Bicentennial Snapshot No. 44: Rumrunners and Bootleggers

Today we are exploring the wild and lawless days of Prohibition.

Prohibition Poster from nebraskastudies.org

In 1909, a vote to make Greece a “dry” town was narrowly defeated. The agricultural interests of the town clashed with the beach resorts and tourist attractions that catered to a clientele that drank. One newspaper account said, “The grudge of the farmers was that their hired help deserted as soon as they got a month’s pay and bathed in the alcoholic delights of Charlotte and Ontario Beach.” On the other side of the debate were the many town residents of Irish, German, and Italian descent for whom wine and spirits were an everyday part of their culture.

By the time Congress took up the question of national prohibition, 33 of the 48 states were already dry. When Congress sent the eighteenth amendment to the states for ratification, where it needed three-fourths approval, they allowed a generous seven years for its passage, but in just 13 months enough states said yes to the amendment. Drinking liquor was never illegal. People were allowed to drink intoxicating liquor in their own homes or in the home of a friend when they were a bona fide guest. And it was legal to make or consume wine or cider in the home. Buying and selling it was illegal; people were not allowed to carry a hip flask or give or receive a bottle of liquor as a gift.

Headline from The American Issue, Westerville, Ohio, January 25, 1919
Prohibition-era prescription for whiskey, from US Treasury National Archives

Exempted from the law was the use of alcohol in lawful industries, for religious practices such as communion wine, and for scientific and medicinal purposes. Intoxicating liquor could be obtained via a doctor’s prescription; the rate of sales for medicinal alcohol went up 400%.

Mother’s in the kitchen
Washing out the jugs;
Sister’s in the pantry
Bottling the suds;
Father’s in the cellar
Mixing up the hops;
Johnny’s on the front porch
Watching for the cops.

Poem by a New York state Rotary Club member during Prohibition

The poem to the right says it all; ordinary people, probably law-abiding citizens before 1920, were defying the law. And many were living in the town of Greece.

Poem by a New York state Rotary Club member during Prohibition
1924 Map of Greece With Current Street Names over the main roads in the town

Rumrunners were smuggling liquor from Canada by sea and bootleggers carried it over the roads. With eight miles of shoreline and roads leading to downtown Rochester and points west and east, Greece was a hotbed of prohibition defiance.

Some of these prohibition slang were used during the era of prohibition and speakeasies

*got to see someone about a dog –going out to buy bootleg whiskey

*needle beer –filling a syringe with pure alcohol and piercing the cork on a bottle of “near beer”

*whisper sister, ladylegger –female proprietor of a speakeasy

*white lightning –whiskey

*giggle water –alcoholic beverage

*hooch, bathtub gin –illegal moonshine

*cutting –making counterfeit liquor by mixing it with artificial ingredients to simulate the real thing

*set-up –ginger ale or soda served by speakeasies, to which customers added their own liquor from hip flasks

Canadian Ben Kerr, the self-styled “King of the Rum Runners,” was one of the most successful of the rum smugglers. He made regular trips to the beaches from Greece east to Pultneyville; he refused to land on American shores, customers had to row out to his boat, he frequently changed his drop days, and he wouldn’t travel under a full moon, preferring dark, foggy, or hazy nights. There are used copies available on Amazon via Thriftbooks or you can get it on the kindle https://smile.amazon.com/Whisky-Ice-Canadas-Daring-Rumrunner/dp/1550022490 you can preview the book here on the right.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dundurn Press; Illustrated edition (July 26, 1996)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 26, 1996
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 192 pages

As of this post there is 1 new copy and 11 used copies available on Amazon

Preview of The Saga of Ben Kerr

Preview of Berine you’re a Bootlegger

Joan Winghart Wilcox Sullivan wrote about her father, Bernie Winghart, her paternal uncle, Ernie, and her aunt, Mamye (who was a Schaller); they were known as the Bootlegging Trio. As of this post, there are 5 new and 2 used paperback copies available on Amazon and it is also available to read on the Kindle. Check out the preview of the book on the left.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Trafford Publishing (July 15, 2010)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 15, 2010
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 88 pages

Andrew Wiedenmann was born on November 15, 1865, to Michael and Anna (Merdler) Wiedenmann who had eleven children together. His father Michael Wiedenmann was a cooper and worked in that trade just like Tom Toal we talked about in a previous snapshot. Anna (Merdler) Wiedenmann survived until May 1909. Three of the Wiedenmann children served in three different parts of the City of Rochester Government, William served on Detective Force; Frederick was an Attorney of the city and a member of the City Council representing the 15th ward for thirty-two years, and Andrew featured in the picture to the right, his other brother George Wiedenmann died in 1905 and was a Profession Baseball Player for the Detriot Ball Club. Anna and Edward died young. His sisters included Katherine, Julia, Minnie, and Anna (Wiedenmann) Kugler.

Andrew Wiedenmann was Collector of the Port of Rochester for much of Prohibition and as such he supervised many of the sorties against rumrunners on both lake and land throughout his district. This area covered 178 miles from the western end of Orleans County east to Oswego County. He was diligent, aggressive, and resourceful in his quest for Prohibition scofflaws.

But before he became the Customs Collector at the Port of Rochester, he attended the Whitney school as a boy later he attended the Rochester Free Academy. From 1886 to 1890 he was a Professional Baseball player for Rochester, Buffalo, Hamilton, Ontario, and Portland, Maine clubs. He went on to hold his first public office as the deputy collector for the Internal Revenue Service for his district from 1897 to 1901, then made a police court investigator for sixteen years, and then in 1917 he was elected sheriff of Monroe County and held that role until December 31, 1920, and in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge appointed Andrew Wiedenmann as the Collector of the Port of Rochester.

Andrew J. Wiedenmann taking the oath of office, Times-Union, April 30, 1928
Lake Ontario shoreline at Braddock Bay from media.defense.gov

His keen eyes and his investigative skills came in handy as well he was the Collector of the port of Rochester when he was the Head Sheriff of Monroe County he knew places where he would watch for people to sneak stuff into town and where to spring traps to collect the crooks. He once walked the beach from Charlotte to Manitou investigating rumors of liquor shipments being off-loaded in obscure spots. On the walk, he came across a group of people hiding under a tarp with contraband alcohol.

As the Customs Collector at the Port of Rochester, Wiedenmann often accompanied the Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.S) in their pursuit of rumrunners in the darkest hours of the night. He would shout: “We are United States Customs Officers. I order you to halt.”

36’ Double-cabin picket boat from U. S. Coast Guard History Program
Ridge Road near the Pine Tree Inn, 1920s, from the Office of the Town Historian

On July 12, 1924, he and his agents chased a truck laden with 1200 bottles of ale 18 miles along Ridge Road. Bullets flew as gunfire was exchanged.

Andrew Wiedenmann caught both Ben Kerr and the Bootlegging Trio. But his biggest challenge was the notorious Staud brothers from the town of Greece. By the way, all three of the books mentioned here today are in the museum’s reference library. You can at least get the first two books on a Kindle by Amazon but the book Booze, Barns, Boats, and Brothers which is about the Staud brothers is only in the museum reference library and can be viewed when the museum is open or by making an appointment to look at the book.

Booze, Barns, Boats and Brothers” by H. Dwight Bliss III
Grand View Heights Beach neighborhood, 1924,

On July 8, 1930, the Democrat & Chronicle wrote this about the Staud brothers: they are “The most dangerous and intrepid gang of rum runners in Western New York.” Local newspapers also characterized the brothers as the “most daring,” “most powerful,” and “notorious” of smugglers. The gang operated out of a home on Grand View Heights Road (today, South Drive).

Look pretty innocent, don’t they? But they were ruthless thugs when they grew up. From right to left, Karl, George, Edward, and Milton, called Midge.

Photo of Staud brothers when they were young and innocent or were they?
George C. Staud from H. Dwight Bliss III

They were the sons of George C. and Ida Staud (the couple also had three daughters); their father was the postmaster of Rochester from 1917-1921 while Andrew Wiedenmann was the Sheriff from 1917-1920. He had plenty of trouble with them as teenagers, but did not live to see their Prohibition notoriety. Their mother had also died, but their stepmother was living. Between Andrew Wiedenmann and his brothers, William who served on Detective Force; and his brother Frederick who served as an attorney for the City of Rochester may have had other run-ins with the Staud Brothers. Before the Staud Brothers went into the bootlegging business during prohibition.

Karl was the eldest, born about 1895. His nickname was “K-the Bishop.” He had a muscle infirmity and walked with a limp. He acted as the gang’s accountant, keeping the books for shipments and payments, and also for Midge’s speakeasies. He also frequently provided bail for George and Eddie. George was born in early 1900. He was described as a “scrapper,” tall and lean. Eddie, born also in 1900, “did most of the dirty work.” “Midge” was born in 1901. He was broad-shouldered and tall at 6’3”. Although the youngest, he was the boss and brains of the gang. The newspaper called him the “‘Little Caesar’ of Rochester’s rum-running hierarchy.” The reference of course being to the Edward G. Robinson movie.

Kidnapper gang from Times-Union July 19, 1930
Midge Staud and Jack Foran in Midge’s first boat, courtesy of Bill Sauers

The brothers quickly established the lakefront from Sodus Point to Oak Orchard as their “domain” and were ruthless in enforcing the boundaries.

Midge Staud had a fleet of large cars, Pierce-Arrows, and Studebakers, which he altered so they could stash up to 500-quart bottles of whiskey “in the seats, in backs of the seats, false floors and even false side panels in the doors.” The Stauds’ uncle, Fred, owned a shoe store and they would hide whiskey bottles in shoeboxes at the rear of the store until they could sell or transport them.

If you want to learn more about Pierce-Arrow cars you can visit the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum before you go to their museum check out their website to view their current museum hours at https://pierce-arrow.com/.

1928 Pierce-Arrow from eBay
Staud’s poison car, from Times-Union, circa May 1929

The Stauds altered this car so that poisonous mustard gas was emitted from the exhaust pipe. It was registered under a false name or now it is referred to As Known As or AKA or an alias which would allow someone to hide their identity or business from either the government, local authorities, or other gangs that were in the business of rum running, but there was enough evidence that proved that the car was owned by Midge. George was arrested wearing only his underwear trying to escape capture after the car was stopped by agents. This same car was involved in a Christmas Eve raid led by Andrew Wiedenmann.

The Stauds would find a cooperative farmer who would let them hide the liquor in a barn. Some had underground tunnels linking the shore to barn basements. Late at night, the beer, whiskey, ale, and wine would be transported in modified cars to speakeasies all around the area including the many that populated Greece.

Stauds’ barn on Norway Road in Kendal, New York for H. Dwight Bliss III provided by Bill Sauers
Christmas Eve Raid, Times-Union, December 26, 1928

This photo shows 200 cases of assorted liquor which was seized by border patrolmen Monday, December 24. Midge and George Staud along with four other men in their gang were arrested in connection with the raid. The liquor, which was composed of whisky and champagne, was intended for the Rochester holiday trade. Tire tracks in the snow alerted agents to this cache in a farmer’s barn.

 Towne Tavern sometime after 1945 Courtesy of Bill Sauers

George served some jail time on a few occasions, but nothing major. Authorities could never get a conviction against Midge. Later in life, Midge ran the Towne Tavern (Left) on Gibbs Street in Rochester and for many years he, George, and Eddie had an interest in the Grove House in Greece. Their career as rumrunners and bootleggers was mostly forgotten.

Family gathering of the Staud family, inside the Towne Tavern photo courtesy of Bill Sauers
Grove House bar courtesy Bill Sauers

So where was all that booze going? Quite a bit of it was staying right here in Greece. And that’s the subject of our next Snapshot.

Thank you for joining us today. Next week we take a look at Greece speakeasies.

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 24 The Hotel of Many Names

This week we continue looking at the hotel/inn/speakeasy/tavern that occupied the southeast corner of Latta and North Greece Road. This establishment went thru at least the same amount or more owners as the Larkin Hotel. The spot where the Larkin stood became this hotel’s parking lot when the Larkin Hotel was demolished.

This hotel would be a bit bigger than the Larkin Hotel/Tavern the Larkin would have been the same size as the Rowe Tavern this one was feature in both Ada Ridge and the Ridge Part 1 and Streb Tavern on the ridge which would have been approximately 1,514.47 square feet compared to the Hotel Demay at the end of its life was approximately 8,046.63 square feet. The North Greece Hotel had less than 50 rooms that travelers would stay in to enjoy food and drinks, then rest and set off on their next leg of their travel to either Niagara Falls or heading east towards Syracuse or other points east along the lake shore. It appears that the North Greece Hotel opened its doors around 1900 1912 at the corner of Latta and North Greece Roads. Because by opening day, January 5, 1910, it was called the Moerlbach Hotel after the new Rochester Brewery that provided the hotel with the beer it served. The Moerlbach Brewing Company opened its doors in 1909 at the corner of Emerson and Norman Steet where T & L Automatics Inc stands today just a few buildings down from where a descendant of Giddon King grew up and that descendant would be Helen Slocum. To learn more about when breweries abounded in Rochester, in the article Rochester aims to recapture its rich brewery history check out this article from Brain Sharp and Will Cleveland on the Democrat and Chronicle website at 8:21 am on April 6, 2018, which features some more information on the Moerlbach Brewing Company.

Morelbach’s ad in the Democrat & Chronicle Tuesday, January 25, 1910

Rochester aims to recapture its rich brewery history

Recreational trail planned Rochester breweries once known as best in U.S. Breweries are part of Rochester’s business history Beer industry had to revive itself after Prohibition Touted as one of the most modern breweries in the state, Moerlbach’s sprawling campus was destined to be a jewel in a burgeoning industry.

Now back to more on the Hotel with many names as we noted it was named Morelbach and its first proprietor was Frank Pye but he passed away in 1910. The hotel was sold to William “Bill Carroll of Frisbee Hill Road a near neighbor to Edward Frisbee who we will get to in another snapshot or two. When William Carroll bought the hotel he moved his family to North Greece four corners. William Carroll was born in 1872 and his family was a pioneer family that settled in the Parma Braddock Bay area in the early 1800s. In this picture, you can see William Carroll and his son in front of the hotel.

The Odenbachs owned a hotel and an ice cream stand out at the end of Manitou Beach Road where William Carroll worked before he became the owner of the Moerlbach Hotel it was at the Manitou Beach Hotel where he introduced Sherrif Albert Skinner to the Ice Cream Cone no details of what flavor it would have been either Chocolate or Vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t until 1915 that he decided it would be best to revert it to the North Greece Hotel. The Frist Manitou Beach hotel was lost in a suit between Skinner and the Odenbachs, so the Odenbachs had to rebuild the hotel over and some distance from the now Elmheart Hotel that the Skinners now owned more on the Manitou Beach and the Elmheart Hotels in a future snapshot.

The Carrolls served meals at the hotel but only to guests, they could only serve 18 to 20 people in the dining room due to the size it was. One of the most served items in the dining room was claimed to be “The Best New England Clam Chowder in the town of Greece.” It cost only 20 cents. But the neighbors around the hotel would bring kettles to the back door to the kitchen to get them some of Mary’s Clam Chowder.

William Carroll had some strict rules in his hotel. One of the rules was No Children in the Barroom and that included his own children this was probably due to the drinking, smoking, and language of the older gentlemen. One of his other strict rules was towards women, if he saw or caught a woman smoking anywhere in the hotel, he would ask her to leave the hotel.

The was Dancing every Friday night in the dance room otherwise known now as a banquet room these days, each week it could be square dancing, rounds, fox trots, or waltzes, or thru out the night, it could change depending on the music, or who was playing on the stage playing the music. It cost each couple 50 cents to dance the night away starting at 9 pm sharp and ending at 3 am but with drink service cut off at 11 pm in accordance with New York State Law for serving your wines, beers, spirits, and hard drinks, minus water though that they could keep serving after drink service was cut off to the patrons. At intermission during the dances, a table would be set up with refreshments and Hors D’oeuvres in the dance room.

In the Bar room area, there were two pool tables its uncertain if they were for the game of snooker style billiards table or if it is the common pool style billiards table that people would try the game of billiards whether it was a round of 8-ball, 9-ball, 7-ball or the game of snooker billiards at least the tables were not the bumper style table, and if you are interested one of the many types billiard games you can play by going to your local library and checking out a copy of Billiards: The Official Rules and Record Book 2021/2022 edition or any of the other Billiard books in the library.

In the barn behind the hotel, he would have livestock auctions featuring local cattle owners for locals to buy the livestock to have it slaughtered for meat, or those new owners could raise the cattle themselves and have a pasture of their own for their farms. There were a number of different livestock at these auctions. Some were cows, bison, deer, chickens, pigs, sheep, lamb, and even horses that were auctioned off at these cattle auctions the bidders did have to watch out for diseases. Once in a while, there might be regular auctions like household gear, and artwork as well.

That’s Carroll and his son in front of the hotel in this photo
That’s Carroll and his son in front of the hotel in this photo

More on the Elmheart Hotel where Carroll worked before coming here.

The Elmheart Hotel

Manitou Hotel, 1920s, from the Office of the Town Historian
The cover of a promotional booklet for the Manitou Hotel, the 1920s, or the cover of a menu from the 1940s
from the Office of the Town Historian
Barroom Postcard from eBay
Lady Smoking a cigarette 1910s from ebay
Lady Smoking a cigarette 1910s from eBay
Le Billard painted by Jean Béraud
Le Billard painted by Jean Béraud
William Carroll sells hotel to Wilson HIlton Record 1921 July 28
William Carroll sells hotel to Wilson
Hilton Record 1921 July 28
Opening of the Domino Inn
Opening of the Domino Inn

On January 17, 1920, Prohibition was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. Led by pietistic Protestants, they aimed to heal what they saw as an ill society beset by alcohol-related problems such as alcoholism, family violence, and saloon-based political corruption. Nowadays you can still see side effects of people that get drunk or have too much to drink, from Alcohol poisoning to DUI/DWI and other Alcohol related issues. It forced restaurants, bars, saloons, and other establishments to stop selling and serving alcohol products except for those that decide the Protestants did not have the best interest in their mind that Alcohol was like any other addiction, like smoking, chewing tobacco, gambling, and others. Some of the backers of prohibition were soda/pop, tea, and coffee makers, as well as the Protestants. Opposition from the beer industry mobilized “wet” supporters from the wealthy Roman Catholic and German Lutheran communities, as well as the local breweries like Moerlbach, and Genesee just to name a few as well as local restaurants, taverns, hotels, inns, saloons, and bars. But on July 28th, 1921 William Carroll decides to sell his hotel to Harry “Spike” Wilson and Louis Imhoof. Harry Wilson ran another hotel in the Brighton Twelve Corners neighborhood for several years. Harry received possession on August 1st, 1921 and on September 1st, 1921, Harry “Spike” Wilson and Louis Imhoof set to open the North Greece Hotel as the Domino Inn. Sometime during prohibition, it changed owners again and this time it became the Cosmo Inn. More on the Domino Inn and the Cosmo Inn will appear in a snapshot about prohibition.

On March 22, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, known as the Cullen–Harrison Act,  allowing the manufacture and sale of 3.2% beer (3.2% alcohol by weight, approximately 4% alcohol by volume) and light wines. The Volstead Act previously defined an intoxicating beverage as one with greater than 0.5% alcohol. The 18th amendment was repealed on December 5, 1933 as part of the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This was 6 years before the beginning of the second World War. At this time the hotel was remodeled again and opened as the Corner House Hotel and in this ad here look at the line after good food notice it says All Legal Beverages this meant any legal beverages that the State of New York allowed them to serve after prohibition was over. In 1939 World War would break out and it would cause companies to ration gas and other products that were needed for soldiers on the front lines both on the European and Asian fronts this caused the Corner House Hotel to close its doors in 1941. But just one year after the end of World War II in 1945 it would be sold again but this time to Ray and Irene DeMay, it would stay open until the early 2000s, and in November of 2017 it would be demolished for a proposed Crosby’s Convenience store and gas station but nothing has been built there as of this Bicentennial Snapshot published on August 30th, 2022. More On The DeMay Hotel and Banquet space in Snapshot # 25 – The DeMay Hotel.

Corner House ad Hilton Record 1938 October 13
Corner House ad Hilton Record 1938 October 13
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Bicentennial Snapshot # 07: Town of Greece War of 1812 Part 3

This week we conclude our three-part presentation on the attacks along the Greece shores of Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. Today we look at the battle fought on May 15, 1814. What occurred then never made it into any national history books, but is legendary in local history. Initially, 33 men from the volunteer militia responded to the sighting of the British fleet at the mouth of the Genesee River and fooled Commodore Sir James Yeo into thinking that they were “a substantial force” until more regiments could join them to turn away the enemy.

The Valiant 33

We know 17 these names of and members of the Valiant 33:

Isaac Stone, Francis Brown, Elisha Ely, Abelard Reynolds, Hamlet Scranton, Jehiel Barnard, Hervey Ely, Jesse Hawley, Silas O. Smith, Oliver Colby, Sam Latta‡§, George Latta  Thomas King, Bradford King, Zaccheus Colby, Eastman Colby, Frederick Rowe

Note the symbols next to some of the names

  • *- Greece Town Supervisor
  • † – They are the Sons of Giddon King more on King’s Landing is in King’s Landing
  • ‡ – They are Town of Northhampton Supervisors, not Gates or Greece – The town of Gates was formed in 1813 when the town changed its name to Gates, and for more information on the forming of the town of Greece check out the first snapshot of How Greece was formed
  • §- The Latta Family, Sam and George are brothers, born in Walkill, Ulster co., New York. More on the Latta Family in Snapshot #10 and in the publications Eight Miles Along the Shore and the latest book Pioneer Families of Greece Volume 1.
Samuel Latta's War of 1812 Card
Samuel Latta’s War of 1812 Card
Sketch of what appears to be the Frederick Bushnell and James K. Guernsey mercantile business at the mouth of the Genesee River or the

One of the Wearhouse that was hit was near Frederick Bushnell’s and James K. Guernsey’s mercantile business located in the Port.

The war of 1812 did last till February 18th, 1815 but there were so many small battles and wars in this battle, was the British attempting to retake the colony back and make America regret its choice to become its own country on July 4th, 1776.

General Peter Porter arrived that afternoon in time to receive a second flag. The British demanded that they surrender the provisions or they would land an army and 400 Indians. There were now 600 to 800 men on the east and west sides of the river ready to fight. Not knowing how many men were defending Charlotte, Yeo sailed away from the mouth of the Genesee on the morning of May 16, 1814.

General Peter Porter sent a message back to the Governor of New York that day stating:

“We saved the town and our credit by fairly outbullying John Bull.”

General Peter Porter
General Peter Porter
General Peter Porter
Years of service 1812–1815
Rank: Major General
Sir Commodore James Lucas Yeo

“At the Genesee, the enemy had a substantial force.”

Sir James Yeo wrote in his report to his superior officers:

More on the war of 1812 is in the book we published Eight Miles Along the Shore.

Learn more about the Latta Families Samuel Latta and George Latta in Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece Volume 1

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Manitou Beach Hotel – “From the Historian’s Files”

By far the largest and the most elegant of all the late 19th and early 20th century hotels along Lake Ontario in Greece was the Odenbach Manitou Beach Hotel. It was located at the far western end of the Manitou Beach Trolley. Built in 1888 by the Matthew and Servis Co. of State Street in Rochester, a wholesale and retail liquor and tobacco dealer, it was named for the resort of Manitou Springs, Colorado.

By the mid-1890s it had been taken over by Frederick Odenbach, who already had a modest restaurant on State Street. The Hotel had 25 guest rooms, a well-appointed lobby, a men’s bar, and a ladies’ salon, plus a restaurant.

Frederick S. Odenbach 1853-1919, Courtesy of Marie Poinan

The building was lit by acetylene gas lamps from the gas plant on the property. The frontage on the lake was almost 800 feet with an expanse of sandy beach. The Manitou Trolley began frequent daily, seasonal service in 1891.

Along with the trolley, the steamer Rosalie (owned by the Odenbach family) ran from about 1912 through 1916. It docked at a pier that was about 800 feet in length, built of cement piers and steel decking. A round-trip ticket from Charlotte was 25 cents.

Fred Odenbach and Matthew John Fred and Charley

After Fred Odenbach’s death in 1919, the hotel passed to his four sons, Fred J., John H., Matthew P., and Charles P. Odenbach. Matthew took over running the hotel from then on, making many improvements through the years. A major renovation was the enlargement and enclosure of the front porch. The spacious room could easily seat 500 patrons and included a raised bandstand and a dance floor.

Cover of The Manitou Beach Hotel Menu
Main Dining Room at Manitou Beach Hotel

From then on, the hotel became famous for its marvelous food, wonderful dance music, and panoramic view of Lake Ontario. Nationally known orchestras of the day such as Vincent Lopez and Tommy Tucker played engagements there, as well as favorite local bands such as Sax Smith and Damon’s Orchestra.

By 1925 the trolley had bowed out to the ever-increasing automobile traffic and the improvement of Manitou Rd. to a two-lane paved road. World War Il had begun in 1939 and the United States went to war at the end of 1941. Curtailment of unnecessary travel by car and gasoline rationing brought an end to the 55-year run of the grandest hotel between Charlotte and Olcott Beach to the west.

Matthew Odenbach

It closed in 1943, never to reopen. A headline in the Rochester Times Union on May 19, 1955 states: “Famed Lakeside Dining Spot, Hotel Manitou, Coming Down.” Matt Odenbach (manager since 1919) was quoted as saying the work had started several weeks before and would be completed by July 4.

The furnishings had been sold and the lumber recycled. The property was still owned by Matt and his three brothers. The land was split into building lots shortly after. Nothing remains as a reminder of the wonderful times that untold thousands of people enjoyed there…..only the expansive view of the lake remains and a faint musical refrain from long ago, whispered by a few remaining poplar trees along Manitou Road.

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