The Great Northern Hotel
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
“Dear Auntie, There is no paper in my room. Very glad to get your short letter tonight. Thought I would not have my mail sent to the hotel but paid 15 cents for a box. Got a letter in my box the first day then for three days nothing, tonight had several when. I asked for general delivery. Think I shall live at the hotel here which is very comfortable indeed. Rates are two and a half for transients but anywhere from five to eight a week depending on whether you are married or not, whether you expect to stay all winter but mostly on how much you can afford. At present I expect to pay $7.50. Later I shall ask for a lower rate. Fresh towels every day, electric lights, no one else to use the bath in the morning etc. The view from the window is fine. Aff. Yours, Tom”
A copy of an index card with the above message along with many letters were donated to the museum a fewl years ago. The card postmarked August 8, 1903 and mailed from a Millinocket man to a relative tells of living at the Great Northern Hotel. The hotel (site where the library and Episcopal Church now sit) was erected in 1899. Built for the company, it was needed to house top level company officials, most of whom did not live here. Large homes on Highland Ave. & Maine Ave. were built by important but lower-level executives. Others who stayed at the hotel were technical experts, engineers, reps from industrial companies and drummers (traveling salesmen).
The hotel, built by Shine and Curren, was begun in 1899 and cost $40,000. The hotel had three stories, a tower, bays, long verandas and a porte-cochere (grand main entrance doorway with a covered structure allowing a horse and carriage or auto to drop off occupants protected from the elements). It was completed in 1900.
The hotel was elegant. Brass spittoons were near chairs in the lobby. There was a billiard room and bar and writing rooms (perhaps the above card was written in one). The hotel boasted a barbershop, a baggage elevator and three large fireplaces.
The big dining salon was the scene of many events in town. A 1920’s news article tells that the chef for a Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting “endeavored to outdo his previous culinary efforts.” He served a menu of clam chowder, roast turkey with mashed potato, green peas and cranberry sauce, Waldorf salad, ice cream, cake and coffee. After the meal, wives of the Chamber men retired to the Ladies’ Parlor while the men “wrestled with the weighty problems of business.” On ordinary days, two sittings were needed for dinner at the hotel for staying guests.
Shortly after opening, the fifty-two rooms were in constant use. Each had a brass bed, a white bedspread, red wool blankets and a coil of rope on a shelf by the window. If you guessed the rope was the fire escape, you were correct!
There is much more history connected to the GN hotel. Its time ended in 1961 when the structure was torn down.