Home Page

cah1.jpg (259902 bytes)

Sid Blake's letters from new york

Sid Blake was born  in New York on the 28th May 1890, the son of an immigrant from St Stephen in Brannel a village close to St Austell, in Cornwall. His father, John Thomas Blake owned and ran the Star Hotel at 67, Clarkson Street in Brooklyn from around the time of Sid’s birth in 1890.

 Sid's father was well known amongst the Cornish community for offering a service which was more than just a place to stay for Cornish people traveling to and from America.  Those travelling to America would be met at the boat on arrival and taken to the hotel. John would then arrange their schedule for travelling onwards to places such as California, Arizona and Michigan. They and their luggage would be taken to the Train depot and they would be safely seen on their way.  

A similar service was also offered to those traveling home to Cornwall. Once they had decided when they wanted to travel they would contact John who would write to them by return of post giving them details of ships, sailing times, dates and the price of tickets. If they booked their passage through Blake’s then they knew they would be well looked after. 

By 1913 Sid had joined his father in the running of the business and because the area around Clarkson Street was becoming, (in Sid’s words) run down, they began a search for another hotel. They eventually found a place at 441 – 443 West 23rd Street on Manhattan Island. And Sid and his wife were put in charge of running this hotel, which they called “The Cornish Arms”. The hotel was special in that it had a lawn area out front where Sid's guests could sit and chat on the warm summer evenings. But it was more than a hotel and Sid and his wife became good friends with many of their Cornish clients. 

Once they moved from the Star to the Cornish Arms there were on average three weddings a week taking place with Sid standing in for the brides father on many occasions. Bridegrooms would travel into New York from such places as Detroit, Akron and even from as far as Bisbee, Arizona (See left for photo of Bisbee's main street 1910)  to meet their brides who would be arriving from Cornwall on the ships. The first stop was City Hall for a licence and then the marriage ceremony would usually take place at St Peter's Episcopal Church just a block from the  hotel. Afterwards a reception was usually held at the Cornish Arms   

Sid and his father  hit upon a great line in publicity. Sid would write a regular letter to newspapers both in Cornwall and America in which he would tell a little of what was happening at the hotel  and then list the Cornish people who had stayed with them since his last letter. One of the newspapers was the " Cornishman"  in Penzance. The editor would publish the letters in the his paper which covered the West of Cornwall. He would also provide a copy of the letter to other newspapers in the Group including  the “Hayle Mail” and the “Cornubian” which covered Redruth. However it seems that what was published was left to each editor. When I carried out a check of the three papers for sample dates I found that whilst the majority of the letters are the same, others are either missing or different. By trawling through all the papers I hope to create a complete list of the Cornish who stayed at the hotel as reported by Sid Blake plus his informative letters. These contain news of the New York “Cornish Association” as well as the details of weddings and funerals which had taken place. There were also social evenings and Sid would tell his readers the details of who had contributed what in the way of entertainment.

With the growth of passenger flights after the second world war, many of Sid's customers began to fly direct to and from the cities where they had made their homes. As trade dropped off Sid was forced into bankruptcy. The Cornish Arms Hotel was sold but remained in business until 1981 when it was closed and the building was converted into apartments. If you live in or visit New York take a trip to the building which became a part of Cornish history. It is well worth it as you can also get a sandwich at the famous D’Agostino’s Deli which is on the ground floor.

Sid Blake played his part in recording part of the social history of Cornwall. His newsletters can be found in hard copies of the Hayle Mail covering the dates 1911 to 1916 at the Morrab Library in Penzance in Cornwall.  Microfiche copies of the Cornishman, Cornubian and the Hayle Mail newspapers can be found at the British library and of the Cornubian and Cornishman at the Cornwall Local Studies Centre in Redruth Cornwall. 

The Morrab Library in Penzance, Cornwall  has in its newspaper collection bound copies of The Hayle Mail for the years 1912 – 1917 these are the only known hard copies of this newspaper in Cornwall and possibly the World. The newspaper, contained an account of things that happened in the town of Hayle, the former Cornish industrial town. However, there was also considerable correspondence from overseas relating to Cornish people who had left to seek a new life, with regular contributions from the main sites around the world where they had settled.

There are some 60 letters from Sid for the period 1911 to 1917 and these are being faithfully transcribed and put onto the web site along with other reports which had been sent to the Hayle Mail by Cornish people in other places such as Butte, Montana and Calumet, Michigan. I am also putting links to sites which give an insight into the history of the places that Sid's customers were either travelling to or from in America.  

Today researchers into family history use Sid’s letters to gain information on members of the family who left Cornwall for the USA. They are then able to extend the information they get by going onto the internet to find information though the Ellis Island web site. The web site URL is http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/default.asp . 

The original work on this sight is the copyright of George Pritchard. It is not to be used for commercial purposes but may be quoted from for non commercial purposes But I would ask that due credit be given.

If you leave the site use your back button to return

Morrab Library Web Site. 



George Pritchard. Copyright © 2000 . All rights reserved.
Revised: December 16, 2005 .