In 1858 Jesse Hoyt funded the construction of a four story hotel on the southwest corner of Washington and Genesee. Hoyt imported both the furnishings and a proprietor from his home state of New York for the new Bancroft House. Typical of the time period, two entrances were provided; the main entrance on Genesee Street and the ladies entrance on Washington.
One of the grandest affairs the lumber era saw was the opening of the Bancroft House in 1859. A French chef was imported and one can imagine his cultural shock upon arriving at this frontier town with its mud streets and much of the business district built on stilts over a sluggish bayou. Guests were the boss loggers, leading merchants, and important politicians. It was a white tie and tails affair, and the women were stunning In their gowns and jewels. The banquet was a meal to remember. Pike and Whitefish were prepared in various styles. There were cold dishes of boiled tongue ham, corned beef, and chicken salad. In addition, there were boiled beef, leg of mutton, chicken, pork, and turkey with sauce. There were thirteen roasts, including bear, venison and wild duck. The whole thing was topped off with fruits and nuts in profusion.
Couples all over the world have danced to tunes and hummed the lyrics of songs Saginawians have composed. Charles K. Harris was a bellhop at the Bancroft Hotel when he wrote the classic, “After the Ball.” With that success he left bell-hopping and penned two more popular tunes: “Hello, Central, Give Me Heaven,” and “Break the News to Mother.” He went to New York City later and founded Harris Music Publishing Company.
The Bancroft House was the anchoring structure around which the East Side developed. Within thirty years it was circled by blocks of office buildings, shingle factories, banks, clothiers, hardware stores, and salt factories. Most of these buildings were several stories high and clearly visible from the flat surrounding countryside. Businessmen and laborers lived in adjacent neighborhoods on North Jefferson Street, South Jefferson Street and to the east. Many of these residents came from New York State or Canada and were of German, Scott or English descent.
Reconstruction of the Bancroft House in 1915 began when several local entrepreneurs organized and acquired property under the name of the Bancroft Realty Company. The old hotel was rapidly razed and replaced with a Chicago School style hotel designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Schmidt, Gorden, and Erickson. It soon became a business, social, and cultural center for the city. Its simple exterior appeared strikingly modern when compared to the elaborate Victorian-era Eddy and Mason Buildings on adjacent corners. Th Bancroft House saw Saginaw’s first era of development. The Hotel Bancroft provided an indication that even though lumbering was finished in Saginaw, Saginaw was by no means finished.