Dan Keefe, our East Litchfield Historian, recently regaled our East Litchfield Village Improvement Society meeting with the fascinating story behind the demise of the Scoville Hotel.
Dan Keefe, at our March ELVIS meeting – the first meeting held in the recently renovated chapel.
The rail line and depot opened in East Litchfield in 1849 – and by 1852, the Scoville Hotel across the way served the passengers.
While the hotel had only five rooms, the bar quickly became extremely popular, and for almost fifty years was a thriving business, despite the pesky, but overlooked, ordinance that liquor could not be served within 200 feet of a post office. (The local post office was 165 feet away.)
The problems for the Scoville Hotel began after the turn of the century.
The issue was Success. Too much success.
In the early 1900s, the city of Torrington voted “no-license” – that is, the city passed a prohibition ordinance. No alcohol within the city limits.
And that brought the good and thirsty citizens of Torrington down to the Scoville Hotel – by the wagonful.
Within a week of Torrington going dry, Julius Scoville had added a twelve-foot extension on his bar, installed additional piping, and hired another bartender.
At the March 1903 renewal hearing for Scoville’s liquor license, the local residents complained of multiple cases of intoxication, indecent exposure, and a Thanksgiving evening brawl that required the sheriff to be summoned to handle the drunken mob. Witnesses warned that it was not safe for women to be on the street after dark, as the road between Torrington and East Litchfield was filled with strings of people, and the great noise, especially on Saturday nights, lasted until five in the morning.
Another hearing was held in July 1903. The citizens of East Litchfield were no happier.
They recounted that on Fast Day (ironically enough, a holiday in April designated for repentance and prayer) there was at one moment 268 people in the bar, and no less than 1,500 men had visited the saloon that day. They complained that folks were also visiting on Sundays. The clerk of the Superior court himself testified that on the Saturday just two weeks prior to the hearing, he had found a party of four or five “evidently Italians, making merry in his grove over a keg of beer.”
Well, that was intolerable.
Invoking the violation of the 200-foot proximity to the post office, the Scoville’s liquor license was rescinded.
The saloon – and the hotel – closed down.
And the good citizens of East Litchfield (and Torrington) had to make merry without the Scoville Hotel and Saloon.
The Scoville Hotel. Open in 1852, closed in 1903, and finally destroyed by fire in 1918.