Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dubuque Hotels: Exemplars of Antebellum Elegance

HotelA thoughtful patron stopped by the Information Desk last week and shared a historical tidbit of interest about Dubuque, mentioned in a book she had just read: Hotel: An American History by A. K. Sandoval-Strausz (Yale University Press, 2007), call # 646.94 SAN.

The author documents the role of hotels as propagators of material culture, amplified by traveling guests who carried new ideas over the distances they traveled. He notes that hotels served as leading exemplars for household decoration, furniture, and technology. Here's an excerpt from pages 246 to 247, with emphasis on Dubuque added by us:
In antebellum Iowa and Illinois, for example, wealthy families began to furnish their parlors in a new and more elegant style, purchasing expensive carpets and carefully crafted furniture, marble ornaments and mantelpieces, mirrors, curtains, and even gas-lit chandeliers. The inspiration for these purchases involved two hotels frequented by Midwestern wayfarers. The first was the Planters Hotel in St. Louis, the d├ęcor of which was copied by hotels constructed in the towns of Galena, Davenport, Quincy, and Dubuque in the 1840s and 1850s. The second was New York City’s St. Nicholas Hotel, whose opulent parlors were particularly popular among the first families of Dubuque. The parlors of private homes in the river towns of the Midwest were thus part of networks of metropolitan aspiration that extended across distances of more than a thousand miles.

Thank you, dear patron, for thinking to keep us informed about Dubuque history!

~ Mirdza, Adult Services

No comments:

Post a Comment