Hawley accepted the first of some 11,000 commissions in 1880. His career as an architectural renderer lasted for 50 years and spanned one of the most important eras in American architecture. He was born in England, and his early artistic career began in about 1874 as a scenery painter for Christmas pantomimes at Covent Garden in London. By 1879 he was painting scenery in New York’s Madison Square Theatre. Once established, he tried his hand at architectural rendering and so began a highly successful line of work.
Hawley was considered a pioneer in his field. Kenneth Clark noted in 1926: “[Hawley’s] work looks mid-Victorian but with all its faults, measured by later standards, it still had a popular appeal that the most beautiful ‘architectural’ drawing lacks. His buildings were of brick and stone, not white paper and India ink; his skies were blue with real clouds in them, which cast cloud shadows in a fascinating way across even the most monotonous of facades. His streets were full of people who were doing something, not just figures, gaitered and caned, obligingly standing still to give scale to the painting.”
The Hotel Gramatan is a romanticized view of the former grand building that once stood on the top of Sunset Hill and commanded a view of the village and its surroundings. Although the depiction of the building is quite accurate, the elevator shaft is omitted and the street level arcade never existed.