The Somers Historical Society keeps telling us that the Elephant Hotel is not the home of the Barnum & Bailey Circus; we’ve kept believing it is because it’s an interesting tidbit about our beloved Westchester. But the real story of the hotel (in our opinion, at least) is just as intriguing. Hachaliah Bailey—the Somers entrepreneur who opened the hotel in 1825—was owner of not the first but the second elephant in America, Old Bet. Despite being the runner-up in the race to own an elephant, Bailey experienced incredible success: His travels around the Northeast essentially ignited the popularity of the 19th-century traveling menagerie. Even after Old Bet had passed, the hotel remained a meeting place for those involved with the menagerie and the circus, eventually featuring the foundation of the Zoological Institute. The Elephant Hotel was given the designation of National Historic Landmark by the US Secretary of the Interior in 2005.
We admit it: The hotel isn’t the home of the circus, but it came pretty close.