Historic Waterfront Hotel For Sale

Pleasant Beach Hotel

14477 Fancher Ave Fairhaven, NY 13064

 

Michael R. Franklin
Licensed Real Estate Broker
(o) 315-876-2262
Mike.Franklin@FranklinRuttan.com

HISTORY OF THE PLEASANT BEACH HOTEL

Pleasant Beach Hotel – 100 Years of Play on the Bay – The tale of a Lake Ontario Icon

1910-1940 – Floyd Clark
1940-1947 – Edward Haddock
1947-1949 – Van Heis
1949-1965 – Herman Griegor
1965-1985 – Gus
1985-1995 – Dave Grigg
1995 – 2001 – Scott Cooper
2002 – 2007 – Pat Jones
2007 – Present – H and Bonnie Scoville

I do not say what I know to be, I only tell what was told to me – Charles Harry Wheelbee, The Flaming Ship of Ocracoke and other tales of the Outer Banks


In the morning, one by one, we grab a cup of coffee and make our way to the Adirondack chairs to ease ourselves into the day. Just a quiet time to gather our thoughts before the summer day takes on a life of its own. I can’t help but wonder if Floyd Clark and his wife felt the same hint of magic that morning, over 100 years ago when they opened the doors of the Pleasant Beach Hotel for the first time, if they knew how spectacular the sunsets are, how incredible the setting is and did they think that we would still be here enjoying this spot, more than 100 years later?

The Pleasant Beach Hotel has survived through two World Wars, influenza, the Great Depression, the baby boom, hippies and yuppies, Disney World and virtual reality. Her history is that of changing with the times, but never losing her heart or soul. She is a survivor. The only one left, so let me tell you some of the stories of her 1st 100 years of play on the bay.

I’m Bonnie Scoville and on Valentines Day of 2007 my husband, H and I drove from Savannah, GA, through what had been the worst winter snow that most could remember, to buy the old hotel. We were greeted by 10’ of snow and more snow and more snow. I remember thinking when we arrived that it looked like a scene from Dr. Zviago, H thought it looked more like “The Shining”, and that began our great adventure with the grand old lady of the bay, but her story started 100 years ago when Floyd Clark decided to build a luxury hotel for the summer people on the bay.

So many summer hotels were built toward the end of the 1800’s and early 1900’s, so few survived. There were seven built in Fair Haven over the years. Many burned, it was typical to build of wood, gingerbread was in. Many of the choices made by Floyd Clark in the design and construction of the hotel contributed to her survival.

Floyd Clark

One of the early advertisements we found boasted that the Pleasant Beach Hotel was fireproof. The exterior walls are masonry, built of patterned blocks made individually, on site with forms bought from Sears and Roebuck. The ceilings on the first floor were patterned tin as was not only the second floor hall ceiling, but the walls too; we think this also was a nod to fireproofing. Such a pretty nod and thankfully, through all the remodels, the hall remained in tack until we purchased it in 2007.

The hotel has some very unique design features outside that also contributed to its long life. The roof is flat metal sheets, laid horizontally on a steeply pitched (12/12) top hat hip roof with a very distinctive swoop at the eves. There were seven dormers and one long gable out the back of the main square building. The original roof is still on the building. Tin is a great material, if you maintain it, it can last for a very, very long time. A 12/12 pitch is also great, with that much pitch the roof will shed water quickly and stay reasonably dry even with a few holes. The swooping eves help to keep sheets of ice and snow from being such a great hazard, but they do hold the moisture on long enough to be a problem.

When we bought the hotel the roof was leaking badly and was the scariest challenge we had to face, at least that’s what we thought then. Years of patching with no real repairs had caught up with the old girl. We had estimates as high as $100,000 to replicate the old roof, way beyond our mom and pop budget, but we pushed ahead on pure faith that we would figure it out. Those details I’ll save for another chapter, now back to the Clark’s who did a great job of both designing and building the Pleasant Beach Hotel.

Originally, we believe there were 22 numbered doors on three floors with a full cellar under the main square. We don’t know if all 22 were guest rooms. We do know that there were 10 rooms on the second floor and 4 on the third floor. We don’t know if there were guest rooms on the first floor, but it is likely that there were some. 100 years ago you got a great view and pleasant lake breezes, but no indoor plumbing. The original two hole outhouse still stands just behind the kitchen at the edge of the property and since this was such a nice place to stay, the outhouse, of course, was just as nice. Constructed of the same materials and mimicking the design of the hotel all the way to the swooping roof line. We know from an old ad that by the mid 20’s hot and cold water were added and one room on each floor was converted to a bath to be shared by all. When we bought the hotel, there was still just one bath at the end of the hall to service all the rooms on the second floor. That would be one of our fist challenges, baths for all, one of many challenges.

Neither phone nor electricity was part of the original plan. We did find mention of a phone number in an ad dated 1925. There is also mention of electricity coming in by the 1920’s. In the original photos of the hotel there are no electric lines run to the building, but in later photo’s you see the pole in the southeast corner of the kitchen wing. When we did our remodeling after we took over in 2007, we found the old cast iron gas pipe that had been run throughout the building to supply light in the early years. There was an acetylene plant in the cellar that used carbide and water to produce a gas that could be piped throughout the building for illumination. The center chimney was original to the building; we’re not sure what the original heat source was. By the time we arrived they had installed a modern heating and air unit to cover the main floor. The second floor had baseboard heat and the third floor had electric space heaters. There was a giant old furnace that was probably fed with fuel oil or possibly coal originally. They also had a very large boiler that would have produced hot water for the kitchen, baths and the 2nd floor baseboards. None of these were in working order and didn’t look like they had been used for a very long time.

 

We don’t know if there was a kitchen in the building when it was built, there was a chimney coming from the middle of the rear wing, they could have had a kitchen where we do now or perhaps in the cellar or possibly the meals were cooked offsite and brought to the hotel, we do know that they offered fried chicken and fish dinners and we also know that Floyd and his family tended a giant vegetable garden on what is now the Vickers’s property next door. We can only imagine how good the meals were, but we know for a fact how very special it is to enjoy a meal at the Pleasant Beach, a special event for over 100 years. While I’m sure the guest would have enjoyed their meal, one thing they would not have been able to enjoy was a glass of wine or a cocktail or a tall, cold beer, Fair Haven was a dry town until the early 1950’s.

Those early guests of the hotel would have enjoyed reading or chatting, playing cards or maybe some needle work on the beautiful wrap around balconies on both the first and second floors. A game of croquet on the lawn surly would have been in order and no one would have missed going boating on the bay. There would have been small sailing craft and row boats, but I’m thinking the launch that appears in many of the early pictures was a big hit with its fringed top and bright varnished wood; I’d be there in a heart beat. Many of these early “Naphtha” Launches and row boats were built locally by George Moak, some may still be lurking in barns and boat houses around town. In 1932 Carl Foster purchase what some say was the fastest boat on the lake, a wooden Chris Craft and till well into the l950’s he gave rides on the lake and Bay. There was a steamer called the “Dewey” that took people around the bay, it would take you up to Ontario Park, also known as Pearson’s Point, were you could attend a dance or ride the steam powered merry-go-round, you could play ball or have a picnic. You could walk a block and a half to Main Street and see a silent movie at Ray Millman’s theatre in The Central Hall (located on the second floor of the Mendel Building, where Bayside Grocery is now located. Other favorites included ice cream downtown, roller skating at Turner’s Rink and if you were lucky, you were in town when the traveling circus came rolling in, complete with parades and a big top!

The Pleasant Beach was stylish and comfortable, but relatively small by resort standards. That too may have helped her keep her doors open all these years. World War I came much too soon and at the end of the war, the greatest influenza epidemic the world has ever seen spread like wild fire. A post card from Mrs. Clark’s niece talks of the toll it is taking were they live, summer vacations were put on hold, people too afraid to leave their homes and too heart broken for summer fun. The Clark’s would have been better able to weather these times than some of the big resorts with massive overhead and weather they did right into the roaring twenties.

Getting to the hotel in those early years was sometimes pleasant, sometimes challenging. For 75 cents you could ride the excursion train. You could get off at the depot in Fair Haven or take it to Ontario Park and disembark. From town you could ride the Automobile Omnibus to your destination or be met by a horse and wagon, bicycles were also used to get around town, Fair Haven boasted of a series of improved bicycle paths that went from the depot downtown and connected many of the businesses including Ontario Park. There was an Omnibus that made two trips a day between Fair Haven and Oswego for 50 cents. My favorite would have been the steamer “Arundel”; she made port once a week on her way to the Thousand Islands. There were smaller launches that would take you from Ontario Park or the depot at North Fair Haven to the Pleasant Beach Hotel. Horse drawn wagons were still the staple in 1910, but the automobile was pushing hard, the survey work on the new State Road began in 1913 so before long it would have been a pleasure to drive out from Rochester in your own automobile for your summer holiday at the Pleasant Beach.

The Roaring 20’s saw the end of gas lights on the streets, to be replaced with electric ones. The automobile was no longer just a novelty it was becoming a way of life. Both the State Park and the short-lived airport opened in 1928. Air shows were held in Fair Haven and barnstormers came through to give you the thrill of a lifetime.

With prohibition came bootlegging and rum running and upstate New York was in the thick of it. The booze came from Canada, the boats were fast and the shore of both Lake Ontario and Little Sodus Bay were not that well populated. There was a boat called the Black Jack, 36’, sleek, fast and black, it would just disappear on the water. The boat had been custom built in Wolcott for Dewey Gillette at a cost of $7,000 for the sole purpose of running booze from Canada. Nobody knows how many runs she made but we do know she never got caught. Many others were not so lucky. There were many stories of high speed chases both on land and sea, several ended badly, but my guess would be that many more made it through safely and kept the supply of alcohol flowing south for all the years of prohibition. I don’t know how it affected life at the Pleasant Beach, I don’t know if any of that liquor made its way to the guest or if anyone was awakened to gun shots over the water. I do know that the hotel was a popular destination and that life in Fair Haven was good in the Roaring 20’s.

Too soon the party was over and the depression settled over the nation. It was a very bad time for summer hotels. Many of the biggest closed their doors, some fell to mysterious fires, some just fell into decay, but the Pleasant Beach soldiered on. The bank closed, the coal train stopped running, but things did not die altogether. Carl Foster opened his speed boat concession in the park, a thrill that lasted until l956. In 1933 they organized the 1st yacht races on the bay. This was the beginning of the Fair Haven Yacht Club. I was told of another race in 1938, the boats ended the race at the hotel. The yachtsmen proceeded to party the night away, maybe partying a little too hard. A bad storm blew in off the lake and caught the boats and boaters unprepared. By this time taking a vacation at the Pleasant Beach Hotel was a tradition with many. We were told that someone had to die before you could find an open week at the Pleasant Beach.

The Clark’s had a good run with the hotel. We’re not sure what inspired Floyd Clark to build the hotel. We don’t even know for sure what the inspiration for naming the hotel was, but I did run across the story of another Pleasant Beach Hotel. From 1874-1954 the Pleasant Beach Resort stood on the shore of Onondaga Lake near Syracuse. It was enormously popular in the early years. The first hotel burned, the second one was torn down and in 1912 the only one actually named Pleasant Beach Hotel was built. It stayed open until 1954 when it was torn down to make way for Highway 690. Long before the wrecking ball put an end to that Pleasant Beach Hotel, pollution on the lake had taken its toll. By 1940 you could no longer swim in the lake, fishing was all but gone too. It was so big and so popular in its day that I feel sure the Clark’s would have gone there. With absolutely no other reason for naming his place the Pleasant Beach Hotel (we don’t have a beach), I’m guessing that he capitalized on an already recognizable name and for the next 100 years it has been the Pleasant Beach Hotel.

Floyd Clark passed away in 1936, his wife continued to run the hotel until 1940 when she sold it to Edward Haddock and so the next chapter begins.

Edward Hadcock – 1940-1947

In 1940 another local business man purchased the Pleasant Beach from Floyd Clark’s widow. At that time the property included the lot to the North of the hotel. The Hadcock’s built the cottage that stands on that lot today. When they sold the hotel, they kept the cottage leaving the cottage only 5’ from the property line.

When we bought the old hotel in 2007, there were very few historic artifacts left. We had a few old photos and the Yachtsmen’s Log Book from 1965. I love old stuff and have spread all my old junk all over the hotel. I also have always been interested in piecing together the history of every place we have been. With that in mind, by the end of the first season a very interesting thing started to happen. People began to bring in things that they thought I would be interested in and I was interested. Everything found a home and become yet another story. One thing to come my way was a photo from Madeline Wilkerson. It shows a very large crowd on the lawn and waterfront of the Pleasant Beach. There were people of all ages and they were obviously looking at something out in the water. Madeline was one of the young girls in the photo. She thought it had been taken in l940 or l941, but couldn’t remember what they were watching. I put the photo on my desk and for the next several weeks I asked anyone who looked like they might be the right age if they remembered this day and what took place. Several people looked at the picture, but no one could shed light on it. A few weeks later I received a call from Ray Sant whose father wrote two books on the history of Fair Haven. After I showed him the photo he went home and started looking through some of his father’s papers and found a newspaper article from 1940 that showed this picture and gave the story behind it. It was taken at the speedboat races that were held as part of the 4th of July celebration that year. The picture now hangs in the Pleasant Beach Hotel and we have another piece of the puzzle of what life at the hotel was like over the years.

The Haddock’s had a son and the plan was for him to play a major role in running the hotel. World War 11 came and he answered his nations call for help. He died serving his country, but his parents were broken hearted and it took the joy out of their time at the hotel. In 1947 they sold to the Van Heis.

My mother in law, Shirley Scoville, was raised just a few miles from Fair Haven. Her parents, Hollis and Marie Reed, were friends with the Van Heis’s. Shirley talks of going there and playing with the Van Heis’s daughters.

Many people have asked us what brought us to the Pleasant Beach, not realizing that H was born while they were still living in New York. Doc Hanford was a local legend and a fixture at the Pleasant Beach. He delivered both H and his brother Scott. The family moved to Florida when H was two, but they maintained ties here. His grandmother, Marie told such great stories of coming to the Pleasant Beach during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. When we decided to sell our home in the mountains of northeast Georgia, we were looking for a deep water home for our 36’ Cape Dory sailboat. I got on the internet and looked at everything up and down both coasts, the Caribbean and the Great Lakes. When I got to New York, up pops the Pleasant Beach Hotel. I showed it to H, now isn’t that interesting, look what’s for sale. He was not as intrigued as I was, but for the next four months I kept coming back to it. Finally, it was September and we were heading up to New Jersey to pick up the boat and I talked him into making the side trip to take a look. We looked at several other properties, but kept coming back to the Pleasant Beach. We made an offer and it has been a very wild ride ever since, but somehow, it feels like we have come home.

1947-1949

The Van Heis’s only kept the hotel for about a year and a half. In 1949 they sold to Herman Grieger and that ushered in yet another era for the now almost 40 year old hotel.

1949-1965

Herman and his wife, Liddy along with their two year old daughter Judy took the reins and started to shape the hotel and make it their own. They began to close in the lower wrap around porch to serve as a dinning room. A few years later their son, Herman Jr. and his wife, Jean joined them and took over some of the responsibilities of running the hotel. My mother-in-law came to live in Red Creek in the early 40’s when her mother married Hollis Reed. Marie and Hollis frequently met up with friends for dinner at the Pleasant Beach. She always considered it the best restaurant in town and told such wonderful stories of the Pleasant Beach Hotel. The Grieger’s were the first to make the physical changes to the building that would take it from being primarily a hotel to eventually for a brief period, just a restaurant. The family lived on the third floor. At that time there were four small rooms, a bath and three bedrooms. The area over the kitchen wing was a walk-in attic. When their son and his family came they lived upstairs for a while and then moved in a house trailer to live in. The hook up is still there but the trailer has been gone for a very long time. Judy remembers fondly living on the third floor of the hotel. Her room was in the front where we now have our living room. We have since made our home on the third floor; the view is to die for!!

The family kept the hotel open June, July, August and September. They would head for Florida in the winter. Once the younger members of the family started school, Herman Jr. stayed the winter here and kept the hotel open for a longer season.

Alcohol had finally come to Fair Haven but with a glitch. When they fought for liquor, they somehow left out beer so Fair Haven became the only town where you could have a cocktail, but no beer. They also would only give a seasonal license, so no alcohol in the winter. This did get corrected, but it took some years to work it out. One point of interest in all the legalities of alcohol in Fair Haven was the fact that in those early years the bars in Fair Haven were allowed to stay open until 4 AM. Several of our customers have told us about spending a portion of their reckless youth going to Oswego bar hopping until 2 AM closing then getting in their cars and racing back to Fair Haven to make last call on the bay. We’re so glad that they are still here to tell the stories.

The bar at this time was in the middle room where the lobby is now. The pictures show a stairway on the side. It is still there, but it was closed in over the years and is no longer visible from that room. It is used as the service stairs to the second floor. They had a piano and bowling machine. The kitchen was smaller, but in the same location it is now. The family also had a couch and some chairs in the kitchen area where they could hang out. In the room where our bar is they had a sort of commons room with couches, chairs and a juke box.


The Fair Haven Yacht Club took up residence in the basement of the Pleasant Beach about this time. They leased the space from 1948 to 1953 and also spent $3500 on the new dock. Individual members of the Yacht Club pledged between $25 and $300 to build the new dock, it’s still there today. They expanded into a Jr. Yacht Club program and outgrew the facility. The club acquired the property across the bay from the hotel and moved there in 1953. I’m sure that the cooperative effort between the Pleasant Beach Hotel and the Fair Haven Yacht Club helped them both to survive during what were some fairly tough economic times.

Bill Brewster was a young man back then and spent summers at the family cottage just north of the hotel. He said some of the older members were sailing Lightning’s, but the younger ones were looking for something faster. After seeing the Thistles at the New York Boat Show, he signed up to be a dealer and sold a dozen or so on the bay. The Thistles were seen on the bay during much of the 50’ and 60’s. By the 1970’s the Yacht club was moving towards bigger boats and the Thistles slowly fell out of favor.

The Greiger’s were German and brought with them their own style of cooking, a style that would stay with the Pleasant Beach until we purchased it in 2007. The family did most of the work of the hotel. Judy tells of helping with breakfast and cleaning and staying to help with dishes at the end of the day, but she also remembers her childhood at the Pleasant Beach as being wonderful with the run of the town, bay, State Park and even the West Bay. I can’t imagine a more special place to be a kid than Fair Haven in the 50’s.

With the Grieger’s came a local lady by the name of Jenny Lagau, she came to help Liddy with the cooking and stayed for over 40 years. Mrs. Grieger taught her much including how to make her famous Ice Box Cake, a recipe that remained guarded for years to come. Sadly she passed away in 2009 but not before both her and Gus (the owner who followed the Grieger’s) could join us for Gus Day. Over 60 people came to see them and reminisce about the time they spent here so long ago.

Another tradition that started with Herman was that of having the Rochester Power Squadron raft up at the docks. Recently we had a customer tell us that one of the power boats in the picture belonged to her father. She remembered fondly coming to the Pleasant Beach as a young girl and playing with the Greiger’s young daughter Judy. The pictures show these great old wooden cruisers rafted all the way across the property. After World War II a great thing happened in the recreational boat industry. Companies like Chris Craft came out with a line of affordable boats targeted towards the middle class. The smaller wooden cabin cruiser became a staple on the lake. One thing boaters want is a reason to get out on the water and a destination. The Pleasant Beach became that destination and for many years those big raft ups were a common sight at the hotel. We’re still working on topping that record turn out. The Pleasant Beach Hotel is a favorite destination for boaters all around Lake Ontario.

One rather famous boat to show up at the hotel was owned by Rod Sterling of Twilight Zone fame. Apparently he was very fond of coming to the Pleasant Beach and had a really nice boat. Herman Jr.’s son had the best experience when one day Mr. Sterling and his wife invited him aboard to see the boat and to hear some stories. It made a lasting impression on a young boy.

In 1953 the Yacht club moved from the basement of the hotel to their new home across the bay. After they left, Herman turned their area in the basement into a banquet room. Now our cellar is right at creepy, damp and dark, low ceiling and I am still having trouble imagining anyone having a banquet in my cellar, but it happened back then. Go figure.


There were many legendary characters that frequented the hotel over the years, but the one man whose deeds will live on in the lore of Fair Haven is Doc Hanford. Now as with all good tales, “I do not say what I know to be, I only tell what was told to me.” Long before we came to Fair Haven, the legend of Dr. George Bayard Hanford loomed large in H’s family. My mother-in-law, who was herself quite the hell raiser and a bit of a local legend, tells of Doc Hanford teaching her to drink scotch when she was pregnant because scotch doesn’t make you sick. Doc Hanford delivered both my husband and his brother. When Scott was born Doc Hanford delivered a healthy baby boy. My father-in-law, proud as a peacock, was out in the waiting room. Shirley fully expected her second child to be a girl and hadn’t really picked out a boys name. Doc Hanford came to her room, “Shirley, we need to put a name on the birth certificate.” Shirley told him she didn’t have a name, but that wouldn’t do, Doc was ready to take the proud father and go celebrate and he couldn’t do that until the paper work was done. Shirley told him to pick a name himself and that’s how my brother-in-law came to be named Scott Bayard Scoville after the old Doctor himself.

Probably the most commonly told story is of mother’s tracking the good doctor down at the Pleasant Beach or the American Legion with a sick child in tow. He would look them over tell them to drop their drawers and give them a shot of penicillin on the spot and go on about with their business. This was before malpractice became so popular, but I have never once heard anybody say anything bad about Doc Hanford, the treatment always seemed to work and a half century later, it is still the favorite story of people of a certain age in Fair Haven.

Herman Grieger’s daughter, Judy, contacted me the first year we opened. She was living in Miami and had bought a home in Cleveland, GA and would be spending some time there the following winter. Small world, we had moved to Fair Haven after selling our home in Clarkesville, GA, next town over from Cleveland. Our oldest son still lived in the area so we planned to be in northeast Georgia that winter. We met her one morning at a local breakfast restaurant, not knowing what to expect. She was two when her parents bought the Pleasant Beach Hotel and eighteen when they sold it. Her perspective on life at the lake was priceless but she also came bearing gifts in the form of a large manila envelope filled with pictures, menus, advertisements and memorabilia. Among the items she gave us was a picture of Doc Hanford at the bar reading a newspaper and also what looked like a 20 dollar bill. The 20 dollar bill turned out to be another Doc Hanford legendary story.

Doc Hanford had a pretty good, if not just a little twisted sense of humor. One year he printed up a batch of fake bills. On one side it said 20 dollars on the other it said 10 dollars. His picture replaced that of our past president. If you look closely you will see laundry hanging from the flag pole atop the white house and instead of actually saying 20 dollars, it says 20 dollies. Well he passed these out and everyone got a good laugh until one wound up in the hands of the treasury, they were not as amused. The story ended without too dire of consequences. He had to stop circulating the fakes and agree to never pull a stunt like that again. If you sit at the bar you can take a look at the picture of Doc along with the fake bill and most of the older locals will tell you the story of Doc and the counterfeit bills.

Among the many pictures Judy gave us were two that showed a red jeep parked in one of the slips at the hotel. It was winter and everything was frozen solid, so why not. Apparently Doc would drive his old red jeep out onto the ice and around the bay; he lived just down the shore from us. Just seemed natural to pull up to the Pleasant Beach and stroll on in.

Doc’s son, Pete and two grandsons, George and Mike still live in town. It doesn’t take much to get them to tell a few Doc Hanford stories. He will loom large in the folk lore of our beautiful bay for a very, very long time.

In talking with Judy Grieger, you can still catch the love and enthusiasm she has for the old hotel. She was eighteen when her parents sold the old place, commenting that back then her father was of the opinion that women did not run businesses, but she would have liked the opportunity to try. After meeting her, I think she would have been great.


Gus 1965-1985

1965 brought yet another changing of the guard at the Pleasant Beach. Gus, like his predecessor, was German and kept some of that flavor going. His Oktoberfest was legendary. He would bring in the German bands and beer wagons, they said the cars would be lined up and down every street in town. A good time was had by all. Gus remolded the third floor into an owners apartment and also turn the rooms in the very back of the second floor into what he called the Captain’s Quarters, turning what had been three rooms into a suite. On the main floor he also did some major remodeling during his 20 year rein. He took out the old bar and replaced it with a bigger one in the shape of a W. He installed a fireplace in the room that now has my desk in it. It was in front of the window in that room and was vented out a chimney that went on the outside wall and up through the 2nd floor balcony roof. This was the time when drop ceilings were all the rage and Gus installed drop ceilings throughout the 1st floor. The beautiful tin ceilings and tin wainscoting disappeared, a victim of changing fashions. In 1976 he added the shed roof addition to the dining room to more than double the space for dining. He also put in a swimming pool behind the hotel. It now lies under the cement slab just off the parking lot.

1965 Also saw the largest race on the bay. The Thistle Nationals. This would have been quite the site from the grounds of the Pleasant Beach. When we bought the hotel we found a Yachtsman’s Log that had been started in 1965. Gus welcomed the boaters, the Rochester Power Squadron continued to come and raft up at the Pleasant Beach. We put the old log out for people to see, several of the boaters that have come in the last few years were able to look through the old log and see where they had signed in 20, 30 even 40 years ago and they have signed in once again.

One wild tale that was told to us involved a fellow from Oswego by the name of Willy Thomas. He had a little money, owned a couple of motels in Oswego and had a summer cottage on the bay. One day he took his speed boat to Little Sodus Inn, the bar just south of us. He liked to drink and that day he liked it real well. Witnesses say he got in his boat and headed north up the bay and for some unknown reason turned around, gunned it and proceeded to jump the dock filled with boats at the Pleasant Beach. By a pure miracle no one was hurt even though there were some kids taking a nap on one of the boats. Needless to say, the police came and got Willy that day. We can only guess that he had visions of James Bond going through his head.

Gus served dinners, rented rooms, ran the bar and had slips available. He had one charter captain that kept his boat at the little dock on the south end of the shore so you could go out for a days fishing on the lake. By all accounts he ran a good business. They said he would make his bar patrons keep it down during dinner time so they wouldn’t disturb his dinner guests, but the bar at the Pleasant Beach was a very popular spot in those days. He had dashounds that were always hanging out by the bar. At this time there was a fireplace in the bar area and the dogs were frequently asleep in front of the fire. People still talk about the New Year’s Eve parties during Gus’s years and his Oktoberfest drew crowds from near and far.

In 1971 the laws were finally changed to allow for year round alcohol sales. Gus lived year round in the hotel was the first owner to stay open all year. They said he would close in January for vacation. By all accounts the hotel was a very solid business in those years and a big part of the town.

Dave Grigg - 1985-1995

Dave Grigg and his partner Mike Verts bought the hotel from Gus in 1985 and with then came a new generation. They were young and had ideas for the old place. My favorite was the outside deck. It brought a new dimension that has been very much appreciated by all for the last 25 years. They also expanded their dining area to include the 2nd floor balcony.

There are pictures of volleyball games and young folks floating on air mattresses on the bay. Dave and Mike brought more parties and live music. The Yacht Club was long gone from the cellar and the banquet room too, but now there was a game room down there with a pool table. They brought in a little younger crowd and now a new generation made their stories a part of the hotel.

Dave went after the permits to greatly expand the dock facilities and that’s where he ran into a bit of trouble with the neighbors on the bay. His expansion plans would have greatly reduced the size of the channel that leads south from the hotel to access such properties as the Little Sodus Inn and the village docks as well as several long standing cottages. In the end the villagers got up a petition to stop the docks. In a business like this good will is a fragile thing and in the end Dave gave up the dock expansion, but also decided to sell the hotel.


PB Book, Chapter 5 – Scott Cooper

The Hotel was up for sale again and this time it would be another local man who stepped forward to give it a try. Scott Cooper bought the hotel with plans to run it along with his daughter. Scott already owned the old Hardware store building downtown and had an antiques business there. His love of antiques transferred to the hotel in the furnishings he brought with him. New tables and chairs for the dining room, some period pieces for the hotel rooms. He also installed new carpeting in the dining room. He had plans for some fishermen’s cottages on the property and purchased the piece of land on the east side of Fancher Avenue that is now our overflow parking lot.

The Hotel was frequently closed for remodeling during Scott’s time there, but still remained a going concern. He was in the process of doing some major remodeling that included closing in the remaining lower porch as an all weather expansion when he decided to sell.

Pat Jones - 2001

In 2001 a business man from Oswego by the name of Pat Jones purchased the hotel. He along with 3 others formed the Pleasant Beach, LLC and proceeded to complete the very extensive renovations started by Scott Cooper. They brought with them experience, talent and funding. The outside deck was expanded to the south, new windows were installed around the bar and into the dining room and the exterior wall of the old porch was resided. Inside they remodeled the bar using birds eye maple and cherry. We were told it took a carpenter six months to do the work in the bar area. They took out the old bar and reworked the center rooms into the waitress station and a sitting area. They remodeled the old bathroom and added a second.

This was to be the end of the hotel rooms. Part of the overall business plan was to go after the wedding and banquet business. In order to be able to seat as many as 450 people, the four large rooms in the front of the hotel were opened up and turned into two banquet rooms. The tiny little room in the northwest corner became the servers station. There was a very tiny room in the southeast corner behind the service stairs that became Chef Emil’s office and the Captain’s Quarter suite became a store room and Steve Canali’s office. An era came to an end and for a few years, you could no longer stay at the Pleasant Beach Hotel.

Chef Emil Nymander came to the group from the Corn Hill Cookery in Rochester. He is a European trained chef who along with his wife Wanda came to the U. S. from Germany. He would set the tone for the dining experience. This was to be an upscale gourmet restaurant and again, because of his background in both Germany and Poland, he kept that German style going. His wife Wanda worked out front and between them, they were responsible for the meals that were served.

Steve Cannali came to the group from one of the best know restaurant families in Oswego. His family has owned and operated Cannali’s Italian Restaurant for generations. Steve himself owns the very popular Press Box Restaurant in the old Train Station. Steve would bring with him the expertise in running the business of a restaurant.

Pat Jones was the money man and along with his wife brought the new look to the interior of the old hotel. Pat also owned an exotic wood business and was able to bring in the beautiful cherry and birds eye maple that was used in the bar area. The booths were also custom made for the hotel.

Dave Fox was one of the original partners and his expertise lay in his skills as a landscaper. We are still enjoying the lawns and gardens he left behind. Dave was married to Kathy Oulette, the daughter of Dennis Oulette of Ontario Orchard’s in Oswego. Now by anyones standards, this is a family that knows how to enjoy themselves and Dave brought that sparkle with him.

Pat Jones, Emil Nymander, Steve Cannali and Dave Fox made up the team that would take the hotel into yet another incarnation. But all was not smooth sailing. The banquet and wedding business was a little slow in coming and the logistics of closing the restaurant to the public whenever an event was scheduled began to wear thin on the old regulars. Local cottagers still tried to support their Pleasant Beach, but the new upscale menu did not sit well with everyone, it may have been just a little too formal, after all, its life at the lake. People come to Fair Haven in the summer to relax and enjoy the water and be comfortable. The new format met with resistance.

During the second season, tragedy struck. Dave and Kathy Fox lived up Sterling Creek, just a short boat ride to the hotel. They had been at the hotel enjoying the company of friends. They’d had dinner and some drinks when the weather looked like it was turning ugly. Dave decided to make a run for it, it was only a few miles home. Before they could make it out the channel the storm hit with a vengeance as our summer lake storms do. Even an experienced boater would have trouble finding the southern entrance to the channel under those conditions, the old range light has been gone for years and there are no lights on the breakwater to the east. He probably saw the light at the lakeside entrance to the channel and misjudged his path, the boat hit the rocks, he was killed, Kathy was thrown from the boat and thankfully survived. It was a devastating blow to everyone. Dave was so well like, the heart just went out of the project.

Steve Cannali was the next to go. He had a thriving business and a growing family and decided to give it his attention and left the Pleasant Beach.


2007 - H and Bonnie Scoville

We were in our mid-50’s and at a crossroads in life. Our children were grown and gone. We had finished up the largest project we ever tackled and I was ready for a change. We put our home in the mountains of northeast Georgia on the market. We had our sailboat, Crescent Moon, a 36’ Cape Dory and we wanted to get back to the water after nearly 25 years in the mountains. Our house sold and I got on the internet and started looking in earnest and what should I find but the old Pleasant Beach Hotel.

We arrived on February 14th amid 10’ of snow. What a Valentine’s present this turned out to be. We weren’t used to driving in snow, our poor Yorkshire Terriers didn’t know what to make of it, we couldn’t really expect them to go out in this stuff, where was the real outside? We shoveled our way to the kitchen door and let ourselves in. It was cold and a little creepy; we walked through the building top to bottom just getting our bearings trying to find a starting point. We walked into the dining room, looked around, made a few comments on things to do, changes to make. I commented that I thought the old patterned block wall must be under the drywall and that might look nice, just then H grabbed a hammer and knocked a big hole in the wall. I knew we were home, the destruction had begun.

For the next week we sorted through the junk left behind, forming a plan, making decisions on the fly. There was a lot of work to be done and we needed to be open for the season. We set May 1 as the tentative opening date and worked all day, every day. At night we planned. Word spread quickly; new folks were at the hotel. Everyday someone new stopped by introducing themselves, checking us out. Very soon we became aware that we may have bought the property, but she really belonged to everyone. We were to become the stewards of this place. With that came not only the responsibility to pay the bills, but even more daunting, the responsibility to give the Pleasant Beach Hotel back to the community, people wanted to know what are intentions were.

Daily, our vision began to take shape. The hotel rooms were a must. Walls had been knocked out between some of the rooms to make the banquet rooms for the last owners, but the old patterned tin hallway was intact as were the doors, windows and moldings. The rooms in the back wing had been remodeled in the 60’s, the moldings were gone, the walls were covered in cheap wood paneling. The roof had leaked badly for a very long time where the wing met the main square, as the snow melted a river began to run in two of the rooms. The plan was to move interior walls to make room for 6 guest rooms with private baths. Lots of demolition lay ahead so H built a ramp off the front corner of the balcony and brought in a construction roll-off dumpster. We hired three of the local young people to help with the haul off. Two came during the day and one came after school. We were on a work schedule, all day and half the night, seven days a week, but she started to come together.

We called Red Mathews to bring his front end loader by and clear a spot for the roll-off. We ended up with a mountain of snow, but a clear spot for the dumpster and a ramp from the second floor to the dumpster. We also came away with the name of a good carpenter. George Hanford lived up the street; the grandson of old Doc Hanford, and like his grandfather, George was quite a character himself. He was fast, creative, knew all the subs and suppliers and was full of good stories. We set to work. We wanted to use as many locals as we could on the project, after all, it’s their town, we wanted people to have a steak in the outcome. John Darling came on as our plumber, Jim Kawar did the HVAC. Everybody gave it their all; we had so much to do and so little time.

The landscaping was great so we concentrated on the interior. The kitchen was non-functioning. We repaired equipment where we could, replaced were we couldn’t and hoped that we could make it work. The bar had been totally redone by the previous owners so we decided to leave most of what we found, just try to make it flow and paint and redecorate. One complaint that we heard was from some of the older women who didn’t like walking through the bar to get to the dining room. We decided to add a half wall partition to define the walkway. We also decided to take the booths out of the bar. They were beautiful, but too wide to allow bar stools on two sides of the bar. We wanted a friendly bar atmosphere. We replaced them with high top bar tables and now have a bar that seats 30 people. I went shopping for paint; the bar was my first pick. I came home with aquamarine. Its bright, I love it, the entire crew looked, tried to find something nice to say, most failed, but I held firm. This would go on with every color I brought in and I did bring in colors. I started to paint the walls in room #6. I used kind of a light orange. Jim Kawar was doing some work at that end and stuck his head in. He looked around and then asked me if I’d ever worked with that color before. I had them all dubious about my decor, but I pressed on.

Alan Kyler came in to help with the tile baths. I picked out tile that seemed to go with the period of the hotel. Small octagons on the floor and white subways with black trim. All was going pretty well till we got to the black grout. It was a good look but the biggest mess, finally we jumped in and helped with the grout and finally the baths were done, we were going to make it.

John-Pierre Roberts joined our little team. He was cheerful and helped with whatever we asked. He and I took on the rest of the painting. We had exposed the old textures block wall in the dinning room. We also opened up the two windows and a doorway that led into the dining room. The original stairway was still intact, but was hidden so we opened up the doorway to that room, removed a small partition wall that had been added. We redirected traffic to the dining room so that you would go past that beautiful stairway and enter the dining room on the bay side. Most people didn’t know the stairway was there!

March had come and gone, April was drawing to a close, we pushed opening back another week. The snow was slow to melt that year and we still needed to address the huge problem of the leaking roof. We knew we had a big leak where the main square met the rear wing, but we also had a major leak in the middle of the dining room and that one was puzzling all of us. It came at the beam line where they had added the shed to the old wrap around porch in the 70’s and it poured in when it rained. We kept on working and thought about how to fix the roof. One day the snow was gone so H and George got up on the old roof to assess the problems. This was the original 100 year old tin roof. Over the years people had coated it and patched it but this was going to take more than a dab of tar. The big leak in the back seemed to be coming from the valley, the tin had rusted through. The flashing around the chimney and dormers would need some attention. The main roof had chunks of roof coat coming off and there were 1000’s of holes from the old fastenings. They took a hammer and tapped at the roof coat, it popped off. They tapped a little more, it all popped. A decision was made, everyone to the roof with hammers and they tapped the entire surface knocking most of the old roof coat off. Now they could seal the holes, replace the flashing and give it a good roof coating. Unbelievably it worked, we had a system and we were good.

We still had a big problem with the leak in the dining room, but one day after a late snow I was up in the attic looking out the window onto the porch roof and I noticed that the snow was melting, but the water was disappearing and not running off the edge of the roof. This porch roof was in very bad shape and what was happening was the water hit the roof and went into a rust hole then ran across the ceiling till it hit the beam line. The post was hollow and it allowed the water to run down the middle of the post and end up in the dining room below. The fix was easy, replace the tin on that side of the roof and we were dry.

Early on we had gotten as estimate of $100,000 to replicate the old roof. Our budget couldn’t have managed that one. We proceeded on faith that we could find a better solution and like so much of this project hard work, creative people and a belief that it could be done got us through.

Mother’s Day came and we decided to fix breakfast for a small group of neighbors to see if our kitchen would work. Throughout the project H and I lived in the building, moving from one area to the next as the demolition and construction moved us out of one area then the next. At this time we were camped out in the corner of the dining room with all of our possessions along with all the restaurant paraphernalia stacked up to the ceiling.
Bill and Judy Loftus from the Curious Moon helped us plan out the breakfast; Bill would stay and help us cook breakfast on Sunday mornings that first season. We didn’t really know that many people so we told Bill and Judy to invite some of their friend and we invited some people that we knew. Somehow we got our signals crossed and the breakfast that was planned for 10 or 12 turned into 38. I set up a table across the front window with all of the junk still piled up behind it in the dining room. We brought out our finest shabby sheik mismatched china and linens and went for it. Our neighbors came bearing gifts and flowers. We made eggs benedict and Belgian waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, French toast and more. It was great fun and we pulled it off, maybe we could do this.

We still had a long way to go before we could get open and time was running out. We needed menus and a staff, supplies and we were still putting the kitchen and dining room together not to mention the hotel rooms. We had committed to parties and rented rooms for the summer season; we worked every waking hour and kept our eye on the prize. George was getting down to finishing details and he stepped up to every crazy request I came up with he fell right into my junktique mode of decorating and came up with a few good twists of his own. I sorted through my collection of junk to find what I needed to decorate all six rooms, the dining room and the bar. I had a lot of junk, it worked out. The budget was getting tight so with only a few exceptions, I made what I had work.

It was now the middle of May, I had committed to a party on the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Everyone knows you don’t open a restaurant on a holiday weekend, you need time to work the bugs out, but we ran out of time and set that Sunday as the day, we had to open our doors for breakfast that Sunday, all workers had to be out by Saturday night, everything had to be cleaned up, set up and ready to go.

Saturday came and Alan was putting my desk together while H, George. John-Pierre and Jim nailed down detail after detail. I brought in some of my future wait staff to help me clean up. We were making progress, the dining room was set, the deck looked good, the kitchen was still a war zone but by late afternoon we literally cleaned our way out of the public rooms, pushing Alan out the door as we went. Neighbors stopped by the see if we were really going to do this. Ray Sant lives across the inlet from us, he stopped by to check up and wish us luck. He said he kept watching our ramp and roll-off to see if we were really going to open, when they went away he knew we were getting close. H put the kitchen in some sort of order by nightfall and we went to bed with a million details going through our heads.

At 2:00am I woke up in a panic, I forgot the menus. I got up and went to the bar to assemble the menus, at 4:00am I tried to go back to sleep, we needed to be up at 6:00am.
Coffee in hand and crew assembled we opened for business at 8:00am on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, 2007, just a little over three months since we bought the old hotel.

Breakfast went well, lunch did too, we had a private party mid afternoon and we walked through that also, we were beginning to settle down, evening approached. As people started to come in for supper we were feeling alright, 5:00 and all is well. Around 6:00 the people started to come in a little faster and faster yet and by 6:30 I looked around and realized all the tables were full. By 7:00 the kitchen was overwhelmed, tickets were backed up and panic was beginning to settle in. At 7:30 H caught me and said we needed to pull the plug, they couldn’t get the food out, they were running out of items. I put the closed sign up and we tried valiantly to take care of the customers we had, but things turned ugly. We couldn’t get some of the meals out, there was no food left. That night we cleaned up, tried to say something encouraging to the staff and we went to bed, tired and abused.

The next morning over several cups of coffee we made a plan of attack, things we could do different and got ready to open for lunch. Thankfully all went well and every day things got smoother and we frustrated fewer and fewer people and by the end of June, we were running, if not a well oiled machine, at least something that resembled a working restaurant. We were humbled and we were tired but the hotel was once again up and running.

The rooms were the next to come on line. I had rented all six rooms for the weekend in the middle of June so one by one we made them ready, detail after detail until the last bed was made, the last picture hung and we could take on guests. The rooms went well from the start; we put in sleep number beds, an immediate hit, cable TV and private baths. The décor looked like it could have been original, but was our own collection of mismatched antiques and eclectic touches. The balcony has a view to die for. We put out the rockers and hammock and hung baskets of flowers; people fell in love with it. They are still my favorite part of the business, everyone is always so pleasant while staying at the Pleasant Beach, life is good. The bookings came in at a steady clip and we knew we would be alright with the rooms.

The last challenge was the marina. The docks were in terrible shape, the big L dock at the end was dangerous; we were out of time so made the decision to remove the decking and take the sections of floating dock and lay them along the pilings for the season. We worked on the floaters and made them as safe and secure as possible, we worked on the electric and got it on, we ran a new water line and brought in our seasonal boats. We had reservations for slips for the 4th of July holiday; we did what we could and waited. The boats started to show up, we got them all settled and they turned out to be great folks and great fun. This too would be a good facet of the business. The next season we repaired more docks and ended up with 25 slips with water and electric and a good following of cruisers stopping by all summer. We had a big group from Pultneyville who were such fun, they showed up with lighted palm trees and had a great dock party all weekend for Labor Day, the next season they showed up for the 4th of July and Labor Day and several stayed with us random days throughout the summer. We love our boaters!!

The first season came to an end with a New Years Eve party. It was a great way to say thank you to all who helped us pull it off, we had our own Fair Haven native, Nancy Kelly and her jazz band to sing and dance the night away. Everyone ate, drank and were merry and we closed for the winter, pleased and relieved that we had brought the grand old gal back to life.

We have now finished our 10th season running the old hotel. She has settled into a good pace and year in year out the business has risen to the challenges. We now open in Mid-May and close late September or early October. We have had many wonderful experiences, some big challenges. We do feel very good about all the incredible people who have passed through our doors. When we came we had no idea what to expect, it was just a hunch that the rooms would do well or that we could run a restaurant. The business has exceeded our expectations. We have had people from all over the country and all over the world stay with us. With very few exceptions they have been a delight. We are now completing three new rooms to help balance the hotel and restaurant and bring her more in line with what she started as, a summer resort hotel. We have made many changes but through it all have been able to keep the feel of the old place as a comfortable, casual place to come and enjoy this beautiful spot whether you spend the night or just relax on the deck and enjoy a cool drink and a good meal. We hope that the Pleasant Beach Hotel will continue to make people welcome for another 100 years of play on the Bay!!!

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