By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON July 19, 2002 A name like the Western Hotel is likely to invoke visions of gunslinging cowboys and swinging saloon doors.
But to Callicoon residents, the name has a more genteel connotation and 150 years of history. It brings, instead, memories of Callicoons heydays when the railroad ran through town and the hamlet was better known as Callicoon Depot, a spot where passengers alighted from the train and spent a day shopping in town.
The hotel, a mainstay in downtown Callicoon, will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year. The stately Victorian/Greek revival structure was built in 1852 right along the then-busy railroad tracks to house visitors and offer travelers fine food, drink and entertainment as a rest from their busy day.
According to a history put together by the children of the inns current owner, Joe Naughton, the land along Academy Street in Callicoon was purchased by a Lewis Gregory who used waters of the Seminary Creek (then known as Frisbee Creek because the Roman Catholic Seminary nearby had not yet been erected) to wash out the area from the Western down to where the Callicoon Theater now stands.
Gregory then portioned out lots of land along the strip, filling in the marshy areas and making them prime spots for real estate.
Henry Blakie, a New York City businessman, came to the hamlet in 1852 and decided to erect his own hotel to take advantage of the railroads growth in the area.
He ran the inn for 14 years before selling. The inn changed hands through several families, the best known of whom were the Thorwelles Herman, Louise and Charles who owned the hotel around the turn of the century.
The Darling family took over in 1902 and collectively (between husband Howard and wife Mary) ran the hotel for 45 years, the longest of any family in the Westerns history.
Today, Naughton runs the hotel with his wife Lee, much like it was 150 years ago.
All the same services offered then are offered now, Joe Naughton explained.
Theres a dining hall, tap room, entertainment upstairs in Harmonie Hall and lodging available for overnight guests.
Even the look of the building has remained constant over the years, Naughton said.
The original structure was erected in the Greek revival style of the times. But around the turn of the century, Naughton has discovered, the roof was raised to add a full third and fourth floor, giving the hotel a more Victorian look.
Naughton himself has worked on the building over the years to improve its aesthetic value.
He took over the hotel in 1969 when his father, Neils, health was failing. Though not originally from the Callicoon area, Joe moved to town with his family when they purchased the hotel. He even graduated from the nearby Delaware Valley Central School before going off to see the world.
He returned 33 years ago to help his mother get the business back on its feet.
It was supposed to be a five-year plan, he recalled with a laugh. I was just going to fix the place up.
But then the Western was hit by the flood of 1973. Positioned right in the center of town where water flows down the mountain toward the river, the Western has always been hard hit by floods. At one time, Seminary Creek ran right under the building, and a flood would fill the basement to the top.
After the flood of 1996 which again decimated the Westerns lower half, Naughton convinced the Town of Delaware to install a new sluice pipe to divert waters around the buildings on Academy Street a project he thinks has completely eliminated the problem.
But, of course, that simple solution wasnt available in 1973. So he stayed in Callicoon to rebuild and keep the hotel running, and hes been here for 33 years.
But he and Lee have made good friends in the area, and been in the center of a vibrant community.
As you look back, you remember the good stuff, Joe Naughton noted. What job or what life lived didnt have its moments?
The Naughtons raised their children Lisa, Kathleen and Joe in Callicoon, and theyve expanded their business.
Today, in addition to the dining, bar and lodging, theres a package (liquor) store in the building, and the hotel offers catering services.
Theyve considered selling the business, Joe said. After all, its a lot of hard work.
When I started this, I was told you cant last 10 years in the business, Naughton recalled. Thirty-three years is a long time.
Its a multi-plex business, he explained. We have the catering hall, the hotel rooms, the dining, the tap room, plus we live here.
Im not open right now, but Im not not working.
The Naughtons dont have any specific plans to celebrate the anniversary, but they do hope to honor the hotels 150th year.