De Kalb Junction Railroad Hotels
by Bryan Thompson
De Kalb Junction was established as a Railroad boom community following the opening of the Ogdensburg line of the Rome Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad, in August 1862. The railroad established woodsheds, and a machine shop at De Kalb Junction. The section boss of the division was also headquartered at De Kalb Junction.
By the time of the 1870 US Census there were 41 railroad employees living in the community of De Kalb Junction. Half of these men lived in hotels or rooming houses. Over the course of the history of De Kalb Junction there have been at least six hotels in operation in the community.
After the arrival of the Railroad until the advent of automobiles and good roads after 1910 De Kalb Junction was a centrally located rail hub for St Lawrence County.
Union Hotel De Kalb Junction
If you could get to a RR station you could travel to De Kalb Junction almost as fast as by car today. (Remember the famous 1870’s mail train trip from De Kalb Junction to Norwood, which was accomplished in 35 minutes with stops at Canton and Potsdam. You could hardly do this by car today.) The St Lawrence County Board Of Trade, which controlled the sale of all cheese from the numerous rural factories, often held their annual meeting at a hotel in De Kalb Junction. The WCTU held county conventions here as did The Republican and Democratic parties and the St Lawrence County Medical Society. Traveling Salesmen, barbers, dentists, and merchants set up shop in De Kalb Hotels. Doctors performed surgery at the hotel and coroners inquests and funerals took place there.
Although the early records are muddled perhaps the first hotels in De Kalb Junction were built in 1863. That year Mary Green purchased a lot of 88/100 of an acre from J.W. Moak for the erection of a hotel. The same year Clark Goulding purchased 24/100 of an acre of land from Moak on which he erected a hotel 125 feet by 100 feet. By1865 Goulding had sold this hotel then known as the Union Hotel to Mary Green and purchased another future hotel lot and additional lands from Mary Green.
The Dorsey Hotel
In 1864 Ezra and Elizabeth Dorsey purchased a Hotel from R. W. Judson located about where the US Post Office and Fire Department are located today in De Kalb Junction. The Dorey’s, native to Maryland, were experienced hotel operators having previously run the Seymour House in Ogdensburg.
The land had two hotel buildings erected in 1863 by Patrick and Mary Green, across from the RR depot. One was a public house and one was a boarding house along with the associated livery stables. By 1864 William Grem was operating the public house and the Dorsey’s the rooming house. On Friday the 13th of April 1866 a disastrous fire consumed all the buildings on the Dorsey property. The fire was so intense it almost burned the depot, which was saved by drawing water from the boiler of a locomotive, which happened to be parked on a nearby siding for the night. The Dorsey Hotel is the only one listed on Beers 1865 map of De Kalb Junction.
The Union Hotel
As previously stated Clark Goulding built the Union Hotel in1863. This hotel was located where the Sprinkles Ice Cream parlor is now located next to the Railroad tracks on Green Street. Clark Goulding, Mary and Patrick Green, Ed Burnham and Jimmie Hayes all had previously worked at the nearby Forest House Hotel. Clark Goulding was a businessman from Worcester, Mass who had come to the North Country during the railroad boom. In July 1865, Goulding sold the Union Hotel to Patrick and Mary Green.
Irish immigrants, the Green’s were experienced hotel operators. In 1850 Mary, with her first husband Aaron West, was operating some kind of boarding house with twelve boarders in the town of Lisbon. Between 1850 and 1860 Mary’s husband and Patrick Green’s wife both died. Patrick and Mary were married, combining their large families.
By 1860, Patrick and Mary Green were proprietors of the Forest House located on County Route 15 just a half mile from where De Kalb Junction would spring up two years later.
Using their expertise in the business, the Green’s soon developed a large clientele for the Union Hotel. They held social balls through out the year from New Years to Independence Day, Midsummers night to First Snow fall.
Almost any occasion called for a ball. These events would often go on through the night and include several meals. A store on the first floor of the hotel was rented out to various local merchants. The Green’s bought additional surrounding land in 1866 and built a livery stable and house.
For many years Patrick Green dutifully paid for his excise license. In April 1873 Patrick Green was indicted for breach of excise. He was later convicted and fined $75. Patrick Green died at the hotel Sunday June 7, 1874.
Mary Green leased out the operation of the hotel to C. J. Waldron, who ran the operation until December 1876, when Mary Green sold the Union Hotel and associated buildings to Charles Roulston for $7500.
Through out the operation of the Union Hotel until 1879, Clark Goulding lived in a room at the hotel. In 1877 Roulston raised Golding’s room rent and the resulting controversy lead to a lawsuit between the two men. It also led to Clark Goulding constructing his own competing hotel. Roulston ran the Union Hotel until 1878, when he leased the operation to Alanson and Caroline Burlingame, who eventually purchased the Hotel from him in 1881.
A detailed chattel mortgage for this transaction sheds some light on the size of the Union Hotel. There were 18 rooms to rent including a second floor parlor. The inventory goes into great detail about the furniture and furnishings and wall coverings in every room. The dining room inventory is two pages long. The livery inventory included four horses, one cow, two hogs, four cutters, three buggies and a freight wagon. The bar room was furnished as follows: one old bench, four armchairs, a box stove, mirrors, water tank, two wash bowls, three spittoons, three towels, two horse pictures, two fancy new bark pictures, one beer pump silver plated, 12 small bar glasses, six beer glasses, a water pitcher, five black bar bottles, one beer pitcher, five white decanters, four small pepper sauce and syrup dishes, 19 inch glass strainer worn out, one lamp cigar lighter, pair of bucksborns, one lemonade gin and toddy stick, one desk, two glass candy jars.
In late 1881 The Burlingame’s leased the hotel to Archibald Huntress. In April 1883 Archibald Huntress was fined $50 for allowing gambling to take place in the hotel.
George Gibbons who held a mortgage on the property called in his loan and ownership of the Union Hotel passed to Henry Beach and Albert Roach. During their ownership local taxes were collected at the Union Hotel.
In 1887 Harrison and Christeen Maine purchased the hotel, only to sell it one month later to Charles G. Moore of Pelham, N.H.. Mr. Moore was operating the Union Hotel when, on the night of August 18-19, 1888 a fire started in the attached barns. The entire hotel complex was destroyed in the fire.
Clark Goulding began the construction of his new brick hotel near the Railroad station while he was involved in a suit over room fares at the neighboring Union Hotel. He hired Perry Soule who formerly ran the RR hotel at Watertown to setup the new hotel. The Goulding House officially opened in December 1879.
Within months the RW&O RR announced that henceforth all trains north at the dinner hour (noon) would stop for a 20-minute layover at De Kalb Junction. This practice would continue for at least the next 50 years. Eventually a 20-minute supper lay over would be added to the evening sleeper schedule from Ogdensburg to Chicago. When the train stopped at the station, passengers would be escorted across the tracks to the Goulding House for a family style dinner already on the table.
The Goulding House
Edward Burnham and his sons, who first ran the Goulding House livery stable, took over management of the Goulding House from Perry Soule in 1881. During their tenure on September 22, 1882 General Sherman and his staff stopped to dine at the Goulding House.
The hotel register for this time period has survived. The register shows that 2/3 of their guests were county residents with the remaining 1/3 from all across the country. There are several amusing entries in the register including one from October 16, 1885 listed only as “Gentleman and two ladies from somewhere”.
In August 1884, James Burnham, who had charge of the Goulding House operation died suddenly. The operation was turned over to James Chaney and James West, the son and son in law of Mary Green. During their tenure a fire damaged one of the rooms but the building was saved and repaired. In April 1886 the partnership was dissolved, and West continued in operation alone.
In May of 1888 the Hurley brothers, Patrick and Daniel, leased the Goulding House. In January of 1893 the brother contracted to buy the Hotel from Clark Goulding for $9,000. Clark Goulding died at the hotel January 29, 1894. The Hurley brothers business prospered and they also bought the Windsor House in Potsdam, which Daniel Hurley managed. Many of their brothers and sisters lived and worked for them in their hotels. The partnership came to an abrupt end in 1903 when Patrick Hurley suddenly left town with Carrie Wainwright the wife of Josiah B. Wainwright.
Daniel Hurley had to return to De Kalb Junction to run the Hurley House. The partnership was dissolved in a protracted lawsuit. The hotel continued to prosper under Daniel’s ownership with numerous meetings and conventions being held there. Daniel was noted for being the jovial and kind provider of excellent service and food. Daniel Hurley died at the hotel January 15, 1912. The hotel closed for a time but eventually Daniel Hurley Jr. took over ownership leasing the hotel to various operators. He was operating the hotel at the time of his death, November 27, 1946.
Photo: Daniel Hurley stands in front of the Burnham Stage at the Hurley House.
Following Hurley’s death, William Walsh took over management of the hotel. During his ownership, the hotel was famous for the live music performed there. The Hotel ownership passed to Edward T. Warren in 1970 and from Warren to Mr. and Mrs. Donald White in 1974. The hotel was in operation until at least December 1979 when a raw fur dealer advertised that he was buying furs at the hotel. The building was removed in a controlled burn in the 1990.
The Thomas House was located on Hermon Street in De Kalb Junction across from where the current Town Offices are located. G. Mead Thomas built the Thomas House in the spring of 1889. The building was 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep and 60 feet tall. It contained thirty, first class bedrooms, a fine meeting hall, dining room and taproom. The Gouverneur Free Press noted on May 20, 1889, “Thomas’s new hotel was thrown open to the public a short time ago. He carries a full license and knows how to do it justice… Mr. Thomas sets three as good tables as any landlord in the county and with James Barber for clerk, business is bound to boom.”
Barber was an experienced hotelier and musician and the Thomas house soon became famous for its music and dances. The Thomas House dances attracted young people from through out the area.
The Commercial Advertiser noted in June 1893,” Many Cantonians who are lovers of dancing will attend the Independence Ball at the Thomas House ….The De Kalb Junction Orchestra will play their slickest tunes, and Messr. Tim Sullivan and Webb Price will be masters of ceremonies. The Thomas House has recently been enlarged and many rooms have been added, so that everyone can be accommodated who attends.”
The new hotel was doing a booming business, so big in fact that when the town excise board met they assessed the Thomas house $110 for a liquor license but the Goulding House just $100. However this was the last year the Town of De Kalb issued liquor licenses until the end of prohibition. Sensing the loss for his hotel trade G Mead Thomas sold the Thomas House in the spring of 1894 to Josiah B. Wainwright.
(Mr. Thomas immediately purchased a hotel in wet Edwards which was destroyed only weeks later by the great Edwards fire of July 1894.)
Even without the sale of liquor, the Thomas House thrived under Mr. Wainwright. His dances were merry events, well managed and enjoyed by all. The Commercial Advertiser of March 13, 1895 noted, “A big crowd of Canton lads and ladies will go over to De Kalb Junction Thursday night and take in the St. Patrick’s ball at the Thomas House. They say that it’s the place to go for a good time.”
The Thomas house was a popular place for wedding receptions and dinners for IOOF and Rebekah’s as well as dances. It was soon known as the Wainwright House.
Early on the morning of July 7, 1897 Abner Cross was sleeping in a bedroom at Wainwright’s Hotel when he awoke a glow out his window. The barn of I. Dennis Smith, located behind Wainwright’s Hotel, was in flames. By the time Mr. Cross had gotten dressed the flames had spread to the hotel.
Within three hours all the houses and business’s in De Kalb Junction on the south eastern side of what is today Route 11 between Hermon St. and School St were destroyed along with some buildings across route 11 and across Hermon Street. Wainwright’s hotel valued at $8,000 was gone and would not be replaced. Cole’s Hall would eventually be built on the site.
The Gibbons House
George Gibbons was a successful De Kalb Junction merchant. He served as town supervisor for a number of years and was at one time in partnership with his brother. Following the disastrous fire of 1897, which destroyed Gibbons store as well as the nearby Wainwright house, Mr. Gibbons built a new hotel with a mercantile store on one half of the first floor.
In January 1898 The Ogdensburg Journal reported “ George Gibbons has been so busy getting the Farmer’s Inn in running order that he has not got out yet, (to campaign) but will soon be on the turf.” The hotel was open by February of 1898 but as noted in the Ogdensburg Advance “with no hot drinks”.
Without liquor sales the business was not too profitable. Less than a year later, in March 1899, Gibbons sold the hotel to Charles Lobdell. This was an unusual sale for De Kalb Junction as it did not include the first floor store or the basement under it. Gibbons retained ownership of that portion of the building and continued to operate a store there.
In January 1900 Lobdell was fined $200 for selling liquor contrary to the town law. Just a month later there was a break in at the Lobdell Hotel that led to charges being filed. In 1901 a squirrel hunt dinner was held at the hotel. In June 1901 Lobdell was again in trouble with the law, this time for allowing gambling on the premises. In May 1905 Lobdell was fined for three violations of the excise act. These violations did not seem to deter the WCTU who held their meeting at the hotel the next month.
Charles Lobdell leased the hotel for a year to Frank Kaiser, Hermon’s cigar maker, in July 1905 but Lobdell was back in charge a year later in 1906. In 1908 the hotel passed to Amy and Carlie Lobdell. A meat market opened in the storefront in 1911, run by Frank Barber and Bert Condon. The Lobdell's would continue to own the hotel operating it sporadically and leasing it out until 1938 when they sold the premises to Bert Hewitt. Hewitt had purchased the retail store portion of the building in 1935. He was the first person to own the whole building since George Gibbon’s ownership in 1899.
In October 1938, Mrs. Eliza Gladle took over management of the Hewitt Hotel and changed the name to Junction Hotel. One year later Samuel Sheldon leased the hotel and it became known as Sheldon’s Hotel. The Sheldon’s ran the hotel until 1945 when Nina Redmond Longfellow purchased the property.
Richard McManus ran Nina’s Hotel in De Kalb Junction until about 1950 when the doors were closed.
In November 1953 Don Prosser purchased the hotel, made extensive repairs and renamed it the “New De Kalb Hotel.” Mr. Prosser operated the hotel for about a year.
The next proprietors of the De Kalb Hotel were Thelma Bushaw and Mrs. Verda Bailey. The hotel became the site of an annual talent show to benefit the American Cancer society. Thelma Bushaw continued to operate the hotel until about 1966 when she sold her interest to Verda Bailey. Verda leased the hotel to Henry and Violet Mousaw who bought to hotel in 1972. Richard Mousaw took over operation of the hotel for a number of years. The hotel continued to host jamborees and charity fundraisers as well as wedding receptions.
The Mousaw’s sold the hotel to Hubert Hand in 1977. Hand sold the hotel to A. Leonard Gray in 1978. Ronald Fenlong purchased the hotel in 1981. By 1985 Sharon and Dave Fenlong were operating the hotel. By the late 1990’s Dave Fenlong acquired title to the hotel.
The De Kalb Hotel was purchased by Amvets post 11 of De Kalb Junction. It officially opened its doors in February 2001. The Amvets is the only surviving hotel building in De Kalb Junction.
Due to the scantiness of surviving records there is at least one other hotel shown on the 1906 Sanborn map of De Kalb Junction for which I have found no records. It was located behind the Hurley House. If you have any information on this hotel please contact the author.
New York Historic Newspapapers. Various dates.
St Lawrence County Clerk (various) Deeds Liber 152B p. 991, Liber 781 p. 437, Liber 539 p. 13, Liber 873 p. 1042, Canton, NY.