In 1896, Charles O’Hara had come from Glenfield and built Inlet Inn along the channel from Fifth Lake on land purchased from David Frank Sperry in 1897, operating it as a boarding house.
In November 1907, O’Hara purchased the Arrowhead from Albert C. Boshart and operated both hotels. But on the morning of September 23, 1913, the hotel originally established in 1893 on the shores at the head of Fourth Lake by Fred Hess, renamed in 1898 the Arrowhead by William Moshier, burned to the ground. While determining whether to rebuild, O’Hara leased the Eagle Bay Hotel for the 1914 and 1915 seasons.
In 2012, Letty Kirch Haynes donated the annual business files of her grandfather Frank Tiffany to the Inlet Historical Society which I had the opportunity to review. In addition to being Inlet’s first town supervisor, Tiffany was an investment counselor, a board member of the Raquette Falls Land Company that owned a portion of Inlet’s lands, realtor for Jennie Galvin’s unsold lands after her husband’s 1911 death and began a real estate business in 1908 that is today Burkhard Evans. For what transpired concerning the Pratt Camp during the years 1912-1915, I have found the following information from the letters of Charles M. Burtis, business manager for the Pratt Institute, Frank Tiffany and Charles O’Hara.
In April 1912, Charles Burtis authorized Frank Tiffany to find a buyer for the Pratt Institute’s camp which by then was beginning to show signs of abandonment. When Charles O’Hara leased the Eagle Bay Hotel for 1914 and 1915, Tiffany’s business affairs was such that he was receptive to O’Hara’s offer for he and his wife to manage the Inlet Inn so Tiffany could rent their family camp. On May 29, 1914 Charles O’Hara purchased the Pratt Camp from the Pratt Institute. A report indicated that his purchase included 176 acres and 2,000 feet of lake frontage.
Two years earlier in February 1912, O’Hara acquired the Hotel Windsor in Lowville at a mortgage foreclosure and would continue to seek a buyer for the next few years for funding his Inlet hotel plans. O’Hara purchased the Pratt Camp in order to quickly sell it to provide him funds to buy the Eagle Bay Hotel at the price initially acceptable by its owners at the time of signing the lease. Unfortunately, after his purchase, which required a down payment of $4000 of the $15000 price, the owners of the Eagle Bay Hotel had recently raised their price and refused to sell it to him, hoping to sell it to Charles Williams of Big Moose. Tiffany repeatedly tried to find a buyer for O’Hara’s Pratt Camp as late as March 1915. By 1916, O’Hara ended his lease with the Eagle Bay Hotel and decided to rebuild the Arrowhead. The Eagle Bay Hotel did not sell and was then managed by Dwight B. Sperry, one of its owners. The Arrowhead was built not on its previous site but directly in front of and attached to the Inlet Inn. The New Arrowhead opened to much fanfare in 1916. O’Hara’s plans for Pratt Camp were put on hold.
Having no evident long term plans for the property, O’Hara rented the Pratt Camp to professional squash tennis player G. F. Waterbury of New York in 1919 for the summer. The report indicated it operated in connection with the New Arrowhead. O’Hara may have been using the unused Pratt Camp for occasional overflow from that hotel.
In May 1920, O’Hara leased the Pratt Camp to Grace E. Jackson of Newark, N.J. for the establishment of an exclusive summer girls’ camp called Nytis Loge. “Nytis Loge” is a Native American phrase interpreted as “the place where good friends come.” If successful, Mrs. Jackson planned to purchase the Pratt Camp property.
Nytis Loge was to have 30 counselors and masters in swimming and equestrian skills including riding stables. The school headlined “dalcroze eurythmics”, tennis, equestrian training with riding horses from the First Field Artillery of New York, a 250-yard rifle range installed by the Winchester Arms Company and a nationally honored swimming champion (Virginia Knott) responsible for aquatic sports. O’Hara also built a new $50,000 two-story dining hall and dormitory building of “English half-timber stucco design. The directors named were Mrs. J.H. Thill of New Rochelle and Mrs. Frank Winslow of Rockland, Maine assisted by numerous women physicians and teachers. Applicants were to contact Mrs. Thill by writing to The Wigman, Fifth Lake, Inlet.
A Utica reporter spent most of his review of the camp on the specialized dance “dalcroze eurythmics” exercises, knowing his readers like him knew little about it. This fairly new, unstructured type of dance emphasized reaction to a music piece with expressions of mind, body movement and other activity. Unfortunately, while the reporter provided a glowing review in the final paragraph of his article, he may have distracted his audience with his attention to this new dance method at the school.
He reported it (eurythmics) wasn’t something to eat, but you “dance them, or rather you express them through your appreciation of rhythmic factors.” He continues: “not a great deal of costume is necessary:” swimming suits or “gauzy Greek things that are fascinating especially against an Adirondack background”. He cautioned hikers not to be surprised when intruding on student exercises upon the trails leading to the school. He also noted that the school did not have many students.
The school did not last long and no ads appeared in 1921. Using this failure as an opportunity, Charles O’Hara decided to open a new hotel on the Camp Pratt property.
O’Hara called the new hotel Ara-Ho, his name spelled backwards, to be operated by son Bernard and his wife Mary. He remodeled the two-story building built for Mrs. Wilcox in 1920 into a main hotel building, jacking it up to construct the first floor lobby, similar in appearance to the New Arrowhead’s lobby. The hotel building is very close to what would appear today (2013) as Holl’s Inn.
The Ara-Ho Hotel opened in late July 1923. Each room had a telephone, running hot and cold water and private bath. Its manager was Charles Drexler. The hotel also had cottages which could be rented.
O’Hara’s wife Caroline hung a sampler she made which contained the proverb: “Relish With Content Whatever Providence Has Sent” in the lobby. This piece was later transferred to the next owners. Lampshades were added to blend with a new color scheme of pink and silver gray. In 1927, the site generator was replaced by Inlet’s new municipal (Inlet Utilities, Inc.) corporation. The hotel’s capacity was expansive enough to become what we would today call a conference center.
The O’Haras operated the hotel until 1933. Management of both the New Arrowhead and the Ara-Ho in the depression forced Charles O’Hara to file for bankruptcy and compelled him to relinquish the Ara-Ho hotel to creditors in November 1933. In April 1934, Edward Hurley, Charles Williams and Dennis Dillon acquired a charter for the Central Adirondack Hotels, Inc. of Inlet and obtained the Ara-Ho. In August that year the Inlet Volunteer Hose Company rescued the Ara-Ho from destruction when flames were discovered on its roof. A year later, the hotel had new owners.
When Charles O’Hara built the Ara-Ho in 1923, he conveyed a mortgage to Maurice Callahan of the Old Forge Bank. While small portions of the property were released from mortgage liens in the late twenties, Maurice Callahan as trustee for the corporation acquired most of the original Ara-Ho property in November 1934. In a transaction dated May 20, 1935, the Central Adirondack Hotels, Inc., whose president was Maurice Callahan, sold the Ara-Ho Hotel property, now 134 acres with 1754 feet of shore front to the Holl’s Inn, Inc., trustees being Oscar and Hans Holl. Though the price recorded was $10, the brothers probably assumed the outstanding mortgages.
The Holl brothers were born in southern Germany. Hans worked in hotels in Germany and Switzerland as an apprentice to well-known chefs. The Holl brothers came to America in 1923, beginning a long service as cooks and hotel managers. At the time of the Ara-Ho purchase, the Holls were certainly not hotel novices. The report of the Ara-Ho purchase cited their management of Hotel Halm, Lake Constance and Vier Jahreszeiten, Bad-Ems, Germany; the Plaza, Sherry-Netherland; Hotel Astor, New York; the Floridan, Tampa; and the Alba, Palm Beach. The Holl brothers had concerns about such an investment in bad times, but these prior successes and being only in their thirties convinced them they could start again elsewhere if they failed.
Holl’s Inn opened on July 1, 1935 and its initial name was “Holl on Fourth Lake.” Starting slowly, they soon began servicing South Shore camp owners who needed board for their overflow guests. In 1937, Syracuse golf pro Jake Freiberg received a medal in Syracuse for his hole-in-one at the Inlet Golf Course. He sent it to Oscar to have him frame it to hang in the hotel lobby because he credited his shot to the delectable vitamins in the hotel’s meals.
Noting the bare shoreline, the Holls planted many seedlings to remedy this as well as to provide some seclusion and solve a long-time mud problem. Short of funds for new furnishings, they noted the cocktail lounge had surplus shelf space. So the brothers painted cracked plates and added them to the shelves. Afterwards, a guest bride asked if their names could be hand-painted on a plate and a new tradition was born. Numerous hand-lettered plates in various colors surrounded the tavern walls. Later returning couples often requested an anniversary plate added to the collection. O’Hara’s green tavern beams were maintained by dipping in acid instead of staining or antiquing.
Before the property’s sale in 2013, the Holl family donated the painted plates, some displaying years as early as 1935, to the Inlet Historical Society which is returning them to family members, asking for a donation.
Not being married, Oscar enlisted in the Army during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1943 in time to open the season that summer. Improvements to Holl’s Inn over the years included a 10 room Pratt Annex (1945) and afterwards an additional 15 more units. To honor the site’s history, a nearby spring was named Pratt Spring. A Bavarian cottage, called Alpine Camp, added later offered year round lodging. The Holls added a dining room porch extension to the dining room. In 1988, the Holls installed a new regulation tennis court.
While Hans managed the culinary operations, Oscar operated as host and performed the accounting chores.
The Holls strove intentionally to maintain a quiet and relaxed atmosphere at the hotel. Guests were assigned a table with a waitress whose responsibility included insuring a newspaper and a tin of the guest’s favorite tea or vitamins were on the table. Televisions and phones were excluded from the rooms. Holls Inn was an “American Plan” hotel; three meals served a day at designated one hour periods. The plan included free use of the hotel’s ping pong tables, tennis court, rowboats and canoes, horseshoes and movies. Landscaping of the lakefront lawns included lawn chairs and towering trees as sun shelter for outside reading. As late as the 1980s, the hotel still employed about 25 workers, down from 45 a decade earlier. Guests and their families enjoyed the Holls’ tradition of service and valued amenities, responding for years with a ninety percent return rate.
Hans’ wife Anna Hagen came to America in 1927, met Hans at a German Club in New York City and they married in 1939. In 1952, Hans and Anna left the Holl’s Inn, Hans sold his interest to Oscar and they purchased Dibble’s Inn in Vernon, New York. However, running the popular restaurant neighboring the then new (1953) Vernon Downs racetrack became overwhelming and encouraged the Holls to return to Fourth Lake and purchase the private estate Albedor in May 1956. Hans died in 1966. Anna left the Albedor and lived at First Lake until her death in 1994.
Just prior to Hans and Anna leaving Holl’s Inn, Oscar married former Whitesboro teacher Rosemary Goetz in 1950. Together they continued their tradition of service at Holl’s Inn until Oscar’s death in 1993.
Occasionally, newspaper accounts in the 1980s would report that, while rental cottages and camps on the Fulton Chain were full, the older and familiar larger hotels were in continual decline. Among the recent closures reported were the Mohawk, Neodak, bankrupt Hollywood Hills and Rocky Point, North Woods Inn and Holl’s Inn were struggling to survive. But in numerous interviews about Holl’s Inn, Rosemary Holl was proud to be among the last of the family of traditional Adirondack hotels on the Fulton Chain.
In an era when automobile and airplane long distance travel was prevalent, many of the long popular hotels were closing with uncertain futures. Rosemary stated that the line in Caroline O’Hara’s sampler (“Relish With Content Whatever Providence Has Sent”) was a credo that she lived by and continued to be a treasured memory.
The Holls believed that people would continue to respond positively to the “warm and friendly attitude to all who pass through their doors.” Guests and friends agreed that Oscar Holl followed the original tradition of early Adirondack innkeepers of times now gone who exhibited the qualities of a true gentleman. The Holls wanted their guests to experience the feeling of returning home when they arrived with fresh flowers generously distributed in the interior space of the hotel. The hotel was probably the last Adirondack Hotel still offering the “American Plan”, including meals as part of the board paid.
Rosemary would remark how, like the Mark Twain rejoinder, reports of the death of Holl’s Inn have been greatly exaggerated. She felt that their service would never go out of style. Even when someone said “everyone has a price”, she responded with “now you’ve met someone who doesn’t”. At the close of one interview, she claimed that this was her life and she would be at Holl’s Inn for a long time. Rosemary died in 2008.
While Holl’s Inn closed as a hotel in 2006, some rentals still occurred at its cottages until a year or so ago. In 2012, Holl’s Inn and its property were listed on the market by the family. After it was sold in 2013, the new owners did not plan to continue operation of the resort and the hotel buildings were demolished.
Being aware of the historical nature of structures, those doing the work recovered additional tavern plates that were forwarded to the Inlet Historical Society.
Images: photographs by author, postcards from Goodsell Museum, Old Forge, N.Y.; Nytis Lodge/Arrowhead ad, Syracuse Post Standard, July, 1920; New Arrowhead/Araho image 1926 Inlet Chamber of Commerce Booklet; O’Haras at Pratt Camp & Araho postcard author’s collection.