Yankee Pedlar Inn History
For the past one hundred years, The Yankee Pedlar Inn, which opened as Conley’s Inn has been the place to both stay and dine in Western Connecticut. The Inn was opened on July 28, 1891, by Frank Conley who came to the United States from Ireland as a nine year old apprentice shoemaker. With his wife, Alice Tryon of Massachusetts, Conley gained prior experience in the hotel business. (Gelston House, East Haddam and Allen House, Torrington)
However, Frank Conley’s personal ambition was to open a hotel that was the equal of any in the state. In November 1890, Conley brought, for $8,000 a 100′ by 214′ lot on the corner of Main Street and Maiden Lane. The plans called for a very modern structure four stories tall of pallet brick, trimmed with Vermont Marble. A wide verandah 114′ x 60′ ran along both street sides of the hotel.
Inside the hotel -marble floors in a black and white diagonal mosaic, wainscoted carpeted floors and there were pictures on every wall. Fifty two bedrooms with 41 for transients. Private and public dining rooms to seat 150 people at one sitting. The chairs and tables were of antique oak, each room had a two-light chandelier and hot water was always available. In essence, the last word in late Victorian hotel comfort and elegance.
In January 1891, Mary Tryon, the Conley’s niece, laid the first brick and the venture was under way. For $40,000 Frank’s dream became a reality with the grand opening of the hotel attended by 1,000 people on July 28th. The success of the business from the start was in no small part due to Alice Conley -an outstanding cook and hotel manager.
The Conley’s ran a successful and popular establishment until their deaths in 1910, at which time, Mary, inherited the property.
The rest of the Inn’s story is as follows…
1912 - Mary Tryon Reed sells the property to Conley Inn Corp. headed by W.H. Morrison for “something less that the proposed $75,000”. Alfred Schoff continues to operate the facility until 1914.
1918 - January -J. Allen Walker, proprietor (1914-1918) is ordered to leave the property for failure to pay rent. Mr. Walker held $20,000 in liabilities; his largest creditor was his mother-in-law, for $11,000
1918 – June 25th- The Torrington Company purchases “Conley Inn” from the Conley Inn Corp. for $75,000 (then the largest single property transaction ever made in Torrington) and expands the number of rooms to accommodate over 200 female employees.
1920 – The Torrington Company completes its expansion to 62 rooms and the Inn is known for a short period as “The Lodge” and is managed by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Morgan.
1939 – The newly organized Conley Inn Corporation (James Mallete, Arthur Weigold and Phillip McDonald) purchases the Conley Inn from the Torrington Company. Edward Lazarosky succeeds Richard Murphy as manager.
1940 – October 5th- The Conley Inn announced the grand opening of the Yankee Pedlar, a unique bar and restaurant. The mahogany bar rail was made from timber saved for a 200 year old Spanish mission on the Island of Haiti i n the West Indies. The ceiling beams, some which weighed over 450 pounds, were hewn of solid oak.
1945 – Conley Inn Corporation changes its name to “Commercial Securities Corp.”, still headed by James E. Mallete.
1946 – The Inn is sold for $300,000 to a New York syndicate who in December opens the Inn’s Nutmeg Room (in 1991 the Gallery Banquet Room) with Don Miquel’s Orchestra as the entertainment
1948 – June 15- Conley Inn Realty (Albert, Gerald, and Arthur Rubens, Dr. Phillip Davison and Robert B. Gaetti, exsisting manager) purchase Conley Inn for a reputed $350,000. All rooms to be redecorated, bar in Nutmeg Room converted to small private Dining Room. Gaetti continues as manager.
1951 – August- Inn leased to “a hotel man of national reputation” Edward Lawless for an annual rental agreement of $36,000- ten year option with option for ten more. But the agreement lasted for only 3 months.
1952 – January- Arthur Rubens reassumes the operation of the Conley Inn hotel, Coffee Shop and the Yankee Pedlar Restaurant.
1952 – September -Carlo Pilatti, a renowned chef formerly of Europe and the U.S., is appointed chef of the Yankee Pedlar Restaurant.
1952 – August -State Labor Board clears Albert Rubens (manager) of unfair labor practices when he spoke at an employer meeting before voting on union representation. This was the first time there was a favorable ruling for management since the labor act went into effect in July, 1945. The employees voted no union.
1956 – March 1st- The Rubens lease the Inn to Alfred B. Siegrist, a prominent hotel man from Florida, who ran the hotel for the next ten years. The name of the hotel in combined with the restaurant under a new name “The Yankee Pedlar Inn”.
1958 – July -Southern portion of the front porch removed to make room for Ruben Studios, photographers. They moved from the Allen Building where they had been established in the 20′s.
1964 – July -with a major $2.8 million expansion in mind, the hotel purchased the Buckley Garage on Maiden Lane. Although the expansion never materialized, plans had called for underground parking (150 cars), one floor of banquet/ kitchen space (450 seating), additional guests rooms topped by a cocktail lounge and swimming pool.
1966 – March- In a renovation of the exterior, architect E. J. Kovak fromNew York enlarges the Coffee Shop and the Yankee Pedlar Bake Shoppe. Albert returns (from CBS broadcasting building inNew York where he was director of the Ground Floor Restaurant) to assume management of the hotel.
1987 – The Rubens sell the Yankee Pedlar Inn to Avonbased Baron Country Inns (who also own 10 other New England Inns) for $2.6 million. Shortly after, two of the investors, Rory Tagert and Robert Connelly of Westport, Connecticut, bought out the others and incorporated under the name of Yankee Baron Corporation. The two, along with Mr. William Grossman, also own the “Inn at Longshore” in Westport. Judith Romaniello, working as front office manager under Arthur and Jerry Rubens, is retained as general manager.
1990 – Following a brief period under Treadway, Rory Tagert assigns the brothers Robert and Christopher Bolan to head up the Yankee Pedlar team. The Brothers combine over 30 years management experience in the hospitality field; in hotels, restaurants, and country clubs.