A 19th century hotel sign comes back into view

A few days ago, workers renovating the exterior of a corner building at Eighth Avenue and 25th Street uncovered a relic of old New York.


It’s the faint letters spelling out an old sign for Utah House, a hotel that existed as early as the 1850s and served as a meeting place for political conventions and trade groups.

But Utah House’s most dramatic moment came during the Orange Riots of 1871.

On July 12, crowds of Irish Catholics clashed with a group of Irish Protestants (“Orangemen”), who were marching down Eighth Avenue on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, which established Protestant rule in Ireland in 1690.


More than 60 people died. Spectators watched the carnage from the hotel’s front steps.

“The Utah House, on the north-east corner of Eighth-Avenue and Twenty-fifth-street, is among the buildings which bear conspicuous evidence of having been chipped by the musket balls,” wrote The New York Times on July 13 in a chronicle of the violence.

[Thanks to the Ephemeral readers who tipped me off about the sign and Joe R. for the link to the illustration]

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15 Responses to “A 19th century hotel sign comes back into view”

  1. S.S. Says:

    Great care should be taken in describing “Orangemen” as “Irish Protestants”. That is like describing the KKK as American Protestants. Indeed, many Irish Protestants of good will revile the Orangemen.

    The Orange Order is a fraternal, sectarian, anti-Catholic organization, which often uses violence to further its goals of “keeping the Taigs in their place.”

    E.g., when Irish nationalists at the turn of the last century sought independence from England, Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father, famously used the phrase, “It’s time to play the Orange card”, meaning its time to turn the violent bigots loose on the nationalists.

    Incidentally, this phrase led to the use of “playing the … card”, as in “playing the race card”, etc.

  2. S.S. Says:

    In fact, if you want to see the Orangemen in action today, view this news video, where thousands of them attempted to storm a Catholic Church in Northern Ireland that was being protected by the police and British army. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I55Oph8eMFU

    Although nominally claiming to be pro-British, the Orangemen had no problem throwing nail bombs and bricks at the security forces.

    The Orange Order is still also strong in Scotland, and my parents local Catholic Chuch is regularly the victim of graffiti and broken windows by Orange fanatics.

    So, the 19th century Orange Riots in NYC should not be mistaken as a riot between a bunch of mad Irish, but, rather, oppressed people defending themselves against sectarian racists.

    I noticed that a similar post here last year on the Orange Riots described them as “Irish Protestants”, and there were comments correcting that error. I am surprised it is still being repeated.

    Next time, “sectarian bigots” might be a better choice.

  3. Paul Ruoso Says:

    What a very, very cool find. Let’s hope it doesn’t get ripped off the facade with this current storefront work.

  4. Dave Says:

    Fantastic! Anyone have any idea when the Utah House closed, and therefore how long the sign has been covered up?

  5. Edward Says:

    Judging by the off-center/justified right location of the newly found sign, it looks like it’s the same sign in the 1871 illustration. Wow, I wonder how long that’s been covered up?

  6. Al Says:

    IMO, this is the best sign reveal you’ve ever posted!

  7. lisanne001 Says:

    This is incredible. I’ve got to see this for myself.

  8. Linkage: Bloom 62 Launches Website; Beach Season Upon Us – insiderater.com Says:

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  9. laurl Says:

    I am working on some research on a damaged label on an old steamer trunk. I am confident it is an old hotel that was at 14 east 60th street, probably in the 1920’s. Do you happen to know what hotel that could be?

    I am so glad I found your blog in my search for info on the truck. I look forward to future posts.

  10. John David Howard Says:

    Hope they don’t destroy it with the planned remodelling. :/

  11. Theoted Says:

    This is cool!

  12. Scott Futrell Says:

    AWESOME!!! Traveling to NYC in a couple days and staying right down the street at the Sheraton 4 Points.on 25th. A very quick walk will have me there. Can’t wait to check it out.

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    […] lettering reminded me of the faded outline of the old sign for Utah House, a hotel from the 1850s at Eighth Avenue and 25th Street—which came back into view briefly in […]

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