Echoes From The Archives
Thanks to Jane Pinney for most of the research for this article.
The Fassett House
A few highlights in its history
Another Wellsville landmark is now only a memory. While it was fascinating to watch the dinosaur-like backhoe carefully munching away at brick and wood last week, it was also incredibly sad to be losing an important part of our history.
The Fassett House hotel was built by Isaac W. Fassett in 1870 at the corner of Main and Mill (later Fassett)-streets. The site had earlier held Wellsville's first tavern, a log house built by Harmon Van Buren in 1832. This was the site of early town meetings and the location of the first store, operated by Silas Hills at the tavern, also in 1832.
Following two disastrous fires in 1867 which destroyed most of Main Street, most new buildings, including the Fassett, were constructed of brick. This and the I. W. Fassett Fire-Proof Block, also included interior fire walls of brick.
In 1876 Col. Stephen Moore, a Civil War veteran who had at one time been in charge of the Civil War prison camp at Elmira, came to Wellsville and for four years managed the Fassett House. Moore brought with him a man who was to become a well-known and loved figure in Fassett House history for over 40 years. Peter Dudley, a former slave, came north as Moore's valet and became porter at the Fassett. He drove a horse-drawn omnibus which carried travelers between the hotel and the Erie railroad station. Peter was a favorite of travelers and "drummers" (traveling salesmen), known for his manners and sense of humor. A newspaper article around 1900 states "his laugh can be heard as far as the roar of Niagara." He was a member of the GAR and for many years fIagbearer for the McEwen Hose Co. in firemen's parades. The Fassett's bus service was discontinued in 1911 but Peter Dudley continued in his employment as porter.
An advertisement for the Fassett in 1894 shows George Fox as proprietor, with room rates of $2 per day. Fox is also shown as proprietor in an 1898 brochure and a newspaper ad in 1905.
In 1905 a New York State law required fire escapes in hotels of more than two stories high and these were added to the Fassett. They consisted of ropes fastened to the wall near the windows. For many years these were the only emergency exits.
During the 1920's and 30's the hotel proprietor was listed as "Farney" Gee. Little more is known of the building until 1945 when the Fassett was purchased by the Emery Hotel Corp. Major changes were made under manager Joseph Mumma. A porch over the front entrance was removed and three fan-shaped windows installed in the first floor front. The Gold Room was created from a section which had held a grocery store. (apparently through its history part of the first floor of the building held various stores) The Gold Room had a bar and an entertainment area where dances were held.
The 1950's were prosperous years for the Fassett. It was used by business visitors and was a popular dining spot as well as a location for parties and meetings held by local businesses and organizations. In 1955 radio station WLSV got its start in the front corner of the Fassett building, an area later occupied by a barber shop.
The hotel again changed hands in the early 1960's, sold to the Colonial of Smethport. They filed for bankruptcy in 1964. Local stockholders bought the building, but it closed again in 1967. It was then purchased by Pat Burke, closing again in 1974. In 1972 it was used briefly as a shelter during the flood caused by Hurricane Agnes in June of that year.
In 1985 John Dean was listed as owner and the first floor held several businesses, including a sewing machine store, fabric store, insurance agency and barbershop. In the 1990's the building was purchased by Henry Bauer, who made the upper floors into apartments and the Gold Room became a laundromat.
In 2003 a flood caused by a broken water pipe, and later a fire doomed the building and it was torn down in February 2005.