What was a "Modern European Hotel" in the US in 1920?
March 2, 2009 11:55 AM   Subscribe

What was a "Modern European Hotel" in the US in 1920?

Hi all, I am researching a cartoonist who lived in an American Midwestern boarding house that advertised itself as a "Modern European Hotel" in 1920. Do you have any idea what that meant? What amenities might there have been? Bathrooms, kitchens, laundry? Did this indicate a "nice" place or a not-so-nice one?

My sense is that this was a cheaper boarding house, and people were mostly living there long-term. Using the census records I determined that fellow boarders included a bookbinder, a waitress, five salesmen (one travelling), a grocer, two musicians, an auto tire worker, a live-in staff of four, the proprietor, and eleven unemployed wives and children. Perhaps some of you have seen "Modern European Hotel" used in novels or some other source from that era? Any thoughts would be most appreciated. Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by tnygard to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
- In Salt Lake City, in 1906, it meant "fancy" with telephones, cafe restaurant and banquet room. Much more upscale than a boarding house. (see bottom of page 35 if that link doesn't work right)
- In 1898, there was the concept for a "european plan" which was more in line with what you're thinking of. That is, bathrooms down the hall, meals NOT included [which would be a boarding house] and the lodger keeps the key to the room (read that lawsuit, it tells you more details.
- History of Chicago discusses the amenities available at four specific European Hotels in Chicago in the late 1800's
posted by jessamyn at 12:12 PM on March 2, 2009

Best answer: The Judicial and Statutory Definitions of Words and Phrases (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1904) seems to suggest that European hotel was a term for a type of inn/hotel (as distinct from a boarding house) that had a "refectory" on the premises.

Webster's also suggests that a European hotel was like pension -- more upscale than a boarding house, but not as many amenities as a full-service hotel.

At the time (late 19th/early 20th century), "modern" would have connoted modern conveniences in terms of plumbing, lighting, etc.
posted by scody at 12:26 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

When the Dutch biologist Hugo de Vries visited the USA in 1906 and later, he was appalled by the American hotels he had to stay in. Often, the bathroom would be in a completely different building, sometimes even in a different street.
posted by ijsbrand at 12:27 PM on March 2, 2009

From what I've seen on old hotel postcards, I'm going to venture a guess that this term referred to hotels that had private rooms but shared baths - pretty much what Jessamyn referred to above. It seems to have been a pretty standard term at the time.
posted by chez shoes at 12:37 PM on March 2, 2009

Building on what scody says, it probably indicates an alternative to the American Plan:
American Plan: A lodging package which includes 3 meals a day. A Modified American Plan includes 2 meals and the European Plan does not cover any meals.
I still see this term used occasionally with B&Bs, where meals are served, and full-service resorts. But almost all of our hotels now would be "European style" -- they have a resstaurant, but you buy your own meals on your own time, as you want.
posted by Miko at 2:09 PM on March 2, 2009

The Mosser in San Francisco is a European-style hotel. Small rooms, shared bathrooms, tho many of the larger rooms now incorporate en-suite. Great hotel for the single traveller imo.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:09 PM on March 2, 2009

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