Clinton House hotel, High Street, Clinton

Mike Elfland
| Telegram & Gazette

On Nov. 15, 1869, Mark Twain had a speaking engagement in Clinton. The event took place in the meeting hall next to the Clinton House, a downtown hotel.

The writer and humorist spent the night before his speech in one of the rooms. His account of the visit paints it as an adventure.

“Here I am in a hotel – the Clinton House – & a villainous one it is – shabby bed, shabby room, shabby furniture, dim lights – everything shabby & disagreeable,” he wrote, according to “Mark Twain’s Geography,” a website that details Twain’s world travels. He once filled Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

The Clinton House, at High and Church streets, was favored by industrialists and visiting salesmen, many tied to the booming carpet/weaving industry.

It was the Bigelows who were behind the construction of the hotel in the mid-1840s.

Brothers Erastus Brigham Bigelow and Horatio Bigelo are recognized as the town’s founding fathers, who settled in what was then Lancaster and set about to making advances in looming. Erastus Bigelow was among the founders of MIT, in 1861. The town of Clinton was incorporated in 1850.

The Clinton House opened in 1847, capped by a mansard roof. A separate grand hall, called Clinton Hall, which would later host Twain, was added to the property three years later. Eventually, the hall and hotel were connected. 

Clinton Hall became the center of the town’s social world. There were balls, lectures, school events and military gatherings.

The Clinton Historical Society lists a lineup of esteemed lecturers at Clinton Hall, besides Twain: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Julia Ward Howe and Frederick Douglass.

The Clinton House and Clinton Hall remained key figures in the downtown landscape for decades. A fire in the early 1920s gutted the block, and the buildings were eventually leveled. 

A theater and a brick building, with space for retail, offices and apartments, was eventually built on the corner – called the Wachusett Block. For many years, the block was anchored by the Paper Store. More recently the spot is home to Zaytoon restaurant. 

Thanks go to the Clinton Historical Society for its assistance with this story. The group’s Twitter page is filled with photos of yesteryear Clinton.

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