The Sippican Hotel At the turn of the past century, the intersection of Water and South streets formed thesocial epicenter of summer life in Marion Village. There stood the elegant SippicanHotel, and across the street, its Casino. Well-known up and down the Northeasternseaboard, the Sippican catered to an elite clientele—including politicos, literati, andvisiting business magnates sizing up Marion as their permanent summer residence—serving them with an array of the most modern amenities. Patrons of the hotel over theyears included the writer Henry James; actors John Drew, Maude Adams, and EthelBarrymore; Bishop Philip Brooks; President and Mrs. Cleveland; illustrator Charles DanaGibson; Senator Jonathan Bourne; poet and magazine editor Richard Watson Gilder;novelist and poet Margaret DeLand; and journalist and playwright Richard HardingDavis.Gaslights and then electricity came first to the Sippican Hotel, as well as Marionsearliest telephone service. The Casino was their base for boating, canoeing, andwaterside activities of all sorts—as well as tennis, ice cream, and dancing in theevenings. Guests could, of course, get a shave and haircut, as well as an excellent cigar,in the Casino barbershop. The hotel and casino exemplified Gilded Age leisure living atits zenith. On a more modest scale, today the Beverly Yacht Club keeps up the traditionof recreation and social activity at the same intersection.
What eventually evolved into the luxurious Sippican Hotel began as amodest two-story farmhouse, built by Timothy Hiller in 1794. In 1864,Joseph Snow Luce converted it for use as a hotel, known as the Bay ViewHouse (shown here), and added the third floor. Designed by Mattapoisettarchitect Samuel K. Eaton, the addition is in the Second-Empire style.
An early ad for the SippicanHotel, featuring its famousmantel, original to the 1794building. The wall above themantel was ornamented withscallop and other varieties ofshells, with a huge black horseshoe crab in the center. Winkleshells were built into thefireplace with the bricks andwith glass disks.
Engraving of the Bay View House, on the corner of South Street and Harbor Lane (nowknown as Water Street). In 1882, the Sippican Hotel was added to the Harbor Laneside and the Sippican Hotel Casino for dances and tennis was added across the streeton the harbor.
This view of the Hotel Sippican, at the foot of South Street facing Water Street (itsname was changed from Harbor Lane in 1894), dates from about 1910. It clearlyshows the hotels original building and two distinct additions. By the mid-1880s—theheight of Marions popularity as a summer resort town—the hotel was being operatedby Charles W. Ripley. Mr. Ripley expanded the hotel by adding the three-story centersection seen here. In 1907, a four-story Colonial Revival wing was added, creating a T-shaped floor plan.
This notice featured revisedMassachusetts laws concerninginnkeepers’ obligations, and wasrequired to be posted “in aconspicuous place in each room”.
These view shows the corner of South Street and Harbor Lane, where the hotel waslocated.
This view shows the piazza of the central section, facing onto Sippican Harbor. Summervisitors to Marion arrived on five daily trains (plus the private, members-only "dude"train).
A view of Water Street looking north toward the Casino, on the right side of the street.The Sippican Hotel is hidden by trees on the left. The Casino, built by C.W. Ripley, wasthe social hub for hotel-sponsored events and private gatherings. In 1910, about thetime of this photo, a windmill is visible at center.
Note this postcard’s misspelling of the hotel’s name as Scippican. The hotel couldaccommodate I50-200 guests along with their service staffs, dogs, horses, andcarriages. Some even shipped pianos to the hotel for the season. Horses and liverywere boarded at Hillers Stable on Front Street. The rooms in the earlier wings haddouble beds and many boasted fireplaces, but no private baths. The four-story additionwas arranged in suites consisting of parlor, bedroom, and private bath. All rooms on theupper floors throughout had a standard feature: a stout rope knotted to a bolt in thefloor, to be used as a means of emergency exit in the case of fire.
This trifold advertising postcard datesfrom 1909. Produced by C.W. Ripley,it announces the summer opening onMay 29th, the season-long calendarof activities, and touts HillersSippican Garage as the place forcompetent auto repair. A tipped-onmenu advertises the hotels chickendinner special—ready in under 30minutes. Nine years later, in 1918,Harry T. Miller used a very similaradvertising trifold card to promotehis recent acquisition. The photos inthe two trifold cards are different,but the verbiage is virtually identicalin both.
This seaward view of the Sippican Casino was taken from one of the upper floors ofthe hotel. Built as part of the 1885 expansion, the Casino quickly became the socialcenter for Marions entire summer colony. Summer residents paid a season-longsubscription fee to use the Casino; hotel guests gained free access. Day trippers couldtake the trolley to the stop at Spring and Main streets, walk the short distance to thehotel for dinner, then cross the street to the Casino for dancing. The Casino ballroomhosted regularly scheduled dances throughout the summer season on Wednesdayevenings for teenagers and Saturday nights for adults. Interesting, too, is what appearto be stacks of wood on Shermans Wharf at left. Both Marion and Rochester wereshippers of box boards and cordwood to the islands off Cape Cod.
A scene of water sports on the harbor, this one sponsored by the Sippican Hotel in themid-1910s. In the annual tub races, youngsters each boarded a half barrel and usedtheir arms to propel their crafts through the designated course. The winner wasawarded an inscribed loving cup trophy. The 1916 winners cup is in the SippicanHistorical Society Museum. Many spectators have taken to the water in the hotelssquadron of canoes to get closer to the excitement.
A view of the Casino from the water, with its squadron of catboats and canoes readyfor the enjoyment of guests of The Sippican Hotel, visible just across Water Street atrear.
A view of the Casinos wrap-around second-story veranda from the harbor. No oceanbreeze went unenjoyed from this vantage! During Harry T. Millers period ofownership, the Casino gained an oceanfront tennis court, sometime in the 1910decade. To the right of the Casino, the Townsend/Davis cottage is visible.
Celebratory guests are pictured in front of the Hotel Casino. The ground floor of theCasino contained about 30 cabanas for bathers and a storeroom. The grand staircaseleading up to the second-floor ballroom was flanked by a soda fountain and candyconcession. The ballroom was surrounded by wide verandas on three of the seawardsides. The inland side, facing Harbor Lane, held a barber shop and pool room.
This menu from May 4th, 1899features the dining room’s lovelyselection of gourmet offerings.
In addition to catering to itshotel guests, the dining roomhosted functions for outsideorganizations. This image showsthe cover of the program forNew Bedford High School’s 1905Commencement Banquet. Theprogram featured the curiousbenediction, While God shallgive us strength to eat, we’ll go‘where honor leads’.
In the lower half of this map, theSippican Hotel and Casino’slocation can be viewed in relationto the rest of the Wharf Villagearea.
Charles Ripleys 34 years ofproprietorship ended in 1916,when Harry T.Miller took over. This Harper’sMagazine advertisement datesfrom the time ofMr. Miller’s proprietorship.
Another advertisement for thehotel, this one prominentlyfeaturing itsbeautiful location on BuzzardsBay.
Supplies for the hotel were transported locally by horse and carriage, suchas this.
By 1920, the hotel was under the management of Charles W. Kokerda, who operatedit until its closing in 1929. This view of the parlor shows the tasteful wickerappointments that among many other amenities made the Sippican one of the mostfashionable resort hotels on the Northeastern seaboard.
This view of the Sippican’s dining room was clearly produced after electricity came toMarion in 1910, during the 1916-20 period when Harry T. Miller was the owner.Howard B. Hiller recalled his boyhood jobs as telegram deliveryman and bellman atthe hotel. In that pre-telephone era, the hotel office in the central wing had atelegraph key, and messages received there would be delivered within the Village bybicycle or pony (25 cents) or as far as Converse Road for 50 cents. Delivery by flat-bottomed sailboat to the east side of the harbor cost 75 cents, and the tariff was onedollar for deliveries to Blankenships Cove. The only telephone line in the Village atthat time connected the hotel with Hillers livery stable and garage.
This 1930 article from the New Bedford Times describes how the hotel, bought by aBoston “syndicate” in 1929, was slated for partial demolition. According to plans, the1885 addition was to be torn down, and the original building would be restored foruse as a tavern.
This photograph features a relatively rare and comprehensive view of the Hotel andCasino from the water.
This stock certificate for the Sippican was issued to Marion’s most famous artist, CecilClark Davis.
Gold handle of cane presentedto Sippican Hotel proprietorC.W. Ripley. Inscription reads,“Presented to C.W. Ripley inrecognition of esteemedfavors received by friends ofMarion, Mass. Sept. 12, 1903.”
Trophy cup awarded to the 1stplace winner of the SippicanHotel and Casino’s annual tubrace in 1916.
Trophy cup awarded to therunner-up of The SippicanHotel Employees TennisTournament in 1929, thehotel’s final year of operation.
THANK YOUPlease stop by and visit some time. . . www.sippicanhistoricalsociety.org The Sippican Historical Society Marion, MA