1. Hotel History: The Chalfonte Hotel (1876), Cape May, New Jersey (70 rooms)
The Chalfonte Hotel, built in 1876 by Civil War Union Army Colonel Henry Sawyer, was originally planned as a boarding house. Sawyer came to Cape May in 1848 and when the Civil War began, enlisted in the 25thPennsylvania Volunteer Infantry where he served for three months. He then enlisted with the First Regiment Cavalry, the New Jersey Volunteers. After fierce fighting, Sawyer, then a captain, was captured by the Confederate Army in June 1863 at the Battle of Brandy in Virginia and incarcerated at the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond. After his wife's plea to President Lincoln, Sawyer was swapped for W.F. Fitzhugh Lee, the son of General Robert E. Lee. Sawyer resumed active duty and, when the war ended, returned to Cape May.
In 1867, Henry Sawyer became proprietor of the Ocean House in Cape May and then, in 1873, the manager of the new Clayton House in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1876, he opened the newly-constructed Chalfonte and, when a city-wide fire destroyed 2,000 hotel rooms, Sawyer added a 100-foot long wing containing a dining room, a two-story colonnade and nineteen guestrooms.
After thirteen years of ownership, Sawyer sold the Chalfonte in 1889. The new owners added more rooms bringing the total to 75. But by the 1890s, the hotel suffered through the Panic of 1893, six owners and a couple of sheriff sales. Nevertheless, a southerner named Susie Satterfield fell in love with the lace woodwork, wide verandas, shutters and louvers, fireplaces, music room, library and tall columns. She and her husband, Calvin Satterfield, bought the Chalfonte from Hannah Cresse and reopened it in 1911. The Satterfields operated the Chalfonte with punctuality, manners, a sense of humor and tight-fisted management. They imported staff from Virginia and North Carolina and transformed the Chalfonte, built by a northern Civil War hero, into a retreat of southern hospitality. Susie had a very strong personality. She was petite, strong and possessed a good sense of humor. She and Calvin had a comedy routine that was hilarious. During the Depression years, Susie saved the Chalfonte from foreclosure so that her son, Calvin Jr. and his wife Meenie continued to own and operate the Chalfonte. Susie Satterfield died in Richmond on December 26, 1939 after twenty-eight years as major domo of the Chalfonte. Meenie Satterfield and her head housekeeper, Martha Nash, ran the hotel for an additional 40 years.
After seventy years of ownership by the Satterfield family, the Chalfonte almost faced demolition but was saved by Anne Le Duc and Judy Bartella who had helped manage the hotel for more than a decade.
Over its lifetime, the hotel has had four owners-Henry Sawyer, the Satterfield family and Anne Le Duc and Judy Bartella, who owned and operated the hotel for 30 years during which their efforts to preserve the building included a partnership with the University of Maryland. In the summer of 2008, the Chalfonte was purchased by Robert and Linda Mullock and family: Cynthia, Zack, Dillon and Ellie.
The historic Chalfonte Hotel is recognized as the oldest continuously-operated hotel in Cape May which is New Jersey's southernmost point, below the Mason-Dixon line and running parallel with Washington, D.C. The Cape is named after Cornelius Jacobsen May who performed the first extensive exploration of the area in 1621. Cape May contains one of the country's leading collection of Victorian architecture -600 gingerbread-style homes clustered within a two-mile radius. It is also known as a premier locale for bird watchers who can observe nearly 50 species of birds. From Cape May Point State Park or from the 180-acre Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, bird watchers can see birds of prey such as hawks and falcons and such exotic species as the black skinner and piping plover.
Before acquiring the Chalfonte Hotel. Bob and Linda Mullock purchased the old Southern Inn in the early 1980s and converted it to the Victorian Rose Bed & Breakfast. In 1988, Bob Mullock purchased a 150-acre farm just outside of Cape May and with golf architect Karl Litten created the Cape May National Golf Course in 1991.
The Chalfonte Mullock Mission is a family venture with divided managerial responsibilities. After an extensive renovation in 2009, the 70 guestrooms have beautiful new bathrooms, wireless Internet access, louvered doors that welcome fresh sea breezes. The rooms are television, radio and telephone-free. The nationally-acclaimed Magnolia Room Restaurant features fried chicken, crab cakes, hand-risen rolls, corn pudding, spoon bread, blueberry cobbler, lemon meringue pie and other Southern favorites.
The Chalfonte Hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
*Excerpted and expanded from “Built To Last: 100+Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi”.
2. Available Now: “Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry”
In his Foreword, Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director of Historic Hotels of America describes my new book:
“If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”
Those seventeen great hotel innovators are:
Stewart Bainum, Sr., Curtis L. Carlson, Cecil B. Day, Louis J. Dinkler, Eugene C. Eppley, Roy C. Kelley, Arnold S. Kirkeby, Julius Manger, Robert R. Meyer, Albert Pick, Jr., Jay Pritzker, Harris Rosen, Ian Schrager, Vernon B. Stouffer, William C. Van Horne, Robert E. Woolley and Stephen A. Wynn.
If you want to order an autographed hardcover copy (with dust jacket), send a check for $43.00 to:
147-03 Jewel Avenue
Flushing, N.Y. 11367
Be sure to include your mailing address.
About Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2015 and the 2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.
Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, providing asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, BlueMauMau, HotelNewsResource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (“Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry” and “Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi”). A third hotel book (“Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York”) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by the New York Times: “Nostalgia for the City’s caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel’s... fact-filled... “Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf”.
All of these books can be ordered from the publisher by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com.
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