“This place will suit you.” Kingston’s first hotel, 1854-1970

We’ve got a new exhibit in the Library lobby. Stop by and take a look.

Patuxet House, circa 1870
Patuxet House, circa 1870

The spot where the Kingston Public Library stands was once the site of Kingston’s first hotel, built in 1854, just nine years after the Old Colony Railroad first chugged through town. Former boarding house proprietor Josiah Cushman bought the land from Spencer Cushman, and immediately borrowed $1500 from the seller to finance the building. Josiah ran the hotel, known as the Patuxet House, for the next 25 years, until another of his creditors, merchant Henry K. Keith (listed in the 1888 publication Twenty Thousand Rich New Englanders), took over the property, though Keith did not run the Inn himself.

Kingston Inn, Flag Day 1915
Kingston Inn, Flag Day 1915

Sometime around 1900, the hotel’s name had changed to either the Hotel Kingston or, the better known Kingston Inn. In 1921, right in the thick of Prohibition, crime struck. The double-crossing rum runner murder happened after hotel proprietor Richard Rowland (or Roland) ordered 26 cases of illegal Scotch from a well-known bootlegger. According to the Boston Globe, “Rowland had a good market for liquor at the Kingston Inn,” which had a reputation as a sporting house with a regular dice game, but he didn’t want to pay for the booze. Rowland plotted with two local thugs to fake a robbery in the hotel garage, but the bootlegger fought back and his driver, Edward Cardinal aka Eddie Gardner, was gunned down. The bootlegger escaped with the liquor, and Rowland, “the debonair blond gambler,” was eventually convicted of manslaughter, but his accomplices were never caught.

Kingston Inn, Keith House and World War I monument, circa 1930
Kingston Inn, Keith House and World War I monument, circa 1930

By 1927, the hotel was known Bay View Inn, and served as the grand prize in a raffle advertised by the Plymouth chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The brochure described the Inn’s

“28 rooms, including reception parlor, one large and three small dining rooms, hotel office and billiard parlor. It is situated on over 1 acre of land and the beautiful trees and lawns add to the enhancing surroundings. In addition to the main Hotel, there is a 20-car garage, with a cement floor, with an accessory store and office included in the buildings.”

For reasons unknown, the raffle never happened. The Inn sat empty and changed hands a few times until 1953, when Coley and Lillian Mae Hayes bought the property. Originally from Georgia, the couple worked together as chauffeur/butler and housekeeper/cook in the 1930s and 1940s in private homes around New York City and Boston. Between 1933 and 1941, they spent summers at Twin Oaks, the Duxbury camp they owned with Lillian’s two sisters and their husbands. The camp was a great success among its African-American clientele, but when one of the sisters died, another took over, and the Hayes went back to private employment, until 1953 when they bought the Kingston Inn.

Guests on the lawn of the Kingston Inn, circa 1960
Guests on the lawn of the Kingston Inn, circa 1960

The Hayes advertised in publications like Ebony and the Amsterdam News, and focused on African-American vacationers from Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The promotional materials produced during the Hayes’s tenure emphasized the near-by sights of Plymouth, the delights of Cape Cod, and the comfortable family atmosphere at the Kingston Inn, where “you don’t have to dress for dinner.” Coley Hayes ran the Inn until his death in 1966; Lillian appears to have predeceased him, though her death date isn’t known. In 1970, Hayes’ executor sold the vacant hotel to New England Telephone, which razed the building and constructed the long-distance equipment facility, which eventually became the Kingston Public Library in 1995.

Kingston Inn giant postcard, circa 1960
Kingston Inn giant postcard, circa 1960
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Picnic on the lawn

Kingston Inn, circa 1950
Kingston Inn, circa 1950

Back when the Library was on the other side of the street, the Kingston Inn occupied our current site at the corner of Green and Summer.  Originally called the Patuxet House, the hotel was built in 1854 by Josiah Cushman to capitalize on the arrival of the Old Colony Railroad just a few years earlier.  The hotel was not particularly successful, and several owners and managers were involved through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Some strange and mysterious events took place at the Inn. In 1881, the remains of six people and “funerary objects” were discovered on the grounds.  Because it was a suspected Native American burial ground, the remains were turned over the Peabody Essex Museum.  In 1921,  the “Rum-Runner’s Murder” took place in the 20 car garage. The somewhat cloudy circumstances involved professional dice players, a trunkful of illegal liquor and $4,000 in missing cash. A murder trial followed in 1922.  In 1927, the re-christened Bay View Inn was offered as first prize in a raffle as the First Annual  Grand Bazaar by the Ancient Order of Hibernians.  For reasons unknown, the raffle never happened.

By the 1950’s, the hotel — once again called the Kingston Inn — was advertised as a summer resort for African-Americans, particularly those travelling from New York for a Cape Cod vacation.  Unfortunately the venue remained as unsuccessful as it had been a century earlier.  In 1970, the contents were auctioned and the building was razed.

 

Source: Major Bradford’s Town, by Doris Johnson (Town of Kingston: 1976)