Bristol Coach House

“BRISTOL – About 1800, Bristol town resident Abraham Gaige built a private residence on West Street in the area where the Merchants Bank is located today, which he opened to travelers and called it “Public House.” It burned in 1817.

By 1820 Gaige built a new “Public House” at the corner of Main and North Streets. Over the years that new hostel was known variously as “The Bristol Tavern,” “The Bristol Hotel,””The Bristol House,” “The Bristol,” and finally “The Bristol Inn.”

Abraham Gaige’s son Datus and his son-in-law Lumon Munson purchased the property in 1831. They in turn sold it to Samuel Eddy in 1836. In 1839 Eddy made extensive improvements and called it the Bristol Hotel.

He stated “he had enlarged, repaired and fitted up his old stand, in a style of elegance and convenience, not surpassed. His Bar-Room, Barns and Shed, are arranged in the best possible manner to accommodate the traveling and business public. The bar section of the hotel continued to be a gathering place for local citizens for a drink after work and a place where many decisions about the town were made throughout the life of the Bristol Inn.”

The property was sold to Jesse J. Ridley on Feb. 9, 1871, following a series of owners who succeeded Eddy.

On Jan. 27, 1872, a disastrous fire destroyed the north side of the Main Street business blocks. The Bristol House located at the west end of the block was spared but the carriage house, stables and other outbuildings belonging to the hotel were destroyed. That following April, Ridley built a 30 feet by 84 feet building with a 12 feet by 26 feet addition to house the hotel’s carriages and stables.

For a number of years the Bristol House operated a stage to the railroad depot in New Haven and by 1886 the stage was making two trips a day to meet the Rutland Railroad trains.

The Commercial House Opens

On Nov. 1, 1886, Ryland Hatch opened the Commercial House, located east of the Bristol House on Main Street, and also offered two coach trips a day to New Haven Junction giving the Bristol House competition for the stage route.

In July of 1887, J.J. Ridley purchased two new Concord-style coaches for his stage line. He also offered tours of the countryside to his guests with these new coaches. These coaches were an important part of the hotel business as much of the clientele consisted of traveling salesmen and families from the cities who came to Bristol to spend the summers at the Bristol House. There was even an optician who came to the hotel a couple of days a month and would see patients while he was there. These types of guests continued to be a big part of the hotel throughout the years it was in business…

…New Coach in 1889

In 1889, J.J. Ridley purchased another new coach. Based on the manufacturer’s identification ma[r]kings located on the Bristol House Coach that is displayed near Howden Hall in Bristol, it appears this is the coach purchased in 1889. This coach was also used on the trip to New Haven Junction until the Bristol Railroad began operation in January 1892. The coach was then used to take guests to and from the railroad station on North Street. The hotel continued to greet passengers until the railroad closed in 1930…”-

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