The Roosevelt Hotel, a remnant of stagecoach days, still stands along State Route 49 between Fulton and Central Square, on the north side of the highway. Photo by Richard Palmer
Syracuse Herald-American, December 28, 1969
Old hotel still stands
Relic of early travel
By Richard Palmer
Winter days are wonderful days for dream especially indoors by a roaring fire. Even if you don't have a fireplace, relax somewhere in the glow of your central-heating and dream an antebellum dream with one.
It certainly has been a long, cold drag in this stagecoach since we left Rome this morning. Earlier the driver gave us horse blankets to wrap ourselves in so we wouldn't freeze to death.
Seems like we'll never get to Oswego. All of a sudden, the driver shouts "whoa," and his four-horse team halts in front of the hostelry a few miles west of Central Square called the "Roosevelt Hotel."
Our driver has decided that, because of the inclement weather, we'll spend the night here rather than go on. Well, we're not in that much of a hurry anyway, so we pile out. Our legs are so stiff we think they'll fall off, but a little walking around restores the circulation.
While the stage driver pulls around back and beds the horses down for the night, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Williams, proprietors of the hotel beckon us to come inside and we beat a hasty retreat to warmer quarters.
After an almost unforgettable dinner, and with our innards warmed, Mrs. Williams tells us that a dance will be held tonight in the upstairs ballroom. We might as well join in the festivities, because we probably couldn't get much sleep anyway with all the commotion.
1:30 a.m. - Whew, what a night! Virginia Reel and all! Haven't had this much fun in years. A right lively time we had! Time to turn in. Got business to tend to in Oswego tomorrow. Morning comes early.
7 a.m. - Up and at'em. The driver's got the stage out front, ready to go as soon as we gobble down our breakfast of mashed potatoes, a few fried eggs, a few strips of bacon, and a few cups of coffee to wash it down. Now we're rarin' to go. And all for less than two dollars including our room.
Such might have been the scenario at the Roosevelt Hotel after riding all day in the stage from Rome in the 1850s, in the days when a dollar went a long way indeed - but very much slower.
Those were the days when the hotel was part of a bustling settlement (now a lonely four corners on Route 49). Several cooper shops were located here in the old days that produced barrels for the salt industry in Syracuse and Liverpool.
In those days, Roosevelt had all the ingredients of what built this country - pioneer spirit and a willingness to work hard. Many interesting facts about this old-time settlement have been unearthed by Mrs. Emily Hoyt, historian of the Town of Hastings.
Through extensive research, she discovered that the intersection of Route 49 and Stump Valley Road was the original site of the first hotel in this area in 1808, when the entire section for miles around was owned by the Roosevelt famly. The hotel was operated by John Bowker and was known as the Roosevelt Inn.
"In 1848," Mrs. Hoyt writes, "the hotel was torn down and another built on the present site by Alonzo Burke. This was called the Roosevelt Hotel. The next owners were Kellar and Clark.
"In 1856 that building burned and was rebuilt by Charles Haden who later sold it to Benjamin Williams, an uncle of the later owners, Frank and Rose McMahon. The barns at one time were located on the north side of the road and were moved to their present location many years ago."
A toll gate on the Fulton and Central Square Plank Road, was later made into a barn. The first school was held in one of the barns on the hotel propert. A post office was located across the road, Mrs. Hoyt said.
The McMahons operated the hotel until about 1869 when the New York & Oswego Midland Railroad (later the New York, Ontario & Western) was built a few miles to the south. It pretty much put the plank road out of business and most of the traffic formerly on the highway was diverted to the railroad. Thus, the hotel became an unprofitable venture and it became a private residence.
Don Johnson, grandson of the MacMahons, has lived in the old hotel most of his life and operates a 177-acre dairy farm. Although the interior has been extensively remodeled over the years to suit living conditions, the exterior looks much the same as it did in stagecoach days.
The cost of painting such a building today is almost prohibitive. But there's always a chance some historical-minded civic group will "discover" this old landmark and go to work with paint brushes.
It's certainly worth preserving as a monument to the pioneer spirit of our ancestors.
Oswego Valley News, June 11, 1975
Oswego Valley News, November 30, 1978