Great Northern Hotel Couch
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
Is it a sofa, couch or settee? I’m going to call it a couch or as the donor described it, a “box couch.” It’s a beautiful piece of furniture approximately seven feet long, four feet high, upholstered with a dark reddish-purple velvet and dark decorative carved wood arms. The seat is low, perfect for the well-dressed early 1900’s lady to sit on the edge, ankles crossed while sipping tea and having conversation with friends.
This “box couch” is from the Great Northern Hotel lobby and came to the Arthur Allen family in 1961 during the auction/sale of hotel furnishings just before the “Little Palace in the Woods” was torn down. The couch recently was donated to the museum.
The museum has one early photo showing the hotel lobby (registration desk, several large columns, spittoon, tin ceiling) and in the corner, near the registration desk you can see a young boy sitting on the couch!! The photo is from a cyanotype, an early 1900’s photographic process that resulted in a blue photo on very thin paper. Other museum cyanotypes that may be GN hotel interior photos are of a barber shop, a kitchen scene and a bedroom.
The Laverty book describes many features of the hotel. She spent her early years living in the neighborhood of the hotel in the Cody/Dr. Bryant house and at #4 Hill Street. The hotel interior “exuded elegance, from its polished brass spittoons by the chairs in the lobby, to the broad, waxed leaves of the potted rubber plant in the Ladies’ Parlor. The hotel had a billiard room, and bar, sample rooms and writing rooms, a barbershop and a baggage elevator (the only elevator in town outside the mill), and three large fireplaces.” The fireplaces were of red brick, egg and dart design, and were made to hold four-foot wood.
A lavish structure for its time, by the middle of the 1900’s there were questions as to its safety (a thorough fire inspection was done and some alterations made), but finally the decision was made to tear down the hotel. Its contents went on the auction block, and in the summer of 1961, The Little Palace in the Woods was gone.
Some pieces other than the couch can be found at the museum (from various local donors who acquired them via the auction or other means). The museum has several small blue and white dishes, a short white container with a green pattern (perhaps to hold flowers), a clear glass carafe and a dining room menu. There is also a framed oil painting by artist Nick Paola that supposedly hung in the hotel lobby and a portable Singer sewing machine. The sewing machine has a wooden cover and was used to mend the hotel linens! The items will soon be featured in an exhibit.
Did someone in your family acquire an item from the hotel? If so, let us know & perhaps consider loaning or donating it to the museum. Are there other photos of the interior? Visit the museum to share your memories of the hotel (or email to MHS) and we will transcribe and preserve your stories!