The Importance of the Railroad in Port Jervis
by Bob McCue
To understand what part hotels like the Erie Hotel played in the fabric of our economic and social history, one has to go back to the days before the railroad. Mass transit two centuries ago was the canal and the stagecoach. Roads in those days were unpaved, meaning either dusty or rutted in the spring and summer, or frozen and bumpy in the winter, if not buried under snow. Canals could freeze in the winter, and river travel was limited. With any travel, canal or otherwise, you did not travel over four miles an hour, so a sixty mile trip to New York City from Orange County overland was an overnight trip: the local tavern or inn became an absolute necessity.
Then came the railroad, and suddenly you could travel from Orange County to New York City in two hours or less. To understand the impact this had, in 1840 getting milk shipped fresh to the city was impossible. By the 1850's, milk was over half of the Erie Railroad's freight receipts.
Towns and cities boomed with the coming of the railroad. Port Jervis was blessed with no less than three: The Erie; the New York, Ontario & Western; and the short-lived Milford, Matamoras & New York, which closed after flooding on the Delaware River took out a bridge twice.
Port Jervis boomed in the railroad era, when the Erie's shops, rail yard and depot employed a majority of the city's population. With the new era, hotels became a major mark of a city's social standing: The Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City is just one of the famous names from that era. The hotel was not only a sign of prosperity, but a part of the city's social fabric, a gathering place to meet, and catch the latest news, and with hotels with a bar and restaurant, to gather and celebrate.
An Erie Railroad president got one thing wrong: he once said if the Erie ever left Port Jervis then grass would grow on Pike Street. Port Jervis has weathered hard times and is still alive and well.
Then as now, the Erie Hotel remains a gathering place to meet and celebrate. Many thanks must be given to the present owners who have given this famous landmark a second life, and I send good wishes for a long and prosperous future. A toast!
History of the Erie Hotel & Restaurant
by Matt Kierstead
The three-story brick building now known as the Erie Hotel & Restaurant was built at 9 Jersey Street in Port Jervis, New York, next to the Erie Railroad's passenger station and the Railway Express Agency building in 1890. The "Erie Hotel" as it is popularly known was one of several "railroad hotels" built around the Erie Station by private owners to serve passenger train travelers. Railroad hotels offered quick meals for passengers on brief stopovers, as well as full restaurant service and overnight accommodations. They advertised themselves as "European Plan" or "American Plan" hotels, which simply signified whether daily rates were for a room only or for a room and three meals, respectively.
Before the Erie Hotel was built, the land at 9 Jersey Street (sometimes identified as 9-11 Jersey Street) was occupied by a blacksmith shop. About 1890 a Mr. Padgen purchased the land, tore down the blacksmith shop, and erected the Erie Hotel. "Padgen" may be a misspelling of "Padien," a name appearing on this building in the 1903 Port Jervis atlas. On May 13, 1890, Charles and Jacob Bauer, Jr. opened a new hotel and restaurant in the Padgen Building next to the Erie Station. Jacob Bauer was described as an experienced caterer who understood all aspects of hotel operation. His establishment was called "one of the neatest and brightest little hotels along the Erie line." The hotel could accommodate up to 40 overnight guests and served meals 24 hours a day. Conveniences included steam heat, hot and cold running water on every floor and electric and gas lights. It included a handsome mahogany bar and a modern refrigerator. The hotel also included a "sample room," a common feature of the era where traveling salesmen could display examples of their wares to potential purchasers.
In 1901 the establishment changed hands and was known as the "Hotel Erie," run by T. Hunt Brock. Brock had previously run a hotel in Scranton for nine years. Jacob Bauer moved across the street to the "New Bauer Hotel," built 1903-1905. Brock's Hotel Erie offered 30 rooms on European Plan for 50 cents a night and up, as well as on the American Plan. A 150-seat restaurant offered regular and a la carte meals and a lunch counter seating 50 people provided a quick lunch for travelers riding the trains. The establishment was known variously as Brock's Hotel in 1922 and the Hotel Brock in 1927, when it was advertised as having special accommodations for tourists and "the finest appointed dining room in the city." In 1938 the hotel was owned by Blanche Brock.
By 1942 Hotel Erie ownership shifted to Austin C. Carroll. In 1947 proprietorship was shared with Helen L. Carroll. Later the hotel was run by John "Jack" Austin Carroll (1925-2008), and renamed the Hotel Carroll. Jack Carroll was a U.S. Navy radio operator during World War II and owned the Hotel Carroll for over 30 years.
The hotel was purchased by the Brink family in 1986 and renamed the Erie Hotel & Restaurant. The Brinks oversaw a complete restoration after a 1994 fire severely damaged the building. The first floor features a restored bar, railroad mementos and many framed historical photographs of downtown Port Jervis. The Erie Hotel is also still a functioning hotel, offering overnight accommodations in ten rooms, five each on the second and third floors.
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