Many of the largest and most successful summer hotels during Sullivan County's Silver Age—that period of time between approximately 1890 and 1915—were located in and around the village of …
Many of the largest and most successful summer hotels during Sullivan County's Silver Age—that period of time between approximately 1890 and 1915—were located in and around the village of Liberty.
The Hotel Wawonda, with its 300 rooms, eight public fireplaces, golf course and mile-long bicycle track, was the grandest of these, setting the standard by which all other local hotels of the era were judged, and numerous hotels such as the Swannanoa, and Ye Lancashire Inn, for example, were only a bit less so. Sadly, none of these hotels made the transition to the county's Golden Age, as the Swannanoa burned in 1912, the Wawonda in 1914, and Ye Lancashire Inn in 1920.
One of Liberty's prominent Silver Age resorts, however, was not only reborn in time for the Golden Age, but became one of the most well-known hotels in the area. It was the Hall House, later known as the Hotel Lenape.
The Hall House, named for owner and operator J.C. Hall, opened in 1890, and as a true Silver Age resort advertised that it was “situated on an eminence in the village, in the midst of well-shaded and well-drained grounds.”
By 1899, the Hall House had been enlarged to 50 “fine, airy, pleasant rooms,” and was “lighted with electricity and is modern in structure and conveniences. The piazza is broad and extensive and the balcony affords a fine view of the village, and an excellent panorama of the surrounding country.”
But the croquet grounds and amusement room with piano the Hall House depended upon for the amusement of its guests were not sufficient to entertain the more sophisticated tourists of the 20th century, and like most Silver Age resorts, the hotel began to struggle. Unlike many of the other hotels of the era, however, new ownership was able to successfully reinvent the Hall House, not as a resort, but as a “modern city hostelry” renamed the Hotel Lenape.
While plans for the newly configured hotel were announced with great fanfare in the July 14, 1927 edition of the Liberty Register newspaper, no new name had yet been chosen. That was leaked to the press in the January 23, 1930 edition of the Register, just two weeks before the new hotel officially opened for business.
“It is unofficially reported that the directors of the Hall House Corporation, owners of the Hall House, Liberty hotel, have been contemplating changing the name of this hotel to the Hotel Lenape. In fact, it is said that the change has practically been decided on,” the Register reported in that January 23 paper, adding that “with the possession of a new brick building, the hotel directors would get away from the old fashioned connotation of ‘House'” in the name.
On Monday, February 10, 1930, the new red tapestry brick, modified Georgian style structure with the stone trim, white frames and cornice, and iron balcony railings designed by Pember and Demers Architects of Albany, opened its doors to more than 280 guests at the 25th annual Lincoln Dinner Republican get-together. The Hotel Lenape, completed except for a soon-to-be finished coffee shop, was hailed as “the most modern structure of its kind outside the major cities of the state,” with a spacious, two-story high lobby, 50 guest rooms—each one with a private bath-- and a dining room that could accommodate 300.
From that point on, the Hotel Lenape became a fixture in the village, hosting political dinners, weddings, dances, fundraisers, and many other community functions until it closed its doors on January 24, 1970. By October of that year, the old hotel had been repurposed as apartments for senior citizens “with limited income and assets.”
By that time, the Hall House had long-since been forgotten by all but the most avid history buffs, completely overshadowed by its more well-known reincarnation.
John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.