Friday, October 22, 2010

Vanished Rochester: Pavilion Hotel

Rochester's first hotel was built by Elnathan Wilcox about 1839 - less that fifteen years after the village was platted - on the southwest corner of Third and Main Streets, and was originally known as the Pavilion Hotel. A two-story frame building and barn that sheltered the weary traveler and his horse, the Pavilion passed through several owners during its existence and had its name changed several times. In 1856, Harvey Bennett was the proprietor, and by 1877 Wilson Fenner was running the hotel as the Fenner House. A couple of years later, Oscar Comstock took over, and the hotel was known as the Comstock House.

On April 15, 1880, Rochester suffered a devastating fire that completely destroyed the Pavilion Hotel, then known as the Comstock House, and the Universalist Church. The Rochester Era described the chaotic scene:
At about twenty minutes before 12 last (Thursday) night fire was discovered bursting thru the roof of the Comstock House in this village, and before a general alarm could be sounded the entire roof of the building was enveloped in flames and all hope of saving the house was out of the question. Barnes' paper-mill whistle was sounded loud and long and the church bells rung out arousing the sleepers who rushed to the scene of the conflagration, unable, however, to render any assistance other than help remove some of the household effects.
The wind at the time was blowing briskly from the northeast filling the air with fire and cinders, which were wafted towards the Universalist Church and other buildings in that direction. Soon came the cry that the church was on fire which proved too true and notwithstanding people were on the roof with pails of water the upper portion was soon all ablaze and past saving.
The Comstock House and the church were total losses. The Universalist Society began almost immediately to rebuild, erecting a brick building that still stands today on Walnut St. The Comstock House was not rebuilt, and the lot sat vacant, to the chagrin of the townspeople, for nearly nine years before a new brick house, named the Sidney House, was opened in 1889. The name of the Sidney House was eventually changed to the Detroit Hotel, and on February 22, 1927, that building met the same fate as had it predecessor.

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