A Century of Dining at the Oceanic Hotel

DiningHallPicture300x300by Lois Williams, All Star 1 Conferee

There’s more to Star Island’s Dining Room upgrade than effective sound-proofing measures! It’s now an elegant, summery room with crisp white curtains, pale yellow walls and bright white woodwork. New are black-framed-and-white-matted photocopies of items of Shoals memorabilia related to food and drink at the Oceanic a century ago.

Two photographs of the Oceanic Dining Hall show white tablecloths on the same tables-for-ten still in use today. In one, waitresses are in white dresses and there are centrally-hung light fixtures; in the other, waitresses are in black and the fixtures are similar to today’s lighting.

An Hours of Meals poster shows Breakfast served from 7:30 to 10:00 A.M., with early breakfast at 6:30 A.M. for “Parties Leaving on the Morning Boat”, and a breakfast menu lists 11 kinds of fish. Dinner was served from 1:00 to 2:30 P.M. An 1883 dinner menu shows a dozen dessert choices and an 1880’s dinner menu includes a wine list.

Supper was served from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M., and there is an August 11, 1936 supper menu, showing that guests were offered a different choice of entries each day. Guest room wine cards from the 1890s tell us that a bottle of wine could be delivered to a hotel room!

Purveyor invoices show sources of food served in the Oceanic Dining Hall. The Poultry and Wild Game Stall in Boston’s Faneuil Hall in Boston sold fowl, broilers, geese, roasters and squabs to the Laighton Brothers in 1895 and again in 1896. Locally, a fruit, produce and butter purveyor on Market Street in Portsmouth billed the Oceanic Hotel for potatoes, bananas and maple syrup.

In 1896 the Laighton Brothers patronized a Portsmouth establishment on Market Street describing itself as Copper Distillers of Pure Molasses Rum. Another Portsmouth firm, Importers and Manufacturers of Fine Segars, sold the Laighton Brothers 700 cigars and 2400 cigarettes, abbreviated as “Cigitt.”

Finally, there are photographs of the covers of two editions of the Appledore Cook Book and the cover of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book with Marketing Guide. Maria Parloa’s Appledore Cook Book, published in 1873 and 1880 and subtitled “Containing practical receipts for plain and rich cooking,” was intended for “new brides and housekeepers,” but “inspired by her time spent cooking at the Appledore House hotel on the Isles of Shoals.”

This display of photographs was completed by Conference Center Director Justina Maji with help from 2014 Vaughn Cottage Curator Caitlin Selby.

Want to learn more about the history of Star Island and the Isles of Shoals? Visit Vaughn Cottage on Star Island this summer and explore the exhibits that share the story of the Shoals.