Historian Writes of Early
Hotels in Town
By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail January 15, 1953
Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
This is the 15th in a series of articles written about the township of Cairo and published in the Daily Mail.
It is interesting, as we turn the pages of history, that we learn how hotels come into being in this country. In the early years of the town people traveled on foot or horse back and would stop at the first house when they sought food and shelter.
A large kettle of food was always hanging on the hearth-hook over the coals in the fireplace in the large kitchen and a meal could be served with a "mug of brew’ at any time of the day. If it was evening, the traveler might remain for the night either sleeping on the floor in the kitchen or in the loft.
Time progresses. Larger and better houses were erected and furnished either with locally-made furniture or maybe imported furniture. From across the seas. Then the traveler would be accommodated with a bed.
Roads were built and the two-wheeled cart was replaced by better wagons. The coach, swaying behind gaily-tasseled horses, drew up to the inn. This was the "last word" in style. The ladies were dressed in silks and brocades, hoopskirts and crinolines, laces and feathers. These were some of the guests that the hotels of Cairo catered to. They came from Chicago to their homes in the west of Cairo. Some came from Virginia on their way to Saratoga with a string of horses and their attendants, and others from other parts of the world. This was told me by one who has witnessed such a scene many times. Close your eyes and picture these people parading the streets of Cairo of a summer evening. What a sight !
Where was the first hotel? In Jessie V. V. Vedder’s Official History of Green County, we read:--"Catskill Packet February, 1796, states that the house of Herman Deyo, of Shingle-kill (now Cairo) burned with all the household good." Where was this Tavern?
Carman House Inn
And again Mrs. Vedder tell us that, The Carman house in South Cairo (still standing) opposite the bridge was an inn where stage horses were changed. And to quote further: "On the site of the Catskill Creek House, Elisha Blackmar built an inn in 1816. Cattle were driven through this part of the country, and this was the stopping place for the drovers, where they spent the night. Later, Blackmar, built the house on the Van Deusen homestead which is still standing; and retired for business." Abraham Persons, brother of John Henry Persons and George Persons, hotel keepers in the village of Cairo, owned and operated the Catskill Creek House and today Harry Thompson is its proprietor.
From Beer’s History of Greene County we learn that Adijah Dewey was the first settler in the present village of Durham and had a hotel. He is remembered as Major Dewey. He married and had a son, Titus, and two daughters, Ann, who married Jaurus Chitterden, Jr., and Polly, who married Peter Elting. Both settled in Cairo. Continuing---the first hotel in Cairo was built and occupied by Major Dewey. It stood at the lower end of the village. Just when Major Dewey came we do not know, but we do know he was here in 1817. "He was a restless man for in 1820 he moved to Leeds and ran a hotel at that place." Just where was this hotel"?
From notes compiled by Mrs. S. A. Mangam, the previous historian of Cairo: "William Crooker built a Hotel where Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Francel now live. This was the oldest hotel site before 1838 and was originally called the Calder House. Some of the other owners were Bester Dexter, whose wife was Julia Ann Keller. They had two daughters, Charlotte, who married a Mr. Hamilton, and Frances, who married Mr. Eggleston. The next owner was Martin Eggleston (was this the husband of Frances?) Then Stephen Tryon, whose wife was Catherine Richtmyer of Gilboa, was the next owner. Mr. Tryron had two daughters, Adelia, who married a professor of Music, Charles Moritz Leibich. He left Cairo to conduct a Conservatory of Music in Cost Rica, where he died. Catherine Tyron married Jonathan Brown Webster. The next owner was Daniel Jennings. Did these men follow one another or were there others between? In 1867, Seymour Adams owned and operated this hotel. It must have been a good sized establishment for the records show that in the freshet around 1880, the hotel barn, which had a 50-team capacity, was partly taken away. Since then the dwelling has been used as a private residence.
The West End Hotel
Another road-house hotel of those early days was conducted and owned in 1852 by Joel Wicks. He had a brother, George Wicks who lived where Dr. William H. Newcomb now lives and conducted a general store where the store of Vincent DiStefano is now. Joel Wicks was supervisor of the town in 1851. Mr. Wicks sold the hotel to Mr. Forman; then Seneca S. Odell and Mr. Hoag owned it until it was destroyed by fire. It was known at that time as the Sunny Side Hotel.
Jonathan Brown Webster who had married Catherine Tryon bought the hotel grounds and "in 1886 built an entirely new residence on the place. The Webster House was the first real up-to-date boarding House built in this old town of Cairo." In 1900, A. B. Chichester (could this have been any relative of Ann Dewey?) owned the hotel which was then known as the West End Hotel. He was planning to build an amusement hall adjoining his hotel when the Cairo-Freehold Road was constructed and the property was taken over by the county. A part of the building was moved and was the nucleus of the present Blue Danube.
The Eastern Hotel
Still quoting from Mrs. Mangam’s notes: On the site now occupied by the First National Bank of Cairo, was one of Cairo’s four hotels of early days. It was owned by Amasa Keith. It passed into the hands Christopher Kiersted, then Samuel Mulford and in 1884 into the hands of Ben Waldron, and was known as the Eastern Hotel. Then Mr. Holmes of Dutchess County owned it. Daniel Webster Jennings purchased it from the later, calling it the Fair View Hotel. About 1888, it was destroyed by fire. The barn must have been very large for "It took three days to go from Catskill to Tannersville." It was nothing for 40 to 50 horses and wagons staying over-night at this livery. The new Jennings Hotel across Main Street and opposite Bross Street was built." This was destroyed by fire in 1890, with a loss of $15,000, according to Gallt’s history. (hand written in margin; According to Frank Bonesteel/Boresteel this hotel was rebuilt by Mr. Jennings and in 1914 was again destroyed by fire.) Mr. Jennings did not rebuild.
These are of the past. The next article will deal with the present. If you have any material you wish installed, please sent it in immediately.