Today, the Hotel is a local meeting place with reliable dining options and two friendly bars, but it doesn't take in overnight guests anymore. That got me curious. Did the building always offer hospitality? Who stayed there? When did they stop taking in guests? What's upstairs now? I had the chance to get a rare behind-the-scenes chat and tour recently with the Hotel's general manager, Dave Carracino.
|Forebears of the current owners bought the Cranford Hotel|
in the 1940s for less than $3000.
The real surprise for me came when we went to the basement level bar. Evenings there can be a bit boisterous, with sporting events usually playing on several TV monitors, and apparently it was even more so during the Hotel's early days. The cozy fireplace dining area was originally a bowling alley, and the dartboard on the wall near the entrance was once the site of a grill that served quick meals. A relaxing game of ten pins, a burger and brew: what else could a guy want after work?
As you walk around the public areas, you can't help but notice the old-time craftsmanship and details that newer restaurants and bars attempt to recreate for atmosphere: vintage photos, exposed brick walls, wood-fronted beer coolers with those neat metal pull latches. Dave also mentioned that the acoustical tiling in the Tac Room obscures a 12-foot tin ceiling along with the air conditioning ducts.
|Guests often stayed for weeks, as noted on these |
40+ year-old registry cards.
Both the second and third floors have about five rooms apiece, plus a shared bathroom holding a toilet, sink and shower stall. Some of the rooms are larger than others, and all have sufficient space for someone who just needs a basic place to stay. Occasionally, the Hotel gets phone inquiries from travelers looking for lodging, but the building hasn't taken in overnight guests since the early 1970s. In these days of Residence Inns and Homewood Suites, most people wouldn't be satisfied with a small room and a shared hall bathroom. That's not to say that the space can't still be attractive to the right tenant for the right purpose. While the paint and plaster could use some updating, the place is sturdily built and not going anywhere any time soon. The rooms are mostly used for storage now, but you could see where they'd make good office space for small businesses, or maybe lawyers or accountants.
Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind setting up a Hidden New Jersey editorial office there, myself. Proximity to good burgers, New Jersey brews and the Newark-bound train, all in a great old building. What more could we need?