joseph Plank, the same man that built the Grand Hotel up in Makinac Island, Michigan. It was built on the North shore of the St. Joseph river in the Silver Beach area and its life span was short as it burned to the ground in July of 1898. This structure was mammoth in size and measured 40 to 80 feet wide and 420 feet long with a 400 foot balcony that faced Lake Michigan.
Edgewater Clubhouse, St. Joseph, also huge in size and well known in the twin city area burned to the ground on December 2, 1931.