The osburn house

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First of two articles

An imposing three-storied

building with a mansard roof, a

wrap-around porch, and a second floor

balcony was a welcoming sight to

travelers arriving in Fairport for over

seventy years. It was the Osburn House,

located between the two sets of railroad

tracks on North Main Street. The need

for hotels and restaurants had been

growing since the coming of the canal

in 1825, and the laying of the first

railroad tracks through Fairport in the 1850's only increased that need. Mallett’s Tavern on the banks of the canal was the only hotel in town until the Osburn House was built.

The hotel was built in 1860, 1868, or 1870 by either Patrick Doyle or Robert Mars, depending on the source. What is clear, however, is that it was an imposing building and a well-equipped hotel. It had floor to ceiling windows and double doors that led into a wide hall on the first floor, which had an office, parlor, bar, and dining room that could accommodate up to fifty people. The second and third floors provided eight to ten bedrooms for guests, and living quarters for the hotel owner. There was a kitchen wing in the back and an ice house and livery stable as well. Ice came either from the adjacent mill pond or from the Oxbow. It was certainly more elegant than the earlier canal inns where a dormitory was the most common accommodation.

During the first decade of its existence, the hotel had several owners. Lanson Osburn purchased the hotel in 1872 and ran it for five years. He sold it to Robert Conant who owned it for three years before selling out. Several others owned the hotel before A.J. Cornwell and W.B. Burris, experienced hoteliers, purchased the establishment in 1886. They refurbished the hotel and added modern conveniences such as central heating, plumbing, and electricity. Their livery stable offered eight to ten horses and wagons and carriages by the day or week. Undertaker Henry Reylea’s hearse was also housed there.

By the early 1900's, the hotel was owned by Edward J. Cary, whose letterhead advertised the Osburn House as heated by steam, having electric lights, and also having a first-class livery. During this time, the hotel became a popular eating place, offering an “old-fashioned chicken dinner” on Sunday for thirty-five cents. Regular items on the weekly menu included roast beef, pork, and corned beef and cabbage. Mr. Cary and his family lived in the hotel and his son Arthur was born there. A photograph taken in one of the rooms in the hotel shows both Edward Cary and his son Arthur.

By the early 20th century, people were not spending long periods of time in the local hotels. The advent of the automobile brought change in travel habits and the Osburn House had to change as well.

Next week’s column will conclude the story.

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