Bradley's Port Washington Hotel
By Dana Wang
The Bradley Hotel, originally a distinguished mecca and getaway for New York's high society, evolved into the Town Dock, ashes, and a piece of Port Washington history. It was built in 1872 by Peter Hults who moved to Port Washington from City Island shortly after the Civil War. Originally, Hults tried oystering but eventually decided upon a construction career, joining his brothers, and eventually building Port’s first and most famous hotel. The hotel was originally named the Port Washington Hotel until, after a brief ownership by Charles Heubner in 1900, the hotel finally fell into the hands of Charles Bradley and his son John F. Bradley in 1905, changing the name to Bradley's Hotel and Shore Restaurant.
Bradley upgraded the hotel, making many alterations including a larger dining room and a bar and grill. The hotel, located at 346 Main Street, overlooked Manhasset Bay, a gorgeous waterside view that could be accessed by visitors from its very own dock across the street. Although the dock was claimed by the Town of North Hempstead in 1908, New York's elite still took advantage of the breathtaking view and convenient location, eventually making Bradley's a social hub for the rich and wealthy.
In the first half of the 20th century, Long Island contained the extravagant mansions of New York City's high society, the perfect escape from busy city life, a luxury the wealthy could afford. The dock at Bradley's would overflow with private yachts, signaling the arrival of New York's elite. The Vanderbilts, Astors, President Theodore Roosevelt, President William Taft, and Jack Dempsey all have two things in common: they were both notable personages and patrons of the Bradley. Other illustrious patrons included New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker, famous writer O'Henry, cartoonist Fontaine Fox (a past Port Washington resident), and theater stars such as Lillian Russell, George M. Cohan, and Will Rogers. Celebrities, politicians, prominent writers, and more would flock to Bradley's, not just for their many events (anniversaries, commemorations, and celebrations), but to also enjoy a meal at the hotel's restaurant.
A four-dollar lobster dinner was a luxury to the average worker who made twenty after a week of labor. Boasting a delicious continental menu, the Bradley offered a variety from French specialties to seafood. Bradley also held “Pig Fests” in his restaurant to drum up business; patrons would guess the weight of a live hog, sometimes weighing up to 600 pounds. The hotel, in addition to hosting its elite clientele, was also a local watering hole, a favorite for Port Washington's shakers and movers. Residents included Lorenzo Smull, builder of the Renwick Hotel, and William Hyde, the founder of The Port Washington News, early issues of which were found folded on Bradley’s billiard table.
After John Bradley’s death in 1943, his son “Brud” and daughter, Irma, operated the restaurant until 1959, eventually selling it to Karl Conradi, with a succession of ownerships following the sale. Unfortunately, the hotel met its demise on February 19, 1962, ironically, the day after a cocktail celebration of new ownership with 500 attendants. What once was a prominent building, the Bradley met its end in a grand party followed by flames the next day, thought to be at the hands of a thoughtless smoker. The Bradley Hotel was gone, but not without making its mark in history as a core remnant of Long Island's past.
John Bradley (left) wth his friend and local builder Lorenzo Smull