What Is It Named After? The Elephant Hotel

HUDSON VALLEY, NY – Why is Somers Town Hall called the Elephant Hotel in the world?

The simple answer is that City Hall was a hotel named in honor of one of history’s most famous elephants – but the story behind the building is more fascinating than the unusual name for City Hall.

The building was built by Hachaliah Bailey, who is best known for having a second elephant brought to the United States in 1805, according to the City of Somers. Billy wandered with the elephant that became known as the Old Bet and later acquired other wild animals. In the end he created a mobile zoo of rare animals.

His efforts started something of a circus gold rush in the Hudson Valley.

Somers Town Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its importance to the history of the circus industry in America. (Jeff Edwards | Patch)

Other members of the local community and eventually neighboring towns joined Bailey in his small venture, some as partners, but more often as competitors. The Elephant Hotel has become the gathering place for giants of this thriving new industry in the Hudson Valley.

Hachaliah Bailey completed the three-story brick hotel, which was described as “a rare example of domestic architecture in the Federalist style” in 1825. In 1827, a replica of Eleph’s famous gilded wood was installed on the scrollwork of iron over a column of Granite, in front of the hotel.

A permanent salute to “Old Bet”. (Jeff Edwards | Patch)

The gardens associated with the Elephant Hotel soon merged with traveling circus performers to create the American circus we know today. In 1835 the “Zoological Institute”, a monopoly of animal owners and circuses, was founded at the Elephant Hotel, which for some time became the center of the circus world.

In 2005, the Elephant Hotel was designated a National Historic Landmark. The unique town hall has been recognized as “the oldest extant building of historical significance in the development of the American circus.”

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