2015-02-26 / Columnists

BYE Gone daze

Reminiscences of Babylon
By Benjamin Prince Field, September, 1911


The American House Hotel and Tavern was erected about 1780 by Jesse Smith. It was located at the corner of Deer Park Avenue and Main Street and was the location of first annual meeting of the Town on the first Tuesday of April 1872. A little more than a year after hosting the new Town’s first meeting, the hotel was destroyed by a fire of unknown origin. (Source, Town of Babylon) The American House Hotel and Tavern was erected about 1780 by Jesse Smith. It was located at the corner of Deer Park Avenue and Main Street and was the location of first annual meeting of the Town on the first Tuesday of April 1872. A little more than a year after hosting the new Town’s first meeting, the hotel was destroyed by a fire of unknown origin. (Source, Town of Babylon) My first visit to Babylon was in the month of March, in the year 1853, and I became a resident and established myself in business here in the month of May of the same year. I came by way of the Long Island Railroad of Deer Park and by stage from there to Babylon. As was his custom at that time, the driver of the stage, on entering the Village would invariably “round up” in front of the American Hotel. The stage horses were always in good condition and the trip from Deer Park often with a heavy load, would be made in very quick time. The horses would always make a good speed when nearing the hotel and they knew just where to stop and seemed to feel as much delighted as the passengers themselves to know they had arrived at Babylon. There were three hotels in the Village at that time, the American, the National and the Sumpawams.

The first stopping place for the stage was usually at the American. This hotel stood where the post office building is on the corner of Main Street and Deer Park Avenue and was kept by Charles Snedicor who had at that time some very able assistants, one of whom was Mr. William Velsorwhow as one of those versatile “jolly good fellows” who could fill different spheres of usefulness and who seemed indispensable in an old-fashioned hotel like the American was at that time. He was always ready to escort “drive out” or cater to the wants of patrons of the house and could join in partaking of the good things, enjoy them as much and stay as long as “the best of them.”

Joseph Jacobs was another useful man at the American and usually occupied a high chair behind the old-fashioned bar and at any time could make you, if you wished it, a good mint julep or a port wine sangeree, both popular drinks in those days, and he could tell which horse would surely win whenever a trot was about to take place while “Steve” Wykoff could entertain the guests in the “little back room” with a dignity and gracefulness of manner that but few men possessed.

Charles Snedicor, the proprietor of the hotel, was a man of kind heart and generous nature. He was held in high esteem by the people in general and was recognized by his patrons as an excellent host. Mr. Snedicor died in the month of July 1853. His widow continued the hotel business for a short time, after which, she was married to Luceis Lum of Milford, Connecticut. Mr.and Mrs.Lum, later in life, moved to Babylon where Mr. Lum carried on the clothing and tailoring business until his death. His wife survived him for a number of years. The remains of both now rest in the Babylon Cemetery.

The business of the old American Hotel was passed into the hands of William B. Watson of New York City who conducted it for a number of years. It was afterwards carried on by different persons until destroyed by fire, July 4, 1883, at which time it was under the management of Mrs. P.A. Seaman, a woman who was held in the highest esteem by all.

The American Hotel was an honored old landmark and in its best days was the recognized headquarters for many of the first class sporting men of the time and had given shelter to many an honored guest in the olden times. The Village felt its loss and all who knew its history and value as a hotel deeply regretted its destruction.

Source: Babylon Reminescences: A Biography of Benjamin Prince Field, by the Babylon Publishing Company, James B. Cooper and William Geiger

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