Monday, April 23, 2012

A Taste of History: Mount Vernon Hotel

In 1799, John Adams' daughter Abigail decided she wanted a huge estate in 'the country'. She bought a 23-acre plot of land five streets long and and a Manhattan-Avenue distance wide. She and her husband Mr. Smith built a carriage house to accompany their estate home called Mount Vernon after George Washington's home, but it burnt down. In it's spot today is a Bed, Bath & Beyond.  
In 1826, the carriage house was purchased and turned into a day hotel (what we'd think of as a country club today). Most New Yorkers in the 1820s and 1830s used these day hotels to escape the city squalor and splurge on a trip ($.50). They would be treated to three delicious meals and two teas for $1.50. Quite the deal for a heaping bowl of turtle soup with lemon and egg white. 

I know real estate in Manhattan has been worth a pretty penny, but unfortunately the hotel went bankrupt after seven years. It was purchased as a private home for the Towle family for a couple generations then sold to the Standard Gas Light Company in the early 1900s. It was an antique store for six years before the Colonial Dames of America purchased the building for $50,000 in 1924. I sure am glad that they did, because they gave me the opportunity to fall back in time for a day! You would miss this gem between 1st Ave and York on Manhattan's East side if you didn't know it was there. Its pretty garden backs up against a storage facility and the next door neighbors run a multi-story parking garage.

I have been attracted to the history of this city since we moved. As it turns out, my Saturday excursion came in handy today during our weekly staff meeting. One of the Wellness Coordinators' responsibilities is to set up drop by booths in our client's workplace break rooms to talk with participants eligible for the wellness programs. During our call this morning I encouraged the staff to build a sugar stack on their tables this month to draw attention to our nutrition health coaching program. 

One of my Coordinators asked the team for recommendations on addressing the frequent regular soda vs. diet soda debate. I kept the conversation broad, explaining that in general we want to encourage people to avoid manufactured additives in our food regardless of what they are. Then, I remembered something I learned on my Mount Vernon Hotel tour!

In the 1820s and 1830s, a cone of sugar (maybe 12" high with a 4" diameter) cost a whopping $130! This meant that the average person might possibly taste a smidgen of sugar once per year. My how much the States have changed since then! I encouraged the Coordinators to talk about how our tastes change and how to keep sugar consumption in perspective. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the 1800s...

...until I turn on my lights and take a hot shower that is!

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