In 1935, Hans and Oscar Hall, German-born brothers with extensive European and American hotel culinary and management experience, purchased the Araho Hotel property and began a long period of home-away-home customer service lasting until shortly after 2006. The main hotel building, which they named Holls Inn, was architecturally the same as the hotel built by Charles O’Hara in 1923 and years later would be expanded. The Araho Hotel was located on the south shore of Fourth Lake in the town of Inlet on a tract previously owned by Astral Oil (later Standard Oil) Brooklyn millionaire Charles Pratt. Pratt’s Camp, built in the 1870s, was among the first on the Fulton Chain.
Hans left the Holls Inn partnership in 1952, returned to Fourth Lake with his purchase of the Albedor in 1956 and died in 1966. Oscar died in 1993 and his wife Rosemary ran the Holls Inn until her death in 2008.
With the property’s sale in 2013, the new owners, intending to build a new camp on the property and not operate an unprofitable hotel designed for an earlier resort style, a large volume of returning clientele and diverse recreational options, concluded it was prudent to demolish the primary hotel structures.
Perhaps what many of its former visitors and lodgers recall most about Holls Inn was the homey tavern with the colorful painted plates surrounding its walls. In addition to the lime and blue décor of the rooms, the shelves around the walls were furnished with hundreds of yellow, blue, green and other colored plates and styles. Furthermore, on the plates were painted the actual names and dates for events celebrated at Holls Inn.
According to 1988 interviews with the Adirondack Echo and Utica Observer-Dispatch celebrating his 90th year, Oscar Holl recalled that the purchase price of the Araho was $1, “and that was the real estate man’s money. We didn’t have a penny.” Consequently, the brothers had no money for furnishings.
Oscar continued: “We had a lot of shelves in there (the tavern). But they didn’t have anything on them. We went into the kitchen and took all the cracked plates and painted them. Those were our decorations. During the second or third year of operation (probably earlier since some plates include the year 1935), a honeymooning bride brought one of the plates and asked if her name and her husband’s could be put on it.” The Holls agreed and a tradition was born.
Married couples, those holding receptions and returning anniversary couples would see a plate added to the wall for their event and also could order a duplicate to take home. In the last years of the hotel’s operations, preparation of the plates were outsourced and less hand painting occurred, but events continued to be commemorated with double plates when requested.
When it became apparent with the property’s sale that Holls Inn would no longer physically exist, and more pertinent to the subject, the status and significance of the plates came to the attention of the parties involved, the surviving plates were provided to the Inlet Historical Society whose headquarters is on the main street of the hamlet.
The first order of business for the Society in handling the plates was to photograph those received and to record the information contained on the plates. After this was accomplished, the Society realized that not only were the plates a snapshot of the event celebrated, they also were illustrations of the human condition and world of that time. Furthermore, they also were representative of Folk Art and some plates would be retained by the Inlet Historical Society as artifacts. These images reflected the talents of the Holls brothers and their Old Work origins and family heritage.
Perhaps the most notable figure celebrated was the plate for Fred Atherton and Daisy Douglas Hodges. Hodges was a notable photographer and widely known as “Adirondack Hodges” for his local topics, the moniker distinguishing him from his father who was known for his Black River Canal and lock photographs. This wedding, though the plate was not dated, took place in 1936. Fred died on the grounds of the Adirondack Museum in 1958.
Another plate commemorated both a 1904 wedding at the Inlet Inn, located then along Fifth Lake Channel, and the Sears’ 1954 50th anniversary at Holls Inn in boxcars on the “Sears R. R.” When the New Arrowhead was built in 1916, replacing the Arrowhead that burned in 1913, the Inlet Inn structure was joined to the rear of the new hotel.
Some during World War II and the Korean conflict reflected images of wartime: the American flag or a bomber.
The Inlet Historical Society has begun efforts to locate families whose members are the parties named on the plates. Since receiving a duplicate of the plate hung in the tavern was optional, it may be that the plate remaining is the only one surviving celebrating the event. During 2013, the Society announced their receipt of the plates and plans to contact family members. In July 2014, press releases were issued to the regional newspapers announcing the availability of the plates for family members and requesting a donation if desired.
Unfortunately, the Society also recognizes that most family members named on the plates may no longer be living, but also hopes their memories live on in their descendants, and would more so if they could receive a unique, original artifact of a family event at an historic Adirondack Hotel that remains physically available.
To find out if your family or a friend’s family member is noted on a Holls Inn tavern plate that for several years decorated the Holls Inn Tavern shelves, interested parties may contact Mitch Lee at the Inlet Tourism Office at 315-357-5501. To view the July 2014 Society press release and a complete listing of the existing plates, please visit the Society’s website: www.inlethistoricalsociety.org .