The Sippican Hotel was 'the most famous hotel on the Atlantic Coast'

By Mary Macedo | Aug 04, 2017
Courtesy of: New Bedford Whaling Museum A postcard showing the former Sippican Hotel in Marion.

Marion — Presidents Grover Cleveland and Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent time there. So did silver screen star Ethel Barrymore.

“In its heyday, it was the most famous hotel on the Atlantic coast,” said historian David Pierce.

You might think such a place would be located on Long Island or in Boston, but it was in Marion Village -- at the intersection of South and Water streets. Marion was a playground of the rich and famous during the 20th century -- and the Sippican Hotel was the central point of the wealth and social status.

Pierce, vice president of the Sippican Historical Society, spoke of the hotel's rich history during an August 3 lecture at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

In 1794, Pierce said, resident Timothy Hiller built a two-story townhouse that evolved into the Sippican Hotel. In 1864, a third floor was added and it was named the Bay View House. It was in 1882, when an additional wing was built, that the Sippican Hotel was officially created and named.

By that time, Marion as a resort town was in its prime. It was “one of the one the best summer resort towns on the Atlantic,” said Pierce, and the haunt of several famous artists, writers and politicians, who summered in town with friends and family.

By 1907, a fourth floor was added to the hotel to create a maximum limit of 200 guests. The building was crowded with elegant men and women during the summer months and well into October, Pierce noted. The guests reclined on wicker furniture or visited the nearby Sippican Hotel Casino for dancing and tennis.

Wealthy artists, actors, politicians and businessmen were the bulk of the hotel’s clientele. The going rate of the hotel was $2 a day, said Pierce.

“It was quite expensive for people back in those days!” he said.

The mechanics of the hotel were somewhat astounding, according to Pierce. Flipping through pictures which displayed the modern appearance of the hotel lot — now occupied by a single house — Pierce wondered how the hotel's owners had fit such a large building into such a small area.

A comparison of the fully built Sippican Hotel to the present house left the audience audibly shocked.

"How did it fit in those property lines?” Pierce mused. "It's a mystery!"

The hotel remained a top destination through much of the early 1900s, but by the 1920s, the winds of change were blowing in Marion.

In 1929, when Marion was beginning to drop down the social radar, a Boston syndicate decided to buy the Sippican Hotel and develop the land into house lots. The building was torn down later that year.

Next to nothing of the grand old building remains. “Other than a few old artifacts,” Pierce said, the only remnant is a “Sippican Hotel” sign that hung from the porch. The sign is currently in private hands.

With details about the heyday lacking, Pierce said: "The history and old photographs of the Sippican Hotel are the only means to look back on such a thriving time for the Town of Marion."

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