Key to the Past

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR


Object: Key
Description: Brass skeleton key with attached tag.  Tag reads, “Please Return to Bagg’s Hotel, Utica, NY”
Date: pre1932
Height: (Key) 1″ (tag) 2″
Length: (Key) 2 7/8″ (tag) 3 1/2″

Last November, I wrote my first blogpost about  a curious box I found in the collection room with the simple label, “cannonballs.”  Similarly, I recently came across a box labeled keys.

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

If Carried Away
Return Unsealed
We Guarantee Postage

I hesitantly opened it, fearing a box full of fascinating but anonymous keys, but I was pleasantly surprised by the labels accompanying the keys and including several noted Utica hostelries: Hotel Utica, the Butterfield House, and Baggs Hotel.


Baggs Hotel (Library of Congress Photo)

In 1980, the Oneida Chapter, NSDAR donated the Bagg’s Hotel room 59 key (said to be for the bridal suite) to OCHS.  According to the accession paperwork, “these keys were in an envelope with the notation on outside, ‘rec’d from UPD/ 6-29-73…’ apparently having been recovered from a burglary and theft of DAR items from Baggs Square Memorial Building.”  For more information about Bagg’s Hotel, click here or here.

Whether the trembling hands of nervous newlyweds did or did not use this key to unlock their wedding chamber is unknown, but Bagg’s hotel registers in the OCHS collection do tell us some of the people who stayed in room 59.

In 1868:
March 6th            C. H. Whieler, Boston, MA
March 17th         Col. L. Smith, Buffalo, NY
April 29th             P. J. Kennedy, Bradford, PA
May 16th               George N. Crouse, Utica, NY

In 1914 (100 years ago)
September 22nd       F. J. Molhem & Wife, Troy, NY
October 8th                Mr. & Mrs. H. Barnard, Rochester, NY
October 14th              William West & Wife, New York

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

On back of postcard: “Dear Sister,
Mamie is finding fault with the butter we get here. I wish you would send some as soon as possible and while you’re at it, you might answer one or two of my letters.”

Better stop here…this key (like all of the other artifacts I have shared with you on this blog) has unlocked many stories about local landmarks and people, some still here, some almost forgotten except for the rediscovery of relics and works of art hidden away on the shelves, behind the cupboards, in the drawers, and around the corner.

Thanks for reading!


key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

A key to the City, a key to the Past
A key to my future, for this is my last



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