As I stated in earlier blogs about this past weekend’s trips, this set of hotels was really difficult to find out much information. The one thing I had going for me for the three hotels in Providence and the one rooming house in Fall River, was I had their street address, which for the most part, has been really unusual. However, for the Hotel Plaza in New Bedford, there was no street address either on the envelope or on the letterhead, which was more typical for what I found with all the other hotels that I had visited. But New Bedford was a larger place, and I figured I would find out information about this hotel rather easily.
I was wrong. Googling it didn’t reveal any clues about the Hotel Plaza in New Bedford. There were no images, no news stories, nothing. So, I first reached out to the New Bedford Historical Society. I told the women on the phone what I was looking for and she answered, was I sure I wasn’t mistaken and was looking for the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston instead. She suggested I reach out to the Reference Department at the New Bedford Library. So I did.
I told my story to the reference librarian, who asked me to email them this information. Several days later, I received this email back: “Could you let me know how far you have gotten in your personal research? I have looked through several New Bedford history books, searched our local index, and explored our vertical file which houses historical newspaper files and I have found no reference to the Hotel Plaza or Peter Perroni. Does the correspondence have an address on it?” When telling one of my neighbors about this mystery, I told him that there was a telephone number on the letterhead and he suggested that perhaps I might be able to find the listing in an old phone book. So, with just a day to go, I reached out again to the reference department, asking them if they had any phone books. And this is the reply I received on that question: “That is a great question and it could be a work around but unfortunately our earliest phone book is 1972. I wish you luck on your journey!” I appreciated their willingness to help, but I was no further along, with a trip a mere 24 hours away. I had learned from the librarian that there was a New Bedford Hotel, which had been turned into apartments for the elderly, and a Parker House, but again, I was not able to find anything about these two places’ history as well. The only thing I had now was an address for the New Bedford Elderly Apartments, so I figured I would at least go there and stand outside that as it was a New Bedford Hotel. My friend Karen, also tried to find information to no avail.
So, I decided to try one more avenue: Social Media. For my trip to Western Massachusetts, I had connected with a historical group in North Adams on social media and they were really responsive. So, I went onto Facebook and did a search with the term “New Bedford”. I was hoping for a group, like the “You Know You Are From Hudson” group that I belong to, where someone may know something about this hotel. I put in a request to be approved to join the group. There was another group, New Bedford Guide, which is a veteran-owned, small business that provides news, information and marketing services in New Bedford and the south coast, Massachusetts area through NewBedfordGuide.com, FallRiverReporter.com, Dartmouth Guide, Fall River Guide, Fairhaven Guide and Tri-Town Guide. I figured maybe they would have some information – or it doesn’t cost anything to ask. So, I asked. On Friday, at 8:54 a.m., I sent my question to them and within 30 minutes, I had this reply: “The old Hotel Plaza was actually in nearby East Beach in Westport. Hurricanes and storms accelerated beach erosion, so the site is now underwater. I am not sure how much is left.” I was so excited that I wrote them back immediately and asked them if they thought it was around in 1929 and I heard this back: “I am pretty sure it was there until the Hurricane of ’38 came and destroyed much of the region, especially East Beach which had a number of hotels.”
Bingo! I googled this information, but added Westport and great information from the Westport Historical Society popped up about how there was the Hotel Plaza on East Beach and how it was destroyed in the 1938 Hurricane. Included on the site were pictures of the Plaza Hotel and a current Google Earth view of where the hotel was located. With this information in hand, I started to get really excited about my last stop of my summer’s worth of journeys.
From Fall River, I got back on Route 6 East again, and turned off on Route 88 South. As a child, we use to go to Horseneck Beach and as a college student, I use to run the roads of Westport, as well as frequent the beach. I was really excited to get back there and it felt like the trip took forever. But in reality, it only took 35 minutes to travel the 18.3 miles. I passed over a beautiful river, then Horseneck State Reservation appeared on my right, and then I was turning onto East Beach Road. Where hotels and grand summer homes once stood, there was only RVs and campers. I knew from the Google Earth information that I had found that the hotel was located near a wall of rocks. And soon enough, there it was.
Excitedly, I pulled off the road and put my flashers on. Clutching my Grandparents’ picture, I scrambled up onto the rocks that sat behind the beach and just marveled at the scenery. It was stunning.
But as any good historian would do, I still have questions. First, the letterhead had it in New Bedford. Why wouldn’t it be Westport? Second, I would think with this type of view, my Grandfather would had written something about the scenery, but there was nothing about the scenery. So, while dipping my feet in the water, I was really happy to be where there was a Hotel Plaza. I am not sure that this was the actual Hotel Plaza that he stayed at, but based on the information that I found, it was for me, the perfect ending to my summer’s journeys.