The Hart House Hotel welcomed her first travelers to Medina 1876, our nation’s centennial year. It was Medina’s finest inn, boasting over 30 well-appointed rooms with restaurant, bar, and billiards room. Its scale befit a prosperous and industrialized canal port village. Proprietor and namesake Elizur Kirke Hart of Albion, a banker, US congressman, and founder the Rochester Post Express, had by the hotel's opening amassed a sizeable fortune which was reflected in the hotel's high Italianate styling and fine appointments.
However, it was perhaps another building project at the other end of the state that earned Mr. Hart a prominent place in New York history. In the 1870s, Mr. Hart bought a large, secluded island in the Thousand Islands upon which he built an 80-room summer “cottage.” After his death in 1892, Hart (renamed "Heart") Island was acquired by George C. Boldt, who dismantled Mr. Hart’s cottage and slid it in pieces across the frozen St. Lawrence River to make room for his own mammoth castle. [Today, Boldt Castle attracts thousands of visitors each year, while part of Mr. Hart’s original cottage functions on Wellesley Island as a bed and breakfast known – appropriately – as the Hart House.]
Back in Medina, the upstate economy was changing. Dwindling hotel demand caused the Hart House to go dark by 1918. Enter Robert H. Newell, an enterprising clothier with a growing high-end shirt business. Over the next 86 years, the building would be the home to the company bearing his name. Newell completed extensive renovations to turn the hotel into a factory, and at its peak, utilized all three floors of the 14,000 square foot edifice for his 100 employees. The company catered to a very discerning and well-heeled clientele through its national network of salesman and retail stores stretching from New York to Los Angeles.
Shirts, pajamas and even undergarments were custom fit and tailored – a level of service that kept the likes of Bob Hope, John Jacob Astor, Winston Churchill, and Warren G. Harding (to name but a few) satisfied customers all. Gradually, however, the market for custom shirts waned, and one by one, Newell's sewing machines went silent. By 2004, the building sat vacant yet again.
In 2005, Renewell, LLC acquired the hotel-turned-shirt factory and commenced a 10-year restoration to accommodate a host of new businesses, including Shirt Factory, and a destination boutique hotel that serves to revive the building’s original name and purpose.