NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: The Park Hotel | Lifestyles

As mentioned last week in Niagara Discoveries, after the Washington House burned in 1865, the site was rebuilt as the Ira Bronson Carriage Company, which stayed in business there for over 50 years, closing in 1916. Ira Bronson’s grandson, Sylvester, had an auto repair business in the old carriage shop for a few years and then the building was sold to Shearston & Lowell, glove manufacturers. In 1929, after nearly 65 years, the site again became a hostelry, when Fred Remick purchased and remodeled the old carriage factory and opened it as the Park Hotel, returning the corner of Park Avenue and North Transit Street once again to a stop for travelers.

Remick spared no expense in turning the three-story brick building into a first class hotel. A July 13, 1929 article in the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal goes into much detail about the room décor, furnishings, bathroom fixtures and many other amenities. Most of the 47 rooms included a private bath or shower as well as a telephone. The article boasted of modern heating, electrical and plumbing in which wires and pipes were concealed in the walls. The rates ranged from $2 to $2.50 per night with a discount for weekly accommodations.

The hotel did not provide its own dining room at that time but there were two separately owned restaurants operating in the building (no alcohol could be served as Prohibition was still the law). The article called the new accommodations “Lockport’s finest hotel.” A few months later, the stock market crash of 1929 plunged the nation into the Great Depression.

The Park Hotel survived despite the hard times through the rental of restaurant and retail space at the street level and with local patronage. When Prohibition ended in December of 1933, Remick opened a cocktail lounge at the east end of the building known as the Tap Room.

In 1935, Remick hired Charles C. Bartley to manage the hotel. Bartley stayed two years and left to manage the Park County Club in Williamsville. When Remick put the Park Hotel up for sale in 1939, Bartley and his wife, Bertha, bought it for $1,400 and started a nearly 30-year stewardship of the business.

The Bartleys first remodeled the kitchen and dining room, made decorative changes to the guest rooms and updated the Tap Room. During the war years, materials were scarce so no major renovation projects were done. Business began picking up again during World War II and the owners had many plans for the hotel as soon as materials were available again.

The Bartleys operated the hotel through its golden years of the 40s, 50s and 60s. In the late 1940s, the kitchen was enlarged and modernized and a banquet hall was added to the west side of the building. In 1950, this became the “Carriage Shop” lounge and the banquet hall was moved to a larger space within the hotel. This new lounge capitalized on the building’s earlier history and was very popular with the public. The Tap Room was turned into the “Paint Room,” a space for small parties.

It was also at this time that the hotel inaugurated its famous Ice Buffets featuring ice sculptures hand-carved by Charles Bartley. The hotel introduced ground floor air-conditioning in 1946 and room air-conditioning in 1953.

Over the years, the hotel catered to many well-known guests, particularly visiting politicians, including Robert and John F. Kennedy, Thomas Dewey and Nelson Rockefeller. There is a 1960 photograph of John F. Kennedy sitting on the back seat of a convertible in front of the Park Hotel.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Park Hotel was the meeting place for all the service organizations that operated in Lockport. Even during the early years of urban renewal, when Lockport’s downtown was being dismantled, the Park Hotel continued to thrive.

After almost 30 years of running the hotel and serving an average of 150,000 meals a year, the Bartleys decided to retire in 1966 and sold the building three years later. The Park Hotel was still vacant when vandals set it on fire in October 1972. The gutted structure was torn down shortly afterward. A convenience store has been located at the site since the 1970s.

Although the Park Hotel is gone, mementos from its past still exist. The History Center’s Yates Barn has four of the miniature carriages that decorated the walls of the “Carriage Shop” at the hotel. Postcards and other small items can also be found for sale online. The History Center would be interested in any old photos of the interior or exterior of the hotel. The photos can be scanned if you wish to keep, rather than donate, them.

Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.

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