Bicentennial Snapshot # 25 Hotel De May

Bicentennial Snapshot No 25 - Hotel DeMay

This week we finish looking at the hotel of many names at 3561 Latta Road. It started out as the North Greece Hotel in 1908, then went by the name Moerlbach Hotel, back to the North Greece Hotel, followed by the Domino Inn and Cosmo Inn during Prohibition, the Corner House Hotel post-Prohibition, until it finally and lastly became the Hotel De May in 1946.

How many ate at Hotel De May, for Ray’s birthday, for the restaurant anniversary, or at the end of baseball season picnic in the parking lot? Some of you may have parked here when you had to respond to North Greece Station One to put out a fire or even just operate the desk and work overnight to handle the fire calls, car crashes, brush fires, or routine fire inspections. 

Raymond Archibald De May was born on 17 March 1919, in Rochester, New York. His father, Jacob Jannis de May, was born in Holland and immigrated to the USA at age 3. Both his father and his mother, Stella Lovisa Miller, were 35 when Ray was born. They lived in Rochester’s 21st ward. Ray graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in management and then went to work for Kodak for eight years before getting into the hotel business. He married Irene in 1941.

According to the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Irene Marie Reiser was born on 03 May 1916 in Rochester, New York to parents Frank J Reiser and Cecelia Bertzman. Her parents immigrated from Austria to the United States. Based on the United States Census, 1940, Irene Marie Reiser and Raymond Archibald De May met while working at Kodak. Irene Marie Reiser married Raymond Archibald De May in 1941.

In 1946 Ray and Irene De May purchased the hotel property and building. It took the De Mays nine months to remodel the entire property, starting with modernizing and redecorating the interior to make it livelier for patrons to enjoy live music and dancing on Fridays during the winter. The De Mays upgraded the kitchen to a 1946 state-of-the-art kitchen, completely fireproofing the kitchen separately from the rest of the hotel and dining area.

Raymond installed a new 49-foot bar, enabling more patrons to sit at the bar. He could better display the different kinds of whiskey, vodka, wine, sherry, port, brandy, rum, gin, tequila, hock, vermouth, absinthe, rye, beer, ale, champagne, cognac, and saké. These were laid out in a way that Raymond felt best encouraged customers to buy lots of drinks.

Most bars and restaurants that serve a wide assortment of alcohol-based products would have a selection of what the industry calls top-shelf items. These are your higher-end priced beverages or have better ingredients, compared to your mid-tier and low-tier drinks. They did serve some of the local brews from the Genesee Brewery and others that survived prohibition.

This rough, not-to-scale hand-drawn sketch by Bill Sauers, circa 2016, shows the layout of the first floor of the DeMay Hotel. As for a ladies’ room, it probably had none for Women before the De May’s purchased the property and upgraded the plumbing. They added a ladies’ room just at the end of the bar before heading to the Ballroom / Banquet space. The men’s room was your old school trench on the edge of one wall and ran the distance of the wall with partitions for privacy, they also had some Water Closets (aka toilets) if a gentleman needed to use one. On the door was a silhouette of what appeared to be that of Clark Gable at a publicity photoshoot at MGM in 1938.

DeMay ad Greece Press 1946 November 14
DeMay ad Greece Press 1946 November 14
DeMay floor Plan sketch drawn by Bill Sauers, circa 2016
DeMay floor Plan sketch drawn by Bill Sauers, circa 2016
Ray DeMay behind the bar
Ray DeMay behind the bar
Clark Gable's MGM Publicity Still 1938
Clark Gable’s MGM Publicity Still 1938
Hotel De May dance ad Greece Press 1947 January 2
Hotel De May dance ad Greece Press 1947 January 2
DeMay Hotel Greece Press 1948 September 23
DeMay Hotel Greece Press 1948 September 23
DeMay's Beer Night ad
DeMay’s Beer Night ad

Based on the text of an ad in the Greece Press on January 2, 1947, the was a men’s bar. The first line on the right is “Always a Lively crowd at DeMay’s,” in the middle of the ad, it says “Western New York’s Largest Dance Floor”, followed by “Our Cocktail Lounge and Bar” and then finally it says “Where Good Fellows Get Together.” seemly to indicate it was a Men’s only bar and cocktail lounge. The woman or spouse accompanied a gentleman to the hotel but on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 pm to 1:30 am would be served drinks in the dining area or dancing in the ballroom area.

In 1948 Raymond A De May and the Hotel were charged with being a public nuisance. Raymond De May was arrested on September 10; the warrant was for maintaining a public nuisance and creating an environment that negatively affected the neighbors that lived around the Hotel De May. He was arraigned before Justice W. Arthur Rickman. Raymond pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case was adjourned to September 13, and then adjourned a few more times until the case was settled out of court.

Here is a link to the current wording of the town of Greece, NY Nuisance Law on the Town of Greece’s ecode360

Chapter 144: Nuisances

In the following years after the charges were settled out of court Ray, Irene, and their hotel would be at the heart of the North Greece Community.

Fire at Hotel De May

DeMay Fire D&C 12-19-1953
DeMay Fire D&C 12-19-1953

Hotel De May was almost destroyed by a fire that started in the hotel’s coal bin, on December 18th, 1953, it took North Greece, Greece Ridge, and Barnard Fire departments to put out the blaze. There was damage to a kitchen and rooms overhead the southwest wing of the hotel. Luckily no one was injured in the fire. Even though there were 2 1950s Seagrave pumpers and a 1950s Mack Fire Truck from North Greece Fire Station. The manpower of the North Greece Fire Department was not enough to put it out. That is why Assistant Fire Chief Raymond asked the chief to call for mutual aid from Greece Ridge and Barnard to assist with the fire discovered during dinner time around 5:30 pm at the hotel. It appears that the Fireproof kitchen was not completely fireproof as Ray and Irene thought it was. The total damage and repairs cost the hotel suffered was $ 4,500. The $ 4,500 they had to rebuild the southwest wing and repair the kitchen and bring it up to the Town of Greece’s building and fire codes of 1954.

Annual Events Held by Hotel De May

These are the most common Events that the Hotel De May hosted:

In October it was the annual steak dinner to mark the hotel’s opening; the annual dinner was a six-course steak dinner that ran from 1 pm to 9 pm and cost $ 6 per person according to this ad to the right in the Greece Press printed in the September 19, 1968 paper.

Every March they would celebrate Ray’s birthday and they served corned beef and cabbage for free. The bash started at 7 pm and they had an orchestra for dancing from 9 pm to midnight. As seen in this ad in the Greece Press paper on March 13, 1969.

DeMay Hotel annual steak dinner, Greece Press 1968 September 19
DeMay Hotel annual steak dinner, Greece Press 1968 September 19
Raymond A DeMay Birthday ad Greece Press 1969 March 13
Raymond A DeMay Birthday ad in Greece Press 1969 March 13

Raymond A De May’s role as a civic leader

While operating the hotel, Ray got involved in the North Greece Fire Department and served five years as an assistant fire chief. Since he owned the hotel across the street, he let the firefighters park their cars in the hotel lot and also let them park the trucks in the lot sometimes as well. Ray was a life-long member of the New York State Fire Chiefs Association.

Ray was photographed conducting a bike safety program for kids in the North Greece Area in which members of the North Greece Fire Department took part. He fastened reflectors to spurs of kids’ bicycles to help make the bikes visible to drivers at night. The attached article shows Ray installing the reflectors on David McCarroll’s bike at North Greece Fire Department Station 1. The Bike safety program also took place at 5 other points in the town besides North Greece Fire department at 3552 Latta Road; one was probably at the town hall or at Greece Ridge at the Ridge, another one was held at Barnard Fire Department, and then 3 other locations where most of the population of Greece was located during the 1950s.

Ray was also a member of the Greece Volunteer Ambulance Corps. (GVAC), which has since been disbanded in the last few years due to the four fire companies changing providers to Monroe Ambulance and the rising cost of Emergency services which the volunteer corp could not afford anymore.

50s 2 seagrave pumpers with Mack
In this picture, you see two 1950s Seagrave pumpers with Mack parked in the De May Hotel Parking Lot
Greece Volunteer Ambulance Corps Equipment, 1970s, from the Office of the Town Historian
Greece Volunteer Ambulance Corps Equipment from circa 1970s, from the Office of the Town Historian

Raymond’s Connection to Baseball and Softball

DeMay Hotel North Greece softball league 1970 July 9
DeMay Hotel North Greece softball league 1970 July 9
DeMay Picnic G Press 9-2-1971
DeMay Picnic G Press 9-2-1971

Each year Raymond would sponsor a very competitive men’s softball and baseball teams, as well as a junior league for boys aged 7-12 that lived in the North Greece area. At the end of the season, the De Mays would host an annual picnic for the members of the junior softball league and the little league baseball players. They also let the North Greece Playground youngsters join in as well as their parents and friends. The De Mays wound up serving 500 plus people each year with free hot dogs (more than likely the hot dogs were Zweigles brand hot dogs) and soft drinks could have been either Coke or Pepsi or a local soft drink vendor.

Hotel DeMay Softball Shirt
Hotel DeMay Softball Shirt

Raymond’s Battle With Pneumonia

In 1974 at the age of 55, Raymond passed away at Rochester General Hospital fighting a battle with pneumonia. According to his obituary in the Democrat and Chronicle, he was survived by his wife, Irene, and Raymond’s last living brother Robert J. de May (1922–1984), and his wife Ruth Marie Stillman (1918–2020).

Raymond A De May Obit DandC
Raymond A De May Obit DandC

Irene De May Takes over Operations

In the neighborhood around Hotel De May, Irene was known as Mother De May, that because she would take in boarders who had nowhere else to go, those who worked as migrant workers at the nearby farms, and in 1991 she opened the hotel for those who needed a place to stay warm while they did not have electricity, heating oil, wood or other heating sources to keep warm during the 1991 Ice Storm. More on the 1991 Ice Storm to come later in a future snapshot on Extreme Weather that affected the Town of Greece.

Irene De May kept the tavern and Hotel running until her death in 2000.

Irene De May, 1977, courtesy of Gina DiBella
Irene DeMay, 1977, courtesy of Gina DiBella

The Fall of Hotel De MAY

Hotel DeMay Latta Rd 2007 with sign
Hotel DeMay Latta Rd 2007 with sign
Come What DeMay tee shirt
Come What DeMay tee shirt

The hotel sat empty for many years; those who cherished this historic building hoped it would be restored to a functional community asset, but developers were more interested in tearing it down and replacing it with a (Crosby’s) gas station and convenience store.

Gina Dibella and Marie Poinan led a grassroots movement, to convince the town to preserve it and make it into a functional hotel, restaurant, and party house again. The group had a slogan printed on shirts that read “Come What DeMAY this Hotel Stays!”

But the grassroots movement could not sway the town board and supervisor that the De May Hotel could return to life and in early 2017 the Town approved the demolition in favor of a Crosby’s Gas station with a Dunkin’ Donuts attached. Still, to date, nothing has been built on the site, because of concerns about contaminated soil. As of this post, the current value has dropped from nearly $ 250,000 to $ 50,000. Below is the current information on the lot according to Monroe County Records for the parcel; the last table is from propertyshark.com which says it was sold to another property broker or developer, but no records are available to verify this information only the property details, lot size, and current tax and land value have been verified using the Monroe County Tax assessment page.

At Least one part of the Hotel DeMay lives on it is the 49-foot bar that Raymond DeMay installed at the hotel, which survived demolition, and has a new home at the My Apartment bar on West Outer Drive off of Mount Read Blvd.

Demolition of Hotel DeMay 11-17-17
Demolition of Hotel DeMay 11-17-17
DeMay Bar
DeMay Bar

Property Details

Property Address:3561 Latta Rd, Rochester, NY 14612
County:Monroe
Parcel ID:44.40-1-1
School district: 264001 – Hilton

Lot Size and Property Type

Acreage:0.75
Frontage:274
Depth:119
Property Class: Vacant Land Located in Commercial Areas (330)

Current Tax and Land Value

Tax year:2022
Property tax:$ 1,973
Land value:$50,000
Market value:$50,000

Reported Last Sale of Lot

Sale date:8/9/2019
Sale price:$595,000
This is not referenced from Monroe County records this record is from propertyshark.com
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