Friday, July 5, 2024

Curiosities: Bay State Cottage

John T. Sullivan and his wife were recent arrivals from New York when they became the proprietors of the Bay State Cottage in Santa Cruz in the summer of 1885. Sullivan was Irish born, but heralded from an American lineage that included the first governor of Vermont and the second governor of Massachusetts. He settled in Massachusetts and fought with the 10th Massachusetts Infantry in the Union Army during the Civil War. Shortly afterwards, he married Sarah A. Smith and moved to South Carolina and then New York City. He became an accomplished post office superintendent and was put in charge of the newspaper department. In this position, he became friends with newspaper magnate Horace Greeley during his 1872 run for president against Ulysses S. Grant.

Lithograph of the Bay State Cottages, from E. S. Harrison's History of Santa Cruz County, California, 1892.

Sullivan arrived in California in September 1884 with the intention of starting a fruit-growing company, but soon he found himself in Santa Cruz and founded the Bay State Cottage, named after the state he claimed as his home. The cottage was not new. The property had originally been owned by Abel Mann and encompassed 150 feet frontage along Third Street from and including Younger Way to 911 Third Street. It stretched 268 feet south toward the beach, to the lower end of 127 Younger Way. It had been built around 1860 as a two-story boarding house of a simple style and it was acquired at some point by Josiah Samuel Green. The Sentinel described in January 1887 as "essentially a New England home" close to the South Pacific Coast Railroad's Beach Station and the bathhouses. It featured sixteen bedrooms, fifteen of which were for guests, as well as a dining room, kitchen, bar-room, and office. In its first year, Bay State Cottage was advertised primarily in the Oakland Tribune with an upper class family clientele in mind.

Oakland Tribune advertisement, June 5, 1885.

The Sullivans expanded their advertising to Santa Cruz for the 1886 season, promoting "pleasant sunny rooms (single or suite) with board." The Surf added the boarding house to its recommended hotels for the year, placing it beside the decade-old Liddell House in desirability. The couple also made the property available to winter visitors, offering room and board to guests for the entire off-season. However, big changes were afoot.

Santa Cruz Sentinel advertisement, Christmas Day 1886.

Green decided in December 1886 to renovate and expand. He hired John H. Williams to design a three-story hotel to be built directly beside the existing cottage. The new structure would include an office, dining room, and sixteen new guest rooms, doubling the capacity of the facility.  The cottage, meanwhile, would be moved to the east side of the lot. Bids for construction went out in mid-January 1887, with Olive & Company offering the lowest amount at $5,421.40. This appears to have been too high, though, and Williams went back to the drawing board in early February, reducing the structure to two stories and fifteen rooms. It went back out to bidding in late February with Kaye, Knapp & Company agreeing to build the structure for $2,240. The final building would measure 40 feet by 32 feet.

Surf advertisement, April 13, 1888.

The Sullivans took this as their cue to leave. Their last advertisement was published on March 16, 1887 and on April 1 the Sullivans became managers of the Douglas House one block away. Within a month, they would repaint the structure, replace its furniture, and rechristen it the Sea Beach Hotel. Following the renovation of the Bay State Cottage, Green appears to have run the hotel personally for the 1887 season, with the buildings opening for business in late June. He did not advertise, though. Mrs. E. White took over management for the 1888 season, opening on April 7. She renamed it the Beach Hill Cottages, giving the name "Bay State" to the largest structure. The two smaller structures on the property were named "Ivy" (formerly the main cottage) and "Rosebush." The Surf noted that the property featured croquet grounds, lawns, and other garden accessories. White hosted several dances and events at the hotel, and welcomed some prominent guest including the Coltons, who would purchase the Liddell and Seaside Home properties over the following years. White advertised across the state, appearing in newspaper as far as Los Angeles and Sacramento. She continued as proprietress through the 1889 season.

Sentinel advertisement, April 14, 1890.

On February 1, 1890, Wilbur J. Dakin was named the new proprietor of Green's property. He immediately set to work improving the estate. One of the first actions he took was to move and completely overhaul the old cottage, adding a tower, a bay window, a porch, and other additions to the thirty-year-old structure. He made similar improvements to other buildings on the property and replaced the furniture throughout. In front, beside Third Street, Dakin installed a tennis court, with plans to add a substantial new hotel building there after the summer season. In July, Green announced plans to build a large house for himself on the edge of the property, hiring LeBaron R. Olive to construct the home for $11,000. The intended structure would include twelve rooms, a hall, a tower, veranda, balconies, and piazzas.

Long before the 1890 summer season began, Dakin began offering rooms, reverting to the hotel's former name of Bay State Cottages in his advertising. Presumably construction was ongoing throughout the year, but guests were happy with the accomodations and the Surf praised Dakin and his wife for running a good service. They continued to run the cottages the following year, presumably with similar success, but declined to continue for a third season. Green listed cottages for lease in April 1892, advertising the boarding house as the Bay State Hotel and Cottages. The family of D. M. Delmas rented the entire property for the summer, taking possession on June 10, and as a result the boarding house was closed to the public for the first time since 1886.

Sentinel advertisement, April 21, 1893.

In April 1893, Gus Vossberg, a local cook and caterer, and his wife became the proprietors of the Bay State. They once more opened the place to public boarders, repainting the buildings and updating some aging furnishings before opening on May 1. Vossberg advertised heavily in local newspapers in 1893; however, the economic downturn seems to have impacted several local hotels, including the Bay State. No advertisements appear for the property in 1894 or 1895, though some rooms were rented, presumably from Green directly. In April 1896, J. P. Krieg and his wife, prominent members of the local German community, were hired to manage the hotel and attracted an eclectic group of German immigrants. They avoided public advertisements, relying instead on word-of-mouth to promote the business. The Kriegs ran the hotel through 1897 but relinquished management in October to take over the Hotel Hagemann.

Sentinel advertisement, June 30, 1900.

Green wasted no time in replacing the Kriegs and hired Peter Crinnion and his wife, former managers of the Hotel Del Mar in Live Oak, to take over the establishment from November 1897. They renamed the boarding house again, this time calling it the Bay State Villa. The hotel's reputation appears to have attracted sufficient guests for the first two seasons, but by 1900 the Crinnions began posting daily advertisements in the Sentinel. They also bought the adjacent property from the Dunlap family, either to use as a private home or as space to offer more rooms for rent. Despite their four-season success story, the couple left the business before the start of the 1901 season.

Surf advertisement, May 17, 1901.

Replacing the Crinnions were Arthur Wilson, his sister H. Ingham, and a man named Spader, who together had previously run the Baxter Terrace in Santa Barbara. As was becoming common practice by this point, the partners reverted the name back to a slight variant of its earliest form: the Bay State Cottages. Their first summer exceeded demand to such an extreme that two new cottages were erected on the property and a new steel range was installed in the kitchen. The hotel also began hosting weekly hops as well as group trips to the Dolphin Baths. Despite this seeming success, the partners did not renew their contract for 1902.

Evening Sentinel advertisement, March 26, 1902.

The year 1902 brought in Lydia Mathison as the new proprietor of the once more slightly renamed Bay State House and Cottages. Mathison advertised daily in both the Morning and Evening Sentinel, though this seemed unnecessary since the winning streak begun several years earlier continued throughout her tenure with the hotel at capacity most of the time. She maintained the hotel through the winter months, offering it at a reduced rate to families and day travelers. Josiah Green's death on January 29, 1903, left the property to his widow, Elizabeth Harmon (née Fox) Green. Mathias advertised the hotel until late April but then it disappeared from newspapers, suggesting the widow Green may have taken over management directly but declined to pay for advertising. It remained a popular venue throughout the summer.

Surf advertisement, May 25, 1905.

Green hired the Miles sisters to run the hotel for the 1904 season. After a basic renovation, they began placing advertisements in May but these remained uncharacteristically low key. The hotel nonetheless remained very popular, running at capacity all season. When the sisters renewed their contract for the 1905 season, they drastically changed their advertising approach and rebranded the hostelry as The Bay State Hotel, adopting an attractive font to entice newspaper readers. However, behind the scenes, the Green family had hired A. J. Hinds and M. L. Smith to sell the estate. Beginning August 19, 1905, daily advertisements for its sale began appearing in the Surf and Morning Sentinel. The Miles shut down for the year in September and did not renew their contract.

Evening Sentinel advertisement, September 10, 1907.

The April 18, 1906 earthquake led to many displaced people across the Central Coast. Those in Santa Cruz seeking shelter were offer refuge at the Bay State Cottages by the Greens, though most were out by mid-May. Hinds, the property's realtor, ran the estate for the year even as he worked through backchannels to sell it. He leased the entire hotel in August to San José politician B. A. Herington, who used it to run his autumn campaign. A month later, the hotel was sold to J. Q. A. Packard, thereby ending the Green family's long ownership of the boarding house. The hotel went through some strange years afterwards, and it is unclear if rooms were leased after 1905. Charles R. Reitzke sold stocks for the Huntoon Valley Mining Company from the property in late 1907. There was a robbery at the property in 1908. And then things go completely silent for a while.

Evening News advertisement, March 25, 1914.

Evening News article, June 3, 1918.

In 1910, the family of F. Bennett, notably Anna Bennett, bought the property from the Packards and began refurbishing it for use. At the same time, Younger Court (now Younger Way) was graded through the east side of the property, removing about a quarter of the total area of the hotel complex. The remainder was run as an unadvertised hotel from 1912 by Lucy C. Chamberlain, who eventually purchased the property from the Bennetts in October 1914. In April 1918, the Chamberlains added twelve garages for automobiles, installed hot and cold water taps, and overhauled the interior of the hotel buildings. After these changes were made, the owners rechristened the complex the Hotel Chamberlain or Chamberlain Hotel. The family continued to run the hotel until the end of 1940, when they listed it for sale. By this time, the property was about a third of its original size, with portions subdivided off over the years. It still featured 21 bedrooms, a large dining room, kitchen, and sitting room. Nevertheless, the family struggled to sell the hotel and it remained on the market for three years.

Sentinel–News advertisement, September 30, 1947.

Sentinel–News advertisement, August 18, 1953.

The hotel was finally purchased by David B. Lynch who shifted the property's focus to long-term renters with shared kitchen facilities. But Lynch did not own it for long. He died in early 1948 and the property was eventually sold to Paul Reimann and his wife, though nothing is known of their years of ownership. In March 1953, the Chamberlain Hotel was sold for a final time to Mildred Louise Jensen and Ann "Pat" Borsch of Merced for $35,000. Jensen married Charles Grover Stoops of Carmel the next year and the couple ran the hotel together.

A Sentinel–News staff photograph of fire crews extinguishing the Hotel Chamberlain fire in the morning of February 21, 1955

In the early morning of Monday, February 21, 1955, a blaze erupted inside a first floor closet that held combustible paint cleaner and paint. Four fire trucks and 22 firefighters fought the fire, saving the exterior of the structure, but the inside was gutted amounting to a total of $21,000 in damages. Fortunately, nobody, including the owners, were in the building at the time. The main building was immediately condemned by the insurance company and the Stoops appear to have taken the payout and sold the property shortly afterwards. However, the exterior survived and may have served as the basis of the home currently at 905 Third Street. The two structures have many architectural similarities and maintain almost an identical footprint, suggesting that the core of the Bay State Cottage—or rather the 1887 building—remains intact, albeit extremely modified.

Citations & Credits:

  • E. S. Harrison, History of Santa Cruz County, California (1892).
  • Oakland Tribune.
  • Santa Cruz Evening News, Sentinel, Sentinel–News, and Surf.
  • Santa Cruz GIS.
  • Derek R. Whaley, SIDETRACKED: The Santa Cruz Beach to 1903 (Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, 2024). [Amazon Associates link]

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