The Old Clinton Hotel
text: Melzina Canigan-Izzard
images: Isaac Diggs
In 1978, at the same spot where drinks and laughter once flowed freely and clean accommodations could be had at a reasonable price, smoke and flame poured from the windows of 102 and 104 Washington, extinguishing the productive life of the adjoined buildings. Today, the only reminders of their glory days lay in the back yard, where piles of bricks and a rusted cash register sit sullenly.
These addresses make up the site of the old Clinton Hotel. Owned and managed by one Hugh McGuigan, the Clinton Hotel lived many profitable days with 32 moderately priced hotel rooms and a polished bar and restaurant that could seat 100 customers at any given time.
Originally from Antrim, Ireland, Hugh at just 19 bought a direct ticket to Newburgh around 1873 to join relatives who had settled here. On his arrival, he worked alongside his family as a carpenter in the biggest building boom that Newburgh had ever seen. After several years of fruitful work, in 1887 Hugh became an authorized liquor dealer out of the downstairs storefront of 104 Washington. His business prospered, and in less than 2 years he expanded his saloon into 102 Washington.
1894 marked the formal beginning of the Clinton Hotel, opening the year after the Palatine Hotel. Great timing for both hotels, the Clinton undoubtedly filled to the brim with traveling businessman and also accommodated large groups gatherings. For example, in 1906 weavers from the Lackey Manufacturing Co. organized a strike against the firm’s stockholders that lasted nearly a month.
The Clinton Hotel also profited from the trolley that expanded with the change from horse power to electric. Mr. McGuigan would continue to operate the Clinton for over thirty years until 1929, when at the age of 75 he died from an unknown illness, leaving behind over $30,000 and real property to his next of kin.
That same year, the hotel appears to have been divided back into two different properties. 104 Washington shows up in the city directory as apartments occupied by one Max Kruger and Thomas Babcock, while 102 lay vacant until 1932, when Joe’s Restaurant and furnished rooms appears at the address.
The two buildings retained their separate uses until a fire heavily damaged the structures in January of 1978. The blaze began after midnight at the rear of an antique store on the ground floor of 102 Washington and quickly spread. The property has remained vacant ever since, but will soon be renovated into the first passive house in Newburgh. Stay tuned for updates and images as construction proceeds!