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The Union Bluff Hotel has stood proudly on the Union Bluffs since the late 1800's when it was originally built and called the Union Bluff House by Moses French. In 1873 Moses French was attracted to the seashore thinking that there was a good opening for business. He was a pioneer at York Beach, building not only the Union Bluff House but also the Fairmont House. Moses French ran the Union Bluff House for thirteen years, contributing much to its progress and gaining popularity every year until health problems forced him to retire in 1894. During this time Mr. French was the recipient of many honors due to his popularity in York Beach.
The area around the Hotel was once part of Cape Neddick, however the explosion of tourism after 1865 created the community now known as York Beach. During the years following the Civil War, prosperity reigned and improved transportation changed people's vacation habits. People flocked to York Beach by stagecoach, horse drawn carriage and eventually by steam train and electric trolley. Many Hotels and guest houses were open and guests arrived for a months' stay in the summer. The Union Bluffs was lined with hotels and cottages. Tourists came to "take in the sea air" and "go bathing every day."
In the early 1900's the Union Bluff House, was renamed The Wahnita and offered a "4 Days" stay including round trip travel from Portland, hotel accommodations and shore dinners for $18.00. There were band concerts in the park and the boardwalk along Short Sands was a popular place among overdressed ladies who did not want to get sand in their shoes.
In 1932 David Bowman purchased the hotel and renamed it the York Plaza Hotel. Guests came to stay for one to two months in the summer. The lobby was on the 2nd floor and many guests enjoyed sitting on the porch overlooking the beach. Rooms were located on the 3rd floor and there was a pulley system to hoist trunks up to that level. The hotel had a huge dining room where all meals were served. As was the custom in those days, all meals were included. Mr. Bowman sold the Hotel in 1954 for $25,000.
The Union Bluff has changed names with different owners over the years:
- The Wahnita c. 1900's
- The York Plaza Hotel c.1930
- Union Bluff Hotel c.1976
It was sometimes also referred to as The Driftwood by locals because of its popular lounge of that name. The Hotel has basically remained the same over the years with only a change in appearance in the early 1900's when a second tower was added to the end of the Hotel closest to the Fairmont Hotel and the central peaked dormer was replaced with a square tower.
The original Union Bluff Hotel was one of the last old wooden buildings in York Beach. In February 1987 the original building was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt to resemble the original building that has occupied this site since the 1800's. The "new" Union Bluff Hotel opened in June 1989.