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Bed Check: Lambertville House Hotel in Lambertville, N.J.

The Lambertville House Hotel in Lambertville, N.J., opened in 1812 as a stagecoach stop between New York and Philadelphia. (Zofia Smardz/The Washington Post)

“Would you like to upgrade?” asks the super-cheery — really, downright bubbly — front desk clerk as we check into the Lambertville House Hotel the day after New Year’s. “I have a king suite available; it’s a quiet night.”

Well, sure we’d like to upgrade! For no charge, who wouldn’t?

Off to a great start, I think, as the clerk hands us the keys to our new digs, apologizing that the suite will be dark — housekeeping has readied the room we were supposed to have but wouldn’t know about the last-minute switcheroo.

No worries, I think, as I hover by the elevator, waiting for my husband to bring in the bags from our car. Actually, we were off to a good start before we even entered the building. I liked the look of the 26-room boutique hotel on the Web site, and the real thing measures right up to those oh-so-flattering photos. It’s an old-fashioned, originally-from-the-colonial-era small-town inn, a square stone-faced structure hard up against the main street of Lambertville, N.J., with a two-story wood and wrought-iron balcony out front painted a jolly green. In the 1980s, the place was a famous derelict in town, I gather, but it has cleaned up so prettily.

Inside’s the same, the small lobby all modernized and spiffy, with handsome red floral carpeting and furniture in light colors to brighten things up. I poke my nose into the little glass-enclosed sitting area just beyond the elevator to have a gander at the murals of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, an attraction just down the street, painted on the walls. Lovely.

When I come back out, the desk clerk is darting toward the staircase. “I think I’ll just run up and turn on those lights for you,” she says enthusiastically. Now, that’s service for you!

When we get off the elevator on the second floor, there she is again, heading back down. “You’re all set,” she says with a perky smile. “And I lighted your fireplace, too.”

What a doll. And a fireplace — yay! Yes, it’s gas, but that’ll do. For atmosphere, anyway, since I assume it won’t throw off much heat. But it isn’t exactly freezing weather, and we’ve already turned off the rather annoying-sounding heater in our (very spacious) bedroom.

But wait, I speak too soon! My husband keeps the fire going all night on low, and soon our room is suffering from that most common of hotel diseases, stifling-itis. Well, it’s our fault, and at least the thing really works. And I like that the hearth is set into fieldstone, so we have a little sliver of that colonial feel in the otherwise thoroughly modernized, if traditionally decorated, setting.

The modernities? Great free WiFi, a flat-screen TV, Aveda toiletries in the all-white bathroom. But nothing’s more modern than the “suite” part. That’s a large tile-floored room through some French doors, between the bedroom and a porch looking out onto the cute back courtyard, that houses a humongous whirlpool tub. And I mean big. They call it two-person, but it looks as though we could get a small horse in there with us. (I’m not usually a hot tub fan, but lo and behold — it actually comes in handy. After a thorough post-dinner soak, my husband’s bum knee, which has been acting up, miraculously stops aching in the middle of the night. With no pharmaceutical assistance.)

Our suite, I note as we head down to the lounge for drinks and dinner (terrific), is called the Tom Thumb. Hmm, curious. Another is called the Robert Lincoln, and a third the Pearl White (don’t worry, I had to look her up, too; she was a silent movie star, the original Pauline in “The Perils of”). Seems that these were among the famous lodgers who have graced the hotel with their presence since it opened in 1812 as a stagecoach stop along the main road between New York and Philadelphia; presidents Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant dropped in, too.

It may be a quiet night in the inn, but in the lounge, things are hopping. I squeeze into a seat in the narrowest of spaces between the end of the bar and the front window. Whoa, this is snug. I wonder if Tom Thumb sat here?

The bartender has to stre-e-e-e-tch to hand us our drinks, but she’s all smiles and cheer, chatting as though we were regulars, even though I’d be grunting to achieve those contortions. (But she doesn’t spill a drop!)

Out on Bridge Street, the Christmas lights still twinkle on the storefronts. That’s cheery, too. In fact, I think, as I gaze around the warm wood-beamed room, painted in browns and a deep rose (including the ceiling), what a cheery place this is.

You could even say, super-cheery.

Lambertville House Hotel

32 Bridge St.

Lambertville, N.J.


Rooms from $200.

Zofia Smardz is deputy editor of The Post's Travel section. She joined Travel after eight years editing provocative opinion articles in the Sunday Outlook section.



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