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Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Museum

Looking Back: Hotel St. James

Rochester Post | Published January 7, 2020


ROCHESTER — Opening on Thanksgiving Day in 1890, the Hotel St. James quickly became a Rochester landmark at the corner of Main and Fifth streets (now University Drive), where Bean & Leaf Café is located today.

Referred to as the “traveler’s home,” the hotel offered guests all the modern conveniences, including “sanitary facilities, hot and cold running water, and electric lights.”

Chicken dinners and weekly entertainment made the hotel a hub of activity. A dead ringer for President William Howard Taft, hotel owner James W. Smith was a well-known Rochester resident whose portrait often was used in hotel advertisements. In this photo, Smith can be seen leaning up against the building on the far right.

— The Rochester Hills Museum