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From the Hotel Renwick to Diwan

by Christopher Bain


You may know this building as Diwan, the wonderful Indian restaurant next to the Mill Pond.  For more than 125 years and through many changes of ownership, this beautiful building with the cross gambrel roofline has sat sentry over Manhasset Bay.  For many decades it was a hotel, welcoming diners and lodgers alike, before the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road started the transformation of Port Washington into a commuting town.


We have many views so take your time to peruse all of them below


The 2013 view above, from Sunset Park at low tide hasn’t changed much in 100 years.  In dozens of early 20th century postcards, the unique roofline can be spotted.  See if you can spot it in this card below, circa 1910:


An entire evening could easily be devoted to this one card (above).  Originally believed to be built as the Grapevine Hotel, the building can be seen at the far right side of the image above, blocking most of the view of the Mill Pond.  Directly behind the building, on the other side of the pond you can see sand mining operations in full force, one of the many locations of this industry that dotted the peninsula.  On the hill in the background at the far left, overlooking the Mill Pond, is the Down Neck School, which replaced the old school up on School Street. This photograph must have been taken from a ship’s mast, since that’s the only place where one could have reached this lofty perch.


Below are a few more views where a careful observance can pick out the Hotel Renwick.


Featured below is easily one of the finest postcard views of early Port Washington, which you ALL KNOW used to be named Cow Neck… right? :)  It was probably photographed by John Witmer, showing the Hotel Renwick at the center, and the bustling life encircling the Mill Pond circa 1905.  The hotel has a nicely hand painted orange roof on this postcard, and to the right you can see sand trestles and actual sandbanks, which stretched all the way north to where Sousa School stands today. This view was taken from up on the hill at the Down Neck School (later Sands Point School), shown three cards above this view.


Those growing up in Port Washington in the 50’s, 60’s, or early 70’s knew this as Gildo’s, a popular family restaurant. One of their ashtrays (shown) is now in our Port Washington Local Business Memorabilia Collection.


We heard from former Port Washington resident David Smith, who reported that "before it was the Renwick, it was called the Grapevine Hotel, run by my Great Grandparents Henry and Emma Smith as early as 1870. Henry became ill in 1899 and Ren Smull took it over. There was a fire in 1901 and it was referred to as the Renwick in the NY Times and the Grapevine in the Brooklyn Eagle, so the name had to have been changed about that time. There are articles in the Eagle referring to the Grapevine thought the 1890's."

Here is an incomplete list of the names of this long-standing Port Washington institution…  Send us your memories, send us additional names, tell us what YOU know about this place (either via email or on our Facebook page):

The Grapevine Hotel
The Renwick Hotel
and in no particular order:
360 Degrees Grille
Port Seafood Grill
Iavarone's Prime View
Wreck Chowder House & Clam Bar
Louis & Marxx All American


Did we miss any? If so, send them to us! Thanks to Art for researching the names!

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