Before the railroad came to Port Washington in 1898, the center of town was the shoreline. On the north end, local commerce centered around the Mill Pond and the Hotel Renwick (the same building currently occupied by Diwan). Commercial life stretched southward where several boatyards thrived near where Manhasset Bay Yacht Club is today. In between these points were fishing shacks, tidal mills, boat building and repair facilities, a fish market, a bicycle shop, steamship docks and the usual cast of characters that made up many small shore villages on Long Island.
By 1872, the Civil War of the previous decade was just beginning to recede into memory, even though it had been (and remains today) the deadliest and most costly war in American history. A young man named Peter Hults, who had moved to Port with his brothers Issac, William and Jacob from City Island, had an idea. He would abandon his earlier attempts at oystering, and join his brothers in local construction work. It was in that year that Peter Hults built our town’s first hotel, The Port Washington Hotel, complete with its own dock, on the shore road across from the entrance of today’s Town Dock. [For today’s reference, as you face the road from the Town Dock’s entrance, it was located just to the left of the present home of Daniel Gale Reality.]
The Port Washington Hotel did a solid business for more than 20 years. In 1895 when Peter Hults died, it was sold to Charles Heubner who operated it as Heubner’s Hotel for a few years. However in 1900, the hotel was sold for the last time, and for more than 60 years, would be known far and wide as Bradley’s.
Let me give you a sense of where you are. Remember that Sunset Park, where the Sousa Bandshell is today, was made years later from landfill. But its not here yet. The Town Dock would be built a few years after this photograph was taken. Take a look:
According to reports, John Bradley always wanted a restaurant on the shore and the Bradley's thrived under his stewardship. New York’s high society and politicians alike became regular customers, including the Vanderbilts, the Astors, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker, prize fighter Jack Dempsey, Broadway legend George M. Cohan, humorist Will Rogers and many others.
The Bradley family reach stretched beyond the hotel, constructing the Bradley Building where Brothers All Market stood for several decades at 83 Main Street. Later, the Bradley family bought and developed property across from the train station and John’s two children, Herbert and Irma had avenues named them. They ran the hotel after their father’s death in 1943, finally selling the aging restaurant in 1959.
The hotel finally caught fire in February, 1962, ending almost a century of the finest dining and hospitality ever seen in these parts.
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