Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Panther Mountain House: End of an Era

December 30th marked the end of an era in Chestertown. The Panther Mountain House—The P-House, the P, or Club P to locals—that venerable village watering hole, served its last drink. The closing comes on the heels of the death of M. Thomas Carroll, who with his wife Margaret (Markie), lived in and operated the small hotel with a downstairs bar since 1957.

Tom Carroll was born in Ballybaun, County Limerick, and immigrated to America in 1949. He spent ten years in the hotel business before taking charge of the Panther Mountain House from John “Pops” Wertime. The Wertime family had owned the hotel since 1924 when Cohoes attorney Walter H. Wertime bought the building from Mrs. John Baker Brown. The building was built just after the Civil War by the Faxon family. In 1930, the Wertimes had the brick building across the street built, designed to house a theater and retail space (Chestertown’s first bank was located there).

The Wertimes’ “thoroughly renovated and remodernized” hotel, was just that all through the prohibition years. It served as accommodations for 50 people (it was later expanded to accommodate 100), but it served little else. It was run by the daughter and son-in-law of Walter Wertime, Robert H. “Bob” Nicholson of Elizabethtown. Bob Nicholson’s family were pioneers of Elizabethtown (his great-grandfather was the town’s first postmaster in about 1800), with strong connections to the legal profession. Bob’s Nicholson’s brother was John D. Nicholson, head of the Rouses Point border patrol unit during prohibition. During the dry years, the Panther Mountain House housed border patrol officers, including the head of the Chestertown unit, David Walters.

On March 22, 1941, the Panther Mountain House was completely destroyed by fire. “Seven occupants of the hotel were forced to flee scantily clad in the blaze which was reportedly the worst in the history of the community,” according to the Ticonderoga Sentinel. Walter Wertime estimated the damage at $70,000, a loss he told the paper that was not completely covered by insurance (despite Wertime being an insurance broker). “Mr. Wertime escaped from the structure only partially clad,” the paper added “he has no plans for rebuilding.”

Nearby homes were scorched and the theater building across the street briefly caught fire. It was quickly put out, but not before serious damage had occurred to the front of the building, particularly the wooden portions. The windows in the A & P store on the first floor were broken by the heat of the fire and the doors were so badly warped that they could not be opened.

Wertime decided he would rebuild the hotel after all, and asked John Clark, an architect of Troy, to design a new building of concrete block and stucco measuring 84 by 42 feet – the building you see today. Construction was begun in the spring of 1941 (using some of the same foundation) and was completed in time for the summer season.

The Carrolls are hoping to sell the hotel. They say there is some interest, but for now the doors are locked.

Photos: The Panther Mountain House in the 1920s, and below, the downstairs bar.

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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com.




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