The Montgomery Hotel was once a thriving place
MONTGOMERY – One long-lost Montgomery landmark is the Montgomery Hotel, a beautiful building that featured a hotel, restaurant, bar, and barber shop. It sat conveniently close to the two sets of railroad tracks on the corner of Main Street and Montgomery Street.
“The Montgomery Hotel,” a historical pamphlet written in 1976 by Elsie Nierle, reports that the first train came through Black Hole Valley on December 18, 1854, more than thirty years before the town was officially founded. The land that became the site of the hotel was owned by John G. Huntingdon and Jonathan Bower who sold it to Robert Montgomery on December 5, 1855. Robert Montgomery was a farmer and knew that having a railroad station could benefit the area, so part of the property was offered to the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad for that purpose. The station was called “Montgomery Station” and that was the town’s original name.
The Montgomery Hotel was built in the 1860s. Robert Montgomery’s son, Robert Bruce Montgomery had inherited the property and built the brick hotel. A wooden frame addition was later added to it, as Nierle reported. The building had twenty-five guest rooms, and the restaurant gained a reputation for serving fine foods. It was particularly noted for its eel soup. However, it lent a helping hand when calamity struck in 1889 when the town suffered a particularly bad flood. The Koons family, by then the owners of the hotel, served sandwiches out the window to boat patrols who were trying to manage the disaster.
Another notable point in the Hotel’s history was that it served as the site of a banquet celebrating Montgomery High School’s first graduating class in 1905. The Montgomery Area High School Alumni Association’s book “20th Century Graduates 1905-2000” recorded that the school building on Houston Avenue consisted of eight classrooms, so the commencement ceremony was held in the Montgomery Opera House (which stood in the parking lot behind the library) and followed with a dinner at the Montgomery Hotel. The menu included fish, meat, roasted turkey with giblet sauce, little neck clams, slaw, relishes, olives, cucumbers with French dressing, celery, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, chocolate and vanilla brick ice cream, lady fingers, angel food cake, bananas, oranges, mixed nuts, and cheese and wafers. The dinner cost fifty cents a plate ($13.84 in today’s money).
Nierle also reported that in 1906 the White Deer Valley Telephone Company had a banquet at the hotel. They were in for quite a surprise when some of the scalloped oysters they were eating contained pearls. John Meixel found an exquisite pearl and was offered two-hundred dollars ($5,537.38 in today’s money) for it by the town doctor, A.P. Hull. Meixel turned down the offer and said he was going to have it made into a pin.
The hotel restaurant thrived for years, and the hotel itself hosted many businessmen as well as construction workers who built the railroad bridge across the river and the Montgomery River Bridge in 1929 that replaced the town ferry. In 1910 the hotel charged two dollars a night, the equivalent of $53.42 in today’s currency.
The barber shop housed in the Hotel closed in 1975 when its owner, Richard Stahl passed away. Stahl was noted to be one of the founders of Montgomery Little League, and the planning meetings were held in his barbershop. Montgomery has the world’s second oldest Little League charter.
The hotel and bar were still in business in 1976 but plans were made to demolish it as part of a Main Street revitalization project. Joan Wheal-Blank wrote in “Around Montgomery Borough 1940-1990 that the project also included tearing down the long-closed five-story Houston Hotel on the corner of Main Street and Houston Avenue, tearing down the former hardware store that was converted into the Main Street Parking lot, and tearing down the Montgomery Opera House.
However, the Montgomery Hotel had been such a prominent business that the town decided to honor the building by giving a “Hotel Bash” with tours of the building and a dinner. Marion McCormick and her late husband Delmar were two of the people who helped out serving at the hotel bash. She recalled that Max Mull had the idea for a celebration which included a ham and bean soup dinner and drinks were served at the bar. McCormick recalled that the Bash was a “a good time” and that some lively ragtime piano music was featured. The Bash was attended by over two thousand people, according to Blank. Elsie Nierle’s “A Community Tribute to the Demise of the New Montgomery Hotel” was also printed and distributed, outlining some of the history of the building.
Shortly after the hotel was torn down, the Majik Market convenient store was built and would eventually become the Uni-Mart.