A century ago, May 30th, 1850, the Metropolitan Hotel at Hemlock opened its doors for business. I wonder if pioneer dreams brought about by talk of railroads, then less than two decades old, coming through Hemlock valley, or if the excitement of the talk of the building of the “Plank Road” to Rochester and of Hill building his level route along the east side of Hemlock Lake had anything to do with the name chosen for the hotel or of its size.
A century later, May 30, 1950, its present owner, “Libby” Haggerty, again opened its doors in celebration of its 100th birthday. Looking backward over its period of existence it is remarkable that it still stands, what with the changing conditions during 100 years. Its structural condition speaks well for its builders. Mentioning a few of the hotels and taverns in and about Hemlock that came and went during the years, there were The St. James, The Lake Shore House, The Jacques Hotel at the lake, the tavern that stood across from the Frozen Food lockers, The Morton Hotel and the Scanlon place in the village, and The Shipley House in Gullburgh.
Old timers have told me of how the hotel’s timbers were hewn and framed in woods surrounding Hemlock Lake and floated down to the foot, of the celebration in town when the frame was raised, and of the opening. Of the gay parties held in its ball-room and of dancing on the spring floor. (This spring floor is supported by cork pine stringers spanning the entire width of the building and John Coykendall, who several years ago removed a hump from the floor, said that he struck an axe into one end of the sprung timber and pulled the splinter the entire length of the timber. Such was the lumber that entered into the construction.) Of the bowling alleys in the basement which extended under the front porch. Of the changing of horses on the stage route and of the hot “toddies” served the passengers to rest them. Of the time that Gillette, from Livonia, walked a tight wire strung from the hotel peak to the old grist mill peak. They told of Aaron Doolittle, who built it. Of Hanchett who framed and erected it. His wooden square and broad axe have been placed in our museum.
The south part’s origin is at present not known to me. I think it to be about 135 years old. It was the original tavern. Older people seem not to know too much about it.
After Doolittle built the new part his dream of riches were rudely shattered. The railroad through Livonia was shortly to do away with stage coaches and plank roads to Rochester. The hotel changed hands several times in the next few years. Among the owners were Hosford, Clapp in 1872, Wiard and Newman in 1872, Whitney and Ackley who also operated a bottling works in the basement and bottled beer and soft drinks. These people also built the Whitney and Ackley driving park, now the fair-grounds. Then came along the best know of them all, “Bill” Haggerty who purchased it from Wiard. He operated it for over 50 years and both he and the hotel became known far and wide. The present owner remodeled the building, erected the pillars and shingled the sides.
No story would be complete without recording some of the humor, and the old hotel produced plenty of that. “Bill” was a horseman through and through and during the fair the hotel was a gathering place for the race-horsemen and there were more races raced in the sitting room adjoining the bar than were ever raced on the track. He could give the life story of any horse in the area back two or three generations. Fair-time proper precautions were made, the back bar was removed, potato crates put over the kerosene lamps and sawdust put on the floor. These precautions were necessary because of the exuberance of some of the fellows who came to the fair.
People who had been in the habit of stopping at the “Met” would have their favorite room and would talk about it and they would sometimes reserve their rooms by wire, but I don’t recall ever handling a wire reservation for room 7; room 7 was the hayloft in the hotel barn and was expecially well occupied during the fair by visitors who came to but never got to the fair.