Created By: Flemington Historic Preservation Commission
Dating from 1877, this is a fine and relatively uncommon large building in the French Second Empire style. Popular only for a brief time in the 1870’s, this style is in many ways similar to the Italiante, but instead of de-emphasizing the roof, this style is dominated by very prominent slate mansard roofs and towers, accented by decorated attic dormer windows. The Union Hotel had three towers, the central one with a segmental-arched cap. The long building also featured a two-story wooden front porch, overlooking the courthouse complex across Main Street.
The current building was constructed in two halves, the south half in 1877 and the north the following year. The joint is clearly visible. Innovative and ahead of its time, it boasted heated and furnished rooms with very early indoor plumbing and was considered one of the finest in the state.
The hotel played a prominent role during the Lindbergh trial in 1935. The jury was housed on the third floor along with some of the newspaper and radio journalists that covered the trial and updates were broadcast live to the nation daily from the second floor.
The bar and restaurant were packed throughout the trial with many famous celebrities including a young Dorothy Kilgallen who famously slept behind the bar after some raucous nights and was to become the Oprah Winfrey of her day, taking a special interest in true crime. She later died in 1965 in suspicious circumstances after allegedly uncovering the facts behind the JFK assassination. Her body was found staged in a bed she rarely slept in, and her JFK notes were missing.
Just north of the Hotel is Higgins Newsstand and during the trial this was the location of O’Hare’s Restaurant on the first floor, the south wall of which was signed by the visiting celebrities and journalists. A radio studio on the second floor launched the nation’s first radio disc jockey, Martin Block, who played big band jazz music as filler between the trial updates.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Flemington Historic Walking Tour - Main Street North