The Elm House Hotel

Par­tial his­tory authored by George Cahoon, Jr.
The Elm House Hotel sat on the south side of the Com­mon fac­ing North. It was built in the late eigh­teen hun­dreds and was the largest build­ing in town. It got its name from the large elm tree that grew beside the front walk, (east side) and close to the road. It was a huge tree by the time that I stayed there dur­ing my four years in high school. Unfor­tu­nately, the Dutch Elm dis­ease took it along with sev­eral other elms that graced the “Green.”
My father’s brother, Wal­ter Cahoon, and his wife Viola bought the hotel in the 1920’s and lived there until it was closed and sold to Howard Calkins in the late for­ties or early fifties. Calkins’ crew tore it down and used the lum­ber to build the two small houses on the east side of Hill Street and the one on the south side of Grand View Drive.
Wal­ter and Vi’s old­est daugh­ter, Gladys Cahoon Peck, came in to help with lunches and din­ners. Her two daugh­ters and I had noon lunch there dur­ing school. I was mostly a per­ma­nent res­i­dent dur­ing school time, going home to the Walden farm for vaca­tions and some week­ends. My job was to keep the wood boxes filled.
I am not sure of the dimen­sions of the build­ing, but I would guess it was close to 140 feet long and 40 feet wide. There was an ell at the east end for a horse and car­riage barn and wood­shed. The main build­ing was three full sto­ries high. The first floor held the office and reg­is­tra­tion desk imme­di­ately to the right of the front entrance. Going straight through the front hall­way, one came to the door into the big kitchen with two big stoves used for large din­ners. East from the kitchen through a short hall­way was a big din­ing room fur­nished with large, round oak tables that would be worth much money today. Two walls had sev­eral large stuffed and mounted moose and elk heads. I remem­ber being afraid of them when I was quite small.
Upstairs from the front hall were the guest rooms. I never counted the num­ber but there were sev­eral on both sides of a long hall­way. There were two com­mon “nec­es­saries” near the top of the stairs. The only bath­tub and lava­tory sink was in the ladies room. There was no shower in the mens room — only a com­mode and uri­nal. There was also a small cement sink for water for mop­ping the floor. There was hot water from a large tank behind one of the kitchen stoves heated by what was called a “water front” located on one side of the fire box. The third floor was given over to a large dance hall or party room accessed by a rather steep and nar­row stair­way from the sec­ond floor. There was a large wood stove near the far end of the long hall­way. Oth­er­wise the guest rooms were unheated. There was also a rather spooky back stairs that accessed the loft over the car­riage barn and down to the ground floor of the barn.
The third floor had been long unused by the time I stayed there dur­ing high school and there were only a few occa­sional peo­ple who stayed overnight. There were occa­sional noon meal guests and the bank direc­tors came once a month for a noon meal. These peo­ple were accom­mo­dated in the fam­ily din­ing room directly behind the office and next to the kitchen.
There was a large cel­lar under the west end of the build­ing with stone walls and a dirt floor. The cel­lar stairs went down from a short hall­way between the kitchen and din­ing room. There was also a bulk­head to the out­side under the kitchen. It stayed cool in the sum­mer and only on an occa­sional very cold win­ter got below freez­ing. Beer for the tav­ern was stored there, and I often car­ried cases up for the tav­ern trade.
There was a sep­a­rate out­side door to the din­ing room/tavern and Wal­ter had an entrance “coop” built over that door and a larger one over the front door. Rolla (Rol) Hebb was a more or less indi­gent elderly per­ma­nent res­i­dent at the Hotel after he sep­a­rated from his wife. He was pri­mar­ily a black­smith and car­pen­ter in ear­lier days and had a shop on Rail­road Street. He was old and slow but he finally fin­ished build­ing the two entrances prob­a­bly pretty much for his board and room. He was an excel­lent work­man, despite his short­comings. He passed away some time after I fin­ished school, but I have no rec­ol­lec­tion of when it happened.
My father raised pota­toes for a cash crop in those days. After they were dug and bagged in the fall, a trucker was hired to take them down to the hotel for stor­age in the cel­lar. There could be as many as fifty bushels, weigh­ing sixty pounds each on a load, and I had to carry them down the bulk­head and to a far cor­ner of the cel­lar.

To view a photo album related to this arti­cle, click here.
This arti­cle was first pub­lished in the June issue of the North Star Monthly.
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One Response to The Elm House Hotel

  1. Molly G says:

    Amaz­ing this was in Danville! What a beau­ti­ful picture

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