Friday, October 28, 2016

The Ladies Entrance and the Gentlemen’s Lounge

In preparing to write my fourth book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, I puzzled over the pictures of the Leavitt House with its two front doors standing side-by-side. Further research into hotels of the day revealed that many early establishments had two guest entrances. One was the main entrance in front, usually used by men or a family accompanied by a man. A second entrance usually in the side or back was set aside for women, either alone, or with her children. The purpose was for women to be able to enter and leave the hotel or inn without being subjected to the unwanted scrutiny, rude remarks or approaches of men hanging around the main entrance or lobby.

Leavitt House in the late 1800's
In the Leavitt House in Bridgeport, California, the two entrances were side-by-side. Here is a scene from Haunted by Love  describing Hazel’s arrival in Bridgeport:

            After the stage driver helped Hazel out of the coach, she ran for the cover of the small portico. Not knowing which of the two front doors to enter, she stood between them. She turned and watched Mr. Sweeney ease his body stiff from the cold out of the coach.
            Before he could join her, two of the male passengers pushed past her and opened the door on the left. As Hazel twisted to peek inside, her nose twitched as it was assaulted with a heavy cloud of cigar and pipe smoke. She spied comfortable couches and chairs, newspapers strewn about, a gaming table with cards and chips scattered among the players, and a well-stocked bar just behind the door. Her eyes widened and she involuntarily sucked in her breath at the sight of the large painting of an almost nude woman hanging between two windows on the far wall of the room.
            “You can’t enter the door on the left, miss,” the driver called out to Hazel. “That’s the gentlemen’s lounge. The ladies’ entrance is on the right. We’ll bring in the bags and trunks shortly.”
            By that time Abner Sweeney reached Hazel’s side, and, grasping her by the elbow, guided her through the door on the right.
            Unlike the gentlemen’s lounge, the inside of the ladies entrance was narrow and covered with a cream-colored wallpaper bearing a pattern of dainty pink roses. Hazel’s eyes were drawn to the small reception desk and chair next to the front door. Otherwise, the entrance appeared to serve as a hallway leading to the stairway and some downstairs rooms. Hazel turned to study the middle-aged man behind the counter.

Today the old Leavitt House built in the 1870’s is known as the Bridgeport Inn. The building has been modernized, but still maintains a flavor of the past.

An addition to the front has expanded the building. Upon entering the foyer, a door to the right leads to a restaurant which was made larger by the addition. To the left is a modern bar.

Straight ahead the two entrances can be seen. The old doorway on the right no longer has a door, but leads to the old entrance for ladies. In my story I added a small reception desk and chair in the open area in front of the stairs.

The door on the left leads to the old gentlemen’s lounge. The current owner has made an effort to keep the décor typical to what it may have been in the late 1800’s, although any “girlie” pictures that may have been in the original gentlemen’s lounge have been removed in order to make the room suitable for all viewing audiences.

The picture at the top of the post and the following picture were taken with permission while I visited the gentlemen’s lounge.

Along with reading material, there was a well-stocked bar in this room. However, due to there being a modern trash can in the room next to the bar at the time I visited, you will just have to visualize it next to the wood-burning stove.

With far more men than women in the area during the 1800's, and with limited outlets for recreation, the gentlemen’s lounge no doubt offered the men of the community a place to relax, socialize, discuss politics, hash out business deals and read the latest papers and books.

If you get a chance to travel Highway 395 in Eastern California, consider taking time to stop by the historic Bridgeport Inn in Bridgeport. Eat in their restaurant, visit Room 16, the home of the White Lady (to learn more about her, CLICK HERE), perhaps stay the night and visit the gentlemen’s lounge.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her first four novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit and Haunted by Love were published by Prairie Rose Publications. The fifth, Bridgeport Holiday Brides, is due to be published soon. Please visit and follow the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

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