The Crocker House was a favorite location
for social events and political meetings. Charles Dickens, actors Joseph
Jefferson and George M. Cohan, prizefighter John L. Sullivan, and
Australian prima donna Nellie Melba (inspiration for Melba toast and
peach Melba) were among the hotelís most celebrated guests. The bar at
the Crocker House was James OíNeillís favorite drinking
establishment, a place to enjoy the companionship of his admirers and
Irish compatriots. Along with the Irish taverns run by the McGarrys and
the Neagles, the Crocker House bar was also frequented by Jamie and
Eugene OíNeill and their friends.
The Crocker House Hotel, c. 1906
Jim Lewis, headwaiter at the Crocker House, was a leader in New Londonís African-American community. His rival for influence was Adam Scott, an imposing and distinguished looking man. He was an Elder of the Shiloh Baptist Church and a bartender at Holtís grocery store on Main Street. When one of OíNeillís friends asked Scott how he reconciled religion and bartending, the Elder replied, "Iím a very religious man, but after Sunday, I lay my Jesus on the shelf." Scott was fond of OíNeill and his group of friends saying, "I gotta look after you boys. I gotta see nothing happens to you boys" (Gelbs, LWMC, 349). According to two of OíNeillís New London friends, Adam Scott served as inspiration for Brutus Jones in The Emperor Jones.
James OíNeill acquired approximately 25 pieces of property in the New London area and many of the sales were brokered by Tom Dorsey, a realtor of dubious reputation. Dorsey and his famous client often transacted (or celebrated) their land deals in the Crocker House bar. In Long Dayís Journey into Night, Edmund attacks his father saying: "And then you went to the Club to meet McGuire and let him stick you with another bum piece of property! (As Tyrone starts to deny.) Donít lie about it! We met McGuire in the hotel bar after he left you. Jamie kidded him about hooking you, and winked and laughed" (Collected Plays, 1175).
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