We believe that Jakob Louis Muller arrived in the Holburn District of London in the 1860s, after which he took a job as a waiter. He had emigrated from Baden in Germany. In 1873 Louis became part owner of the Starr’s Hotel in Finsbury Square, which, unfortunately, led to bankruptcy, depression, and Louis’ Muller’s untimely death 35. Here’s what we know about Louis Muller and the Starr’s Hotel.
Richard Benjamin Starr
Starr’s Hotel at 14 Finsbury Square was originally established by Richard Benjamin Starr, a London property owner. According to contemporary news articles, this may have been one of three Starr’s hotels that he owned in the Holborn area of London.
Richard Starr’s most notable contribution to society was his part in the establishment of Starr-Bowkett Societies. These were financial societies that provided a way for middle-class families to group and create loans. Based on the idea of mutual self-help, these non-profit financial institutions brought together people looking to borrow money. Society members paid a subscription, from which loans were made to individuals within the group, by lottery.
Starr-Bowkett Societies became popular throughout the UK and even made their way to Australia. The UK societies were later banned because the lottery system was prone to abuse. However, but Australian Starr-Bowkett societies continued into the 21st century. The last one closed its doors in 2014 after the last of its members had paid off their loan.
Licensing the Starr’s Hotel
Turning back to Richard Starr’s property interests in Victorian London. I found a licensing reference for the Starr’s Hotel at 14 Finsbury Square that was published on 26th March 1871:
“House, 14 Finsbury- square – Richard Benjamin Starr asked for this license for the purpose of using it only in connection with the business of a private hotelkeeper. There was no opposition, and the superior landlords, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, sanctioned the application – License granted”Morning Advertizer – 26 March 1871
This would seem to give us a starting date for the Starr’s Hotel. Still, I found advertisements in newspapers in November 1869 and December 1870 promoting Starr’s Hotel at 14 Finsbury Square to farmers attending London cattle shows. So it may have just been a reference to obtaining a liquor license.
I found more advertisements for the hotel in other newspapers. In February 1873, an ad in the York Herald boasted that Starr’s Hotel is in “The most central and most healthy part of the Metropolis, near the Northern Railway.”
Starr’s Hotel Goes up For Auction
Then on 19th June 1873, the Starr’s Hotel in Finsbury Square went up for auction. The Bristol Mercury described the property as:
“The old-established and fully-licensed commercial and general hotel, known as Starr’s Hotel … contains 22 rooms.”
However, a second announcement in the Daily Telegraph and Courier on June 23rd states that the auction failed, so it was now being offered out for private sale.
Louis Muller and Gustav Schmidt Buy The Starr’s Hotel
It must have been soon after this that Louis Muller and Gustav Schmidt went into partnership and bought the Starr Hotel.
It seems possible that Gustav Schmidt was a fellow waiter, and it could have been the Gustav Schmidt that married Elizabeth Jane Smith in St James, Piccadilly, London in 1872. According to marriage records on Ancestry.com, Gustav was working as a waiter.
I’ve yet to find an official announcement of the creation of the Muller-Schmidt partnership, but it was short-lived because it was dissolved in August 1874:
“Notice is hereby given, that the partnership heretofore subsisting between the undersigned, Louis Muller and Gustav Schmidt, carrying on business at no. 14 Finsbury Square, in the county of Middlesex, as Hotel Keepers, under the style or firm of Muller and Schmidt, was dissolved as of this 1st day August 1874, and the said business will in future be carried on by the said Louis Muller alone, who will pay and receive all debts owing from and to the said property in the regular course of business”The London Gazette, August 1874
A couple of months before this, Jakob Louis Muller’s wife, Margaretha, gave birth to their son Louis. So, having become a father in June, by August, he was running a London hotel and had assumed any debt that the partnership had accumulated.
Louis’ Breakdown and Death
There’s little evidence of how the Muller family lived through the next three years, but in April 1874, Louis was admitted to Lambeth Workhouse having suffered a mental breakdown. Over the next few months, he was transferred to Brookwood Asylum and then Hanwell Asylum. The cause of his mental disorder was stated as ‘Overwork. Long hours of work’.
Louis died on 24th September 1874 of ‘General Paralysis.’
Louis’ case notes from the asylums give the strong impression that taking on the Starr’s Hotel was too much for him, particularly after the partnership with Gustav Schmidt dissolved. Mounting debt and the physical demands of maintaining the hotel seems to have induced depression and most likely some degree of stroke from which he couldn’t recover.
The Legacy of the Starr’s Hotel
The legacy of the Starr’s Hotel for Louis’ family was a sad one. It not only drove Jakob Louis Muller to his death but soon after that, his wife Margaretha disappeared, leaving their young son Louis an orphan.
However, despite his misfortune, the German orphanage at Dalston took him in, and he thrived as a gardener for Baron Schroeder, a benefactor of the orphanage. After moving from London, Louis Muller married and eventually established our Muller family in Sussex, England.