Tudor on the Niagara

A 1923 article in the Niagara Falls Gazette described the genesis of an English-style inn in Niagara Falls, New York. The story is unusually lengthy for the regional press, and smoothly written.

It illustrates well the continued, even growing appeal of the “olde English inn” in the American social pattern. In 1923 a hotel rose on the site of a demolished German-American hotel, the Kaltenbach, renowned since before the century.

The new establishment was – and is today – the Red Coach Inn, whose peaked roof rises o’er the rapids of the American Falls.

 

 

Tudor Revival had a marked influence in American cities due to the implied gentility. While the Red Coach did not feature a cozy English taproom due to National Prohibition, the decor gave vent in other ways to the English hostelry of fervent American imagination.

From the article:

Mounting a circular staircase to the second floor the guest is ushered into a most inviting parlor off which there is a ladies’ retiring room. The furnishing of this suite of reception rooms is rich and striking, the lounges and chairs being in quaint old fashioned chintz, the walls in panels delicately tinted in soft, harmonious colors. The same holds true in the guest chambers throughout the inn. The walls are adorned with rare old English prints.

On this floor is the French dining salon which is a dream of quiet refinement. The color motif on walls, panels and ceilings is French grey, the hangings in chintz and the tables and chairs in old colonial style. The china and silverware were made expressly for this establishment, all china having a picture of the coach and four with the words “Red Coach Inn”. The silverware, as well as the blankets, spreads, towelling, bed and table linen, have the monogram of the inn marked on them. The bedrooms are designed to furnish every comfort to the guest. The furniture is actually sumptuous. The beds in single and double are in Tiffany bronze effect with rich floral ornamentations. The dressers and other appointments are of like character.

The writing mingles ideas of genteel English living with a romanticized Colonial period. All is suggestive of a fixed order, serenity, and timeless beauty.

A Red Coach Inn had existed in Niagara Falls in the early 1800s, when coaching inns were vital to American life. Building a new one drew on local history to boot – a win-win-win for the developer.

Building and decorative styles of recognized authority convey gravitas, and status. In a later period Victoriana was adapted to similar effect (in Britain too), the sooty patina left behind.

 

 

In 1930s America the English inn or tavern idea gained increased favour with many new, or renovated, restaurants, bars, and hotels. This appealed to the upwardly mobile and extracted lucre from their deepening pocketbooks.

Everybody Was Happy – in the strata of society not riven by depression of course, or otherwise excluded from mainstream life.

With repeal of Prohibition in 1933 the Red Coach Inn could now serve liquor. The hotel went from strength to strength, assisted by the world reputation of Niagara Falls as a holiday destination.

And so the same hotel thrives today. Pictured are two images from its website.

The Gazette noted that the hotel’s manager, who had worked at the Kaltenbach, had many friends in Toronto and anticipated their patronage anew. Perhaps a further clue why a British-inspired design was favoured.

In America then and until recently “Canada” connoted the idea of “British”, except for the Quebec part.

World War I made German motifs unfashionable, and Art Deco was yet to make an impact. A British scheme struck the right chords for a new hotel in The Honeymoon Capital of the World.

By now, the historic enmity to John Bull deriving from the American Revolution had subsided. Britain stood, or again, as a social and cutural model for aspirant Americans.

August Janssen, a German-American restaurateur who owned the famed Hofbrau Haus in Manhattan, capitalized on this appeal in 1939. He created an “old English tavern” as sister establishment for his baronial Germanic restaurant.

It is easy to imagine he anticipated resentment deepening in New York against things German, and sought a hedge for his business. More on him soon.

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