The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Seventy-Eight

August 1-8, 1918

“Left Long Pond in motor at 8:45 a.m. Lunched at the Crown Hotel. Little Langdon Geer and I ran to Branford and spent the night at the Montowese House Hotel. Beautifully situated, plain and inexpensive. Full of rather common people and hundreds of children. All extremely respectable.” Oh boy, hopefully, Kate Roosevelt’s comment was left to the discretion of her diary. Saying that the hotel’s clientele was top-heavy with members of the “lower crust,” as opposed to Kate’s class known as the “upper crust” seemed a bit unkind.

Montowese House Hotel Aerial View

The Montowese Hotel, located on Linden Avenue in the Branford section of New Haven, Connecticut. Situated on the Long Island Sound, it was known as the “Queen of the Sound.” Built in 1866, just before the Civil War reached its peak, by William Bryan it was the oldest and largest resort on the Long Island Sound. In its heyday, it could accommodate 250 guests. It was run for 96 years by generations of the Bryan Family until it was closed and torn down in 1965. The popular hostelry offered boating, swimming, horseback riding, tennis, water skiing. relaxation, dancing and fabulous food all at the fair price. A 1915 advertisement noted that a night’s stay could be reserved for $2.50. It was only opened during the summer months.

Samuel Clemens better known as Mark Twain

Now that I knew the history of this historic and well-appointed hotel that fronted the Long Island Sound on a spot called Indian Neck, I was interested in one of its most famous guests and was wondering if Kate Roosevelt had included the novelist, Mark Twain, in her definition of a “commoner.” The Montowese Hotel was Twain’s favorite vacation spot. Traveling from his sprawling 25-room mansion in Hartford, Twain looked to the Montowese for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut

After reading up on Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, I had a hint as to why Kate Roosevelt might have included him as a member of the lower class. Even though he died in 1910, eight years before Kate’s recorded visit, throughout the years, she had been a guest there many times and quite possibly had made Mr. Clemens’ acquaintance on several of them. The Montowese Hotel was one of her scheduled stops on her way home to New York City after visiting her sister, Anna Davis, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The trip from Branford to New York City took four hours and fifteen minutes by car in 1918. “Left Montowese Hotel at 10 a.m. and arrived at 35 East 30th Street at 2:15 p.m.”

Theodore Roosevelt in His Younger Days

Mark Twain had a strong dislike for Kate’s cousin, Theodore. America’s greatest humorist had a low opinion of one of America’s greatest presidents. Polls still list Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, in the top five percent.

In 1906, Mark Twain wrote about the then president, Theodore Roosevelt, “He was far and away the worst president we have ever had.” It was quite a controversial statement to make about the immensely popular occupant of the White House. The writer’s dissent was questionable because, like Roosevelt, he was a progressive and a Republican, but that did not allay his antagonism. His distaste was palpable when he wrote, “It would grieve me deeply to be obliged to believe that any very large number of sane and thinking and intelligent Republicans privately admire Mr. Roosevelt and do not despise him.”

The Battle of San Juan Hill

Twain suspected Roosevelt’s real motives for charging San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War and continued on with his tirade in 1909 when he said, “Mr. Roosevelt is the Tom Sawyer of the political world of the twentieth century, always showing off, always hunting for a chance to show off. In his frenzied imagination the Great Republic is a vast Barnum Circus with him for a clown and the whole world an audience. He would go to Halifax for a half chance to show off and he would go to hell for a whole one.”

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
Montowese House Hotel
Postcard

Photo Two:
Montowese House Hotel Aerial View
Postcard

Photo Three:
Samuel Clemens better known as Mark Twain
wiki

Photo Four:
Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut
wiki

Photo Five:
Theodore Roosevelt in His Younger Days
Library of Congress

Photo Six:
The Battle of San Juan Hill
Library of Congress