Where Was the Bellonia Hotel?

Today a new comment was posted on the site by William.  He wanted to know where in New Brunswick the Bellonia Hotel was located?

Does anyone know where specifically within the city of New Brunswick, NJ William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885) was born?  The address or at least the street the family lived on while living in New Brunswick?

This is what I know: a little more than three years ago, I found a sketch of the Bellona Hotel in a New York Times (NYT) article.  The hotel was run by Mrs. Vanderbilt and carried the same name as the steamboat the Commodore operated for Thomas Gibson. She was quite successful in operating it and the family made good money from it; her success with the hotel was fundamental to the start of his career.  The building was built in 1803.

So how do we find out where the hotel was located? A little more research and this is what I found out tonight:

  • a NYT article from August 19, 1900 has a notice about Ms. Hannah Bartow, New Brunswick’s eldest inhabitant.  The article states that she worked at the “old Ballonia Hotel, in Burnet street.”
  • a book reference that describes the location as being near Voorhees street.

excerpt from pg. 141 - Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (Volume 3)

Looking at a map of the area, I see Voorhees and Burnet street are quite close to one another – both are along the river – a perfect spot for the Commodore to have been running the steamboats (pg. 9 of Arthur T. Vanderbilt’s book, Vanderbilt’s Fortune, says the home was right on the Commodore’s landing).

And what do you know? A search of the newspaper collection from the Library of Congress reveals an article from the February 8, 1901 issue of the San Francisco Call newspaper that also gives the hotel’s location on Burnet street.

Furthermore, a search of the digital archives of the New Brunswick Daily Times,  retrieves an article about a slaughterhouse to be built at the location of the former hotel  “on lower Burnet street..”

excerpt from the March 13, 1913 issue of the New Brunswick Daily Times

I’m pretty sure now that the hotel was on that street and William was born there.  Depending on William’s specific needs, next steps may be to:

Good luck William with your search!  Does anyone else have suggestions and/or additional info?
P.S. — it might help if I spelled the name of the hotel correctly! Forgive the typo on the blog title.  🙂

3 thoughts on “Where Was the Bellonia Hotel?

  1. I was looking at the 1829 map of New Brunswick here and it shows the house and wharf of C. Van Derbilt to be located at the foot of New Street, east of Burnet. Voorhees Street as it is shown in modern maps does not exist and all of that land along the river has been massively altered first by the construction of the Delaware & Raritan Canal along the bank of the Raritan River and later (and recently) the construction of the massive Route 18 roadway. It is most likely that the Bellona Hotel lies under that road as it crosses New Street. I have just starting working to develop resources on the Bellona Hotel so this is new to me.

  2. New Street is incorrect. There still is a steamboat landing at Rutgers boat house. Past this was a slip of land with warehouse and hotel. There or about the site of the Rutgers boat house is the area. There was talk of Bellona’s coal stored behind where the current gas station (Rt. 18) is, at the foot of Commerical Ave. A fews years back when the park was recreated a unique opportunity afforded itself, as 6-9 feet or so down the old cobble streets still intact were un earthed. One could walk the path of Vanderbilt, in front of where his Hotel and the “Keysworth” also stood.(Steamer Antelope, of Gold rush/pony express fame)

  3. I have new information about Bellona Hall if anyone is interested …Thomas Gibbons (C. Vanderbilt’s first and only employer in the 1820s) purchased the 1804 Keyworth hotel (from Murphy who purchased it from Keyworth – according to one unverified source) in 1823, for the Vanderbilt family, Thomas Gibbons(not “Gibson”) immediately contracted for an addition which was the start of the Bellona Hotel, run by Cornelius’ wife, Sophia. THe contract for building this addition is among the “Gibbons Papers in the Library archives of Drew University – a document which I am studying.

    I am slightly confused by its exact location of the Bellona (not Bellonia) Hotel, however. That it was on Burnet Road, right by the river is not in doubt…but it’s presumed location is a distance from the center of 1820s New Brunswick..(.and an unlikely (?) distance from the wharf labeled VnDerBelt’s wf. on the 1829 map.).. I wonder if the hotel buildings were ever moved (from the Burnet street location closer to “Vn De Belt’s Wharf”, in the mid or late 19th century, before they were torn down in the early 20th cen. (old buildings were often moved)… Sophia Vanderbilt had most if not all her children while living in New Brunswick and running her hotel..and they resided right there, so presumably that is where William was born. The Images of America: New Brunswick book has a picture of the house where William was born, at “181 Burnet”p. 31 — but this isn’t Bellona hotel or the structure next to it (where I think the family lived).

    Contact me if you want to continue this discussion with me: aglock@optimum.net.


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