U.S. Hotel Debate

By Al Brindza

Over the years there has been much debate about the existence of there being Two U.S. Hotels, each being located on the corner of Wayne & Juniata Streets in Hollidaysburg, Pa. Finally after months of exhausting research I now have the answers, not all but many to help explain this mystery. Not just for myself but for those who are curious and who love old buildings and history. So, Yes! The answer to that question, "There were two U.S. Hotels."

I will begin with the original hotel building located on Lot 145 of the 1873 Hollidaysburg, town map, the same building shown in an 1863 photo of Hollidaysburg. This building known as the United States Hotel is located on the west side corner of Wayne & Juniata Streets. It supposedly was built in 1835 by John & Rose Dougherty this has not been totally documented by the original deed that we are still seeking. We do know according to the History of Blair County, Pennsylvania that in 1836 John and his wife Rose were caterers to the towns July 4th celebration. Also in my possession is a copy of the April 1837 Tavern license of John Dougherty that mentions a newly erected building. It isn't until 1842 that the hotels Tavern license states that John Dougherty actually operates the United States Hotel. This raises the question was John Dougherty the sole owner or just a business partner of the hotel since the original deed cannot be located? Blair County Tax Records for 1846 show that Dougherty's U.S. Hotel value at the time as $2,500.00.

Also to add to the confusion of John Dougherty's name it was discovered that there were two of them. One the hotel owner was often referred to as Whiskey John while the other as John the Agitator. This John was at the time in 1835 involved in the Reliance Transportation Company, later in 1839 the Reliance Portable Boat Company. Both which had dealings with the Pennsylvania Canal System established through Hollidaysburg by 1832.

On Sept. 5, 1853 John Dougherty 's hotel property is seized for debt. Oct. 26, 1853 Rose wife of John Dougherty purchases the United States Hotel. Blair Co. Deeds Vol. E Pgs.460-462, for $3,300.00 plus a debt of $503.50 to Mulhollan & Ray Attorneys.

In 1863 Rose Dougherty dies and is buried in St. Mary's cemetery Hollidaysburg.

On, May 6,1863 William P. Dysart purchases the United States Hotel according to Blair Co. Sheriff Deed Vol. A Pg.388 for $2,460.00, only the index of this sheriff s sale exists. William died on April 7, 1870. He is buried in the Dysart Cemetery in Antis Twp.

On March 26, 1864 a gentleman by the name of John F. Olmus purchases the United States Hotel property. Blair Co. Deed Vol. Q Pgs 614-615 for the sum of $3,000.00. John F. Olmus dies in February 16, 1887 in Altoona and is buried at Fairview Cemetery.

John Dougherty died in 1868 and is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery Hollidaysburg with his wife. Note: This little piece of info is important to know because in a number of newspaper and magazine articles even a few historical and paranormal books that I have read list John Dougherty as the original builder, owner or proprietor of the Present Day U.S. Hotel & Tavern located across the street. Not possible since he died in 1868 and the second hotel was not erected until 1886 by Contractor Andrew Myers of Hollidaysburg. James W. Gromiller first opened this hotel for business in January 1, 1887. In many articles, again misinformation they state that his father Englebert Gromiller a German Brew Master by trade built the present day U.S. Hotel in 1886 some even list it as 1835. This was also impossible since Englebert died in 1875. I'll talk more about this later when I explain the origins of the present day U.S. Hotel.

Records show that in April 1, 1870 John F. McLain purchases the United States Hotel. Still being on Lot 145. Blair Co. Deed Vol. Y Pgs. 156-158 for the sum of $6,400.00. John Mclain also owned the McLain House in Indiana, Pa. that he sold in March 1870 to make this purchase.

On April 17, 1870 court house records show that William S. Mclain (son of John F. & Rachael McLain) purchases the United States Hotel. Blair Co. Deed Vol. Z Pgs. 586-587 for the sum of one dollar.

In June 1870 former owner of the United States Hotel John F. McLain being in ill health dies. F.W. Olmus was his administrator.

On November 29, 1871 the United States Hotel (again this building being on Lot 145) caught fire. Cause listed as a defective flue. Estimated loss to the building was $3,000 and $2,000 to personal property. Basically a total loss, it was covered by Aetna Life Insurance Company. Several lawsuits resulted and dragged out until 1875. I also have the newspaper articles on these. Another fire occurred on October 18, 1872, same location (Lot 145) this involved the United States Hotel out buildings and stable. One cow died as well. These are the actual dates the fires occurred. Different newspapers give various dates leading to the confusion.

There are a number of stories and rumors abound that claim that the Two houses on Juniata Street and the three homes along Wayne Street at the west side corner of this intersection were built from the remains of the former United States Hotel. I have no reason to doubt this. Back in the day it was very common to use whatever material was available or handy to use and rebuild with. Each of these homes mention was built about the same time, same basic design and material being used. One former owner of the present day U.S. Hotel told me as a kid he lived in the one house across the street and even remembers the charred but still good wooden beams in the attic. Some were even numbered.

Later that year December 23, 1872 Frederick Jackel a prominent Hollidaysburg's area lawyer bought the hotel property. According to Blair Co. Deed, Vol. 29 Pgs. 642-644. For the sum of $1,200.

This clears up the question of where the original United States Hotel was located. Again (Lot 145) it stood opposite across the street of the present day U.S. Hotel & Tavern on Juniata & Wayne Street. Hollidaysburg, Pa.

U.S. Hotel Number 2

Now I will discuss what we all know as the present day U.S. Hotel & Tavern, same corner Juniata & Wayne Streets, only this building is on the east side of the intersection. On the Hollidaysburg town map it would be Lots 146 through 149, this includes the annex and Liberty Hall.

As I mentioned earlier John Dougherty had nothing to do with this building since he died in 1868. Now this is where it gets kind of confusing Englebert Gromiller who is also credited as the builder in a number of articles and books was also dead before it was built he died in 1875. So, he also had nothing to do with its erection. However his wife Catherine (Sturm, Storm) Gromiller married Jacob Gruenwald in 1876. There is several spelling for this name Gruenwald, Greenawalt, Greenwaeld, Greenwald that have been found. Jacob Gruenwald was born May 11, 1827 in Hobenzollen, Germany and died Aug.15, 1887 at the hotel.

In 1883 Catherine (Gromiller) Gruenwald bought the old Kinports Mercantile building from James M. Kinsport. This corner (Lot 146) located on the east side of Juniata & Wayne Streets is part of a series of lots that now contain the present day U.S. Hotel. Blair Co. Deed Book, Vol. 50 Page 126. February 1, 1883 for the sum of $2,000.

By 1885-1886 the Kinsport building was torn down and contractor Andrew Myers proceeded to build the present day U.S Hotel. On January 1, 1887 it opened its doors for business. Jacob Greunwald was the first proprietor. Tragedy struck in August. Jacob died on Aug.15, 1887 his wife Catherine Greunwald died several days later on Aug.19, 1887. He died from Dropsy and her death listed as kidney failure. Both died at the hotel.

On Aug. 25,1887 the Tavern license was transferred to James W. Gromiller. Son of the late Engelbert & Catherine (Gromiller) Grenuwald. Who was then listed as the new U.S. Hotel proprietor.

Since there was no will found, James Gromiller was appointed executor. It wasn't until seven years later in 1894 that the U.S Hotel property was transferred from Mrs. Catherine Gromiller - Greenwalt estate to Gabriel & Mary Bender. Blair Co. Deed Book, Vol. 103 Pages 624-626 Sept. 3 1894 for the sum of $5,500.

This is interesting the property was then transferred one day later to James W. Gromiller from Gabriel & Mary Bender. Blair Co. Deed Book, Vol.103 Page 324 Sept. 4, 1894 for the sum of $5,500.

Bar Annex - Another question of debate. When exactly was the annex built?

Some say In 1905 James W. Gromiller added the stone-faced annex and installed the custom built Mahogany Bar which is still in use today. I may be wrong, but until proven otherwise I don't agree! Part of my reasoning is based on a 1863 Hollidaysburg town photo showing the Juniata street area. In this photo the original United States Hotel is shown on the west side corner of Juniata & Wayne Streets. Across the street from this is the old Kinsport Mercantile building (Lot 146). Next to this on (Lot 147) is a stone-faced two-story building that looks exactly like the present day U. S. Hotel Bar or Tavern. In addition to this I have in my possession an article from the Altoona Tribune dated Friday, July 19, 1889 that mentions the United States Hotel with saloon attachment or rather one saloon with hotel attachment having been built. So, by this evidence I believe the annex was already there before the hotel was built in 1886 -1887. Furthermore I have the deed that states Lot 147 was leased to Engelbert Gromiller in 1848 and later sold to him by J.M. Bell & wife for the sum of One Dollar. Blair County Deed Vol. R. Pgs. 196-197. So, this piece of property was already in the Gromiller family and was next to or used as part of a brewery or as the 1889 newspaper article stated a saloon. Now I don't question James W. Gromiller installing the custom built Mahogany Bar as a remodeling project but I believe he did so using the existing building. Inside the bar on the tile floor is a little white tile with 1905 etched on it. Bored? Need something to do try to find it!

Next question of debate: - Is The U.S. Hotel & Tavern Haunted?

Simple answer Yes! I base my answer on over a decade of paranormal investigations that we the (Allegheny Mountain Ghosthunters) have conducted, first hand experiences, recorded data and other various forms of evidence that we have collected. I cannot even begin to count the number of people we talked to who have also had experiences there over the years.

My own personal experiences would send chills down your spine. Imagine listening to your recorder on playback and hearing a ghost or entities call you by name and try to interact with you. These things don't or can't exist according to the skeptics. Sorry, I don't agree! Over the years I have learned a number of well-known paranormal investigators from across the country have visited the hotel all seem to agree it is one of the top spots in western Pennsylvania.

Throughout this article I mention sources of facts and data collected. A number of people helped me over the years gathering this info mostly collected from the Blair County Genealogical Society along with the Blair & Huntingdon County Court Houses and other sources. I wish to give special thanks to my wife Jo, good friends Jon McClintock and researcher Jim Synder of the Blair County Genealogical Society Library

Al Brindza