Skip to content →

Hotels in the family

As I may have mentioned, I work for UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union. I’ve worked for the union for several years, a fact which is not unknown to my extended family.

Today, I was visiting my grandmother in her nursing home. My mom was there, too. My grandmother had an old photo on the bed with her, and I asked her what it was. Turned out to be a photo of my grandmother with the staff of the — wait for it — hotel at which she worked.

That’s right. My own grandmother worked at the Wendell Hotel in Pittsfield, Mass. She was a switchboard operator for about five years in the late 40s and early 50s. And no one ever mentioned it to me. Oy!

Here’s a picture of my grandmother with the Wendell gang. She’s in the front row, fifth from the right. This photo was taken at a company picnic somewhere in the Berkshires. (Click for a larger version.)

Wendell Hotel

And here’s the Wendell in about 1912:

Wendell 2

I did some preliminary research on the hotel, and came up with these:

I also discovered this paper (PDF) by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which has the following note:

March 1926: Pittsfield on the air for the first time in its history when AIEE [American Institute of Electrical Engineers] broadcasts the very first words, “We are broadcasting tonight From the Wendell Hotel, in Pittsfield Mass. at the AIEE’s annual banquet”.

The following is from the book Pathfinder to Greylock Mountain, the Berkshire Hills and Historic Bennington by William Hamilton Phillips, published in 1910:

Crossing the line into Pittsfield on the Berkshire trolley road the first objects of interest are Arrowhead, the house of Herman Mellville, the author, and once the site of an Indian village; the former summer residence of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose ancestor, Jonathan Wendell, was an early settler of the town and from whom the Wendell Hotel in Pittsfield was named.

The Wendell is mentioned again in The Practical Hotel Steward by John Tellman, published in 1913.

If you’re interested in learning more about my union, you can visit UNITE HERE’s Web site.

Published in Family Genealogy Labor movement

One Comment

  1. Jane Purcell Jane Purcell

    Hello – are you related to the Purcell famly
    I am not too aux fait with this internet thingy and found the Purcell page and then yours whilst trying to contact them.
    Sorry if not – but have a nce day anyway from foggy Northamptonshire UK

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.