Today we take a look at the long and fascinating history of perhaps the greatest landmark (besides the State House) in Concord, New Hampshire–The Eagle Hotel:
For a century and a half, the Eagle Hotel at 110 North Main Street, across from the State House has been an intrinsic part of the history and distinctive architecture of the capital city of New Hampshire.
The building is so situated that it forms an imposing part of the square framed by the State House complex. For years the Eagle Hotel, so conveniently located, was a hotel for those engaged in commerce, industry, and the political process, and was a center for business and social exchange. Legislators and travelers alike found “Concord’s Palatial Hotel – The Eagle” to be well arranged and appointed, as the Abbott-Downing “Concord coaches” drew up to the curb to transport distinguished guests from all parts of the country.
As a familiar landmark to Concord and other citizens of the Granite State, as well as to visitors touring New Hampshire, for many generations this building has added a distinctive character to the historic area of Main Street. The Eagle Hotel fits harmoniously with the remaining examples of handsome, prosperous, artistically detailed 19th century mercantile buildings in the center of New Hampshire’s capital.
Moreover, the Eagle Hotel’s location associates it irrevocably and nostalgically with the traditions and the political life of the State House. There is a long-standing relationship between these two sturdy, symmetrical buildings that overlook each other and the people who have traveled between them for generations. Such a historical and substantial relationship represents enduring human qualities. “The landmarks of any place are its public buildings” and as such the Eagle Hotel, by its public use through the years and association with the State House, merits preservation and continued use.
Loss of this building (rumors of razing it since 1960 again are prevalent) would seriously alter Concord’s State House area to impair the historic appearance of the capital city’s “city proper” Main Street.
In “A Capital for New Hampshire”, Grace Page Amsden records, “With growth in business and increase in stage travel a public house was needed and in 1827, William Richardson undertook the enterprise, choosing for a site the south end of the Stickney farm. There, directly opposite the State House, he built a two-story structure of wood which was painted white with green blinds. Appropriately enough, it was named for the proud bird perched upon the State House dome – the Eagle Coffee House.
Enlarged in 1832, with an ell added for the Grecian Hall, the Eagle Coffee House was destroyed by fire August 25, 1851, then rebuilt on the same site as the Eagle Hotel. Nathaniel White enlarged and renovated “The Eagle” in 1872; with extensive remodeling undertaken in 1890 by the Eagle Hotel Company as the new owners. In a page 1 account of the “alterations and improvements” the “Concord Evening Monitor” on January 31, 1890, stated in part:
“The addition of a story to the main house has been taken advantage of by the architect to improve the appearance of the Main Street front. Trimmings of granite will be used liberally, and according to designs which ensure artistic results. The name of the hotel in granite will have a conspicuous place in the handsome ornamentation . . .”
All changes in ownership or appearance of “The Eagle” and various other events have been well documented through the years by the “Concord Monitor” and other newspapers. Detailed accounts reflect a proprietary pride in whatever was happening at the Eagle Hotel, with a continuous focus for New Hampshire citizens on the current political and social events of state and national importance occurring at “The Eagle” . . . a sumptuous banquet menu was printed in full for President Bengamin Harrison’s visit on August 15, 1889. Then again the next year on October 23, 1890, the “Concord Evening Monitor’s” headline featured “DEDICATION OF GENERAL JOHN STARK STATUE/Banquet at The Eagle”, with listings of the menu’s viands.
Many of the nation’s leading citizens have enjoyed the Eagle Hotel’s hospitality and elegant facilities. “The Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader” on August 29, 1959 featured other presidential visits to The Eagle, here briefly listed:
President Andrew Jackson, Friday, June 28, 1833, “He was escorted to his lodging at the Eagle Coffee House by eight brilliant independent companies under command of Colonel Stephen Peabody.”
President James K. Polk, July 1, 1847, accompanied by Secretary of State James Buchanan.
President U. S. Grant, August 25, 1869.
President Rutherford B. Hayes, August 22, 1877, his wife, Vice President Wheeler, and several distinguished gentlemen of his cabinet, met by Governor Prescott and others, escorted to the Eagle Hotel by local military companies, the fire department in a procession in charge of General J. N. Peterson. A banquet of many courses was served at 2:10 pm.
General Franklin Pierce spent his last night in Concord at the Eagle Hotel, occupying rooms since known as Room One and Room Two, before leaving for his inauguration as President. A pen and ink sketch appearing in the “Illustrated News”, New York, February 26, 1853, shows General Pierce leaving Concord. The accompanying article states in part:
“This sketch comprises, besides the new Eagle Hotel, several of the most prominent buildings on Main Street, in Concord, in the immediate vicinity of the State House . . . . The stand is well known to travelers for the last fifty years . . . . The old eagle was a favorite resort for travelers, especially for pleasure pilgrims to the White Mountains during the summer season. Recently the new house has acquired a great popularity with pilgrim politicians from all parts of the Union. It has been the chief bazaar in the ‘modern Mecca’”.
Other personages who have come to New Hampshire and been guests at the Eagle Hotel can be listed in part, as follows:
General Sam Houston, Levi P. Morton, Senator Jefferson Davis, A. D. Bache, Major General John E. Wool, Charles E. Lindbergh, Chief Justice and Mrs. Charles Evans Hughes, Eleanor Roosevelt, Wendell Wilkie, Governor Thomas E. Dewey, Governor Harold Stassen, Senator Estes Kefauver, Senator Robert Taft, Secretary of State Christian Herter, Vice President Richard Nixon
Many other political figures, including New Hampshire’s Senators, Congressmen, and Governors have been entertained at the Eagle.
Quotes from the column “Sights, Sounds and People” printed in the “Manchester (N. H.) Union Leader” and written by Mary Senior Brown, a member fo the General Court of New Hampshire, speak eloquently of the Eagle Hotel’s significance as a historic landmark to the people of New Hampshire and travelers as well.
August 8, 1959: “Among the hostelries of early stage coach days, none is better known in this section than the Eagle Hotel, generally referred to as The Eagle.
For over 132 years it has stood facing the State House across the Plaza on the opposite side of Main Street in Concord. This old landmark has become as well known to politicians in New Hampshire and travelers from all parts of the nation as the Capitol itself.
Built in 1827, the first building was called the Eagle Coffee House. It is probably that it took its name from the huge gold painted wooden eagle which was raised to the top of the State House dome in 1818 . . . .
In 1829 a coach parade and stagemen’s Ball was held in the Grecian Hall by ‘Knights of the Whip’ and then held each winter.
June 29, 1963: “My first session was in 1959 of the General Court. Those were the days when the Eagle Hotel was still open and several of the legislators lived there during the session . . . . They took much of the hospitable atmosphere off the Main Street in Concord when they sold The Eagle (in fact they also ruined it when they painted it white) . . . .”
After the closing of the hotel, Mrs. Brown wrote in her column on February 25, 1961:
“The Eagle Hotel closed! No, it just can’t be possible! I can’t imagine going to Concord and not being able to go into The Eagle. It was the first place I stayed overnight when I came to New Hampshire to live. It is almost as much a part of the history of New Hampshire as the State House itself which stands just across the street . . . .”
The October 29, 1959 “Monitor” had announced the Capital Plaza Hotel Corporation as the new owners of The Eagle Hotel. In that same issue Leon Anderson, author of “The State Is My Beat”, mentioned in his column:
“. . . . the chicken coop white the new owners have been daubing on the venerable Eagle Hotel. But maybe it will come out all right after all, with 450 handsome blinds planned for the structure. They should decorate the ancient hostelry and continue the building in rank as one of Concord’s attractive landmarks”.
A “grand reopening” advertised the renowned tradition of service at the Eagle “now completely and lavishly refurbished . . . .”
However, even new décor did not offset competition from modern highway motels and on February 18, 1961 the “Manchester (N. H.) Union Leader” appeared with this headline: EAGLE HOTEL FORCED TO CLOSE/FILE Petition in Bankruptcy. The lead sentence was, “The Eagle Hotel, long a storied landmark in New Hampshire was in darkness last night”. A $290,375 indebtedness forced the closing.
Carl Irving Bell wrote in his March 1, 1961 column in the “Concord Monitor and N.H. Patriot”, as follows:
“Will the Eagle Hotel once again fulfill the function of bedroom, den, and dining room to the Legislature? You can tear down a railroad station without too many pangs because it was built within the span of people now living. But to vacate the old Eagle Coffee House, scene of almost as much history as the State House building across the street seems like cutting down the old family tree. Disposition of the property of course rests in the bankruptcy proceedings. Many would like to see the old hostelry, so recently refurbished, fill out a second century of service. . . .”
After various accounts of auction and sale, the “Monitor-Patriot” announced, on Monday, May 15, 1961, “The Eagle Hotel, a state landmark which went bankrupt last February will open about June 1 as a convalescent center . . . .”
The last chapter in the life of the Eagle Hotel began with this account published in the “New Hampshire Sunday News” on May 14, 1961, excerpted as follows:
“THE EAGLE” TO BECOME A DELUXE REST HOME “The Eagle Hotel, long a storied and political landmark in New Hampshire will reopen its doors early in June as America’s ‘most modern convalescent home’. The 123 year old hostelry, which was closed in February when its former owner went into bankruptcy, has been purchased by Dr. Michael M. Michaels, a Manchester surgeon and Andrew W. Janis, a Queen City businessman . . . . The Eagle, considered one of the most modern hotels in the state when it was shut down three months ago would cost an estimated $3,000,000 to rebuild from the bottom up, Janis said. The Eagle has a colorful history that was set down in that portion of Winston Churchill’s novel ‘Coniston’ devoted to ‘The Pelican House’.”
Unfortunately, success did not materialize in the rest home venture and the last patients moved elsewhere in 1976. Since then, the landmark Eagle Hotel has remained empty and in darkness.
Many people regret the loss of the Eagle Hotel as a convenient place for gatherings with its pleasant dining room, its proximity to the State House and Main Street places of business.
Many people are concerned with the preservation of the Eagle Hotel building even more, because of its historic significance as a part of the Concord skyline and life of the capital city.
To have this building revitalized in some useful way and preserved as part of Concord’s vintage architecture is the great hope of people who care about what happens to “The Eagle”.
This building has far-reaching symbolic significance, indefinable but very real.
Source: National Register of Historic Places
Fortunately, as shown in the picture above, the Eagle Hotel building still stands, but it is no longer a hotel. Until recently it was the offices of a major law firm although they have moved and the space is now currently up for rent–you can view the marketing flyer here (pdf).