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.

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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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