Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Dolan Hotel

by David Parmer

The Dolans did Orlando a great service when they opened their hotel. The railroad lines had created a demand this little community was unprepared to meet. With the railroad to transport them, lumber, coal and other natural resources could be harvested. That meant there was lots of work, and workers who came into town needed somewhere to sleep and eat.
The railroad also meant there were travelers needing meals and lodging. Travelers heading in certain directions had to change train lines in Orlando. That meant a delay as baggage was removed from one train line and loaded on the other. Orlando was the place to get off the train for an hour or so in the middle of the day, or the place to spend the night.
Left, Joseph Bernard “Bern” Dolan, brother of the owners Nell, Jo and Mary Dolan, sits on the front steps of the (second) Dolan Hotel.
The First Dolan Hotel

For a short time, from possibly 1919 to 1922, the Dolan family operated a hotel that sat next to the Rush Hotel, near the Catholic Church. The hotels were opposite of the mouth of Clover Fork. Dolan brother John C. Dolan was a primary worker at the hotel. (A Dolan Hotel register that has been preserved by Oscar Hawkins III begins with 1919 and records more than a decade of guests.)
Right, The 1st Dolan Hotel, sitting tightly next to the Rush Hotel.

The Second Dolan Hotel
In 1922, three Dolan sisters, Nellie, Mary, and Jo, purchased the large two story frame home belonging to Dr. Benjamin W. Peck who had been practicing medicine in Orlando but was relocating to Burnsville. Dr. Peck was the third owner of that house which was built on property that was originally a part of the Alexander Skinner holdings.

Patrick F. Kennedy, the first owner of the retail store that would eventually become Charlie Knight’s place, built the house, shown in the circa 1904 photo at the right.
Left: the panorama shows the 2nd Dolan Hotel, center, photographed from The Rusmisell & Fury Addition.
Right, the Kennedy house circa 1904, long before the Dolans added the wing of guest roooms to make it the 2nd Dolan Hotel. For more on Orlando ca. 1904, see the Jan ’07 entry The Store That Became Charley Knight's

In 1907 George W. and Ann (Barbe) Bennett purchased Kennedy’s property and house and over the next few years enlarged the property with land purchased from Ann Skinner and Nathan Parmer. After his wife Ann died in 1910 George lived in the house until his death in 1914.
In 1917 the executor of the estate of George W. Bennett, sold the property to Dr. Benjamin W. Peck and Dr. Peck sold the property to the Dolan sisters in 1922.
B. W. Peck is on the left, G.W. Bennett is on the right.
For more on G. W. Bennett see the Nov ’06 entry
The IOOF Funeral Of Geroge W. Bennett
This house, located on the street running parallel with the B. & O. Railroad track, was enlarged with a rear wing and converted into the Dolan Hotel. The Dolan Hotel had nineteen rooms, eleven of which were bedrooms. The hotel would be a landmark in Orlando for the next twenty five years. Although the photos below were taken a couple decades after the hotel closed, they show the the building as it was laid out when it was the Dolan Hotel.
Left is the house in the 1960s with its addition photograhed from the Orlando Cemetery, to the northeast. An outbuilding blocks the view of the porch along the addition.
To the right is the house with the addition of six small guestrooms up and workarea below. This photo was taken more than 20 years after the Dolans owned it, but no alterations had been made to the exterior.

Below is a floorplan of the Dolan Hotel. It was drafted by Donna (Witzgall) Gloff whose grandparents Oras and Edith (Skinner) Stutler bought the house from the Dolans. The plan has been drawn from dim memory, and while it is generally correct, we are told there are numerous small errors in it. We welcome all coorections from others who knew the house during or after the Dolans' time there. Double click on the floorplan to enlarge it.

The Dolan Girls
The second hotel was owned by Nell, Mary and Jo Dolan. Everyone in Orlando referred to the sisters as the “Dolan girls,” and they were well respected.
Elizabeth Ellen “Nell” Dolan
Nell taught school at Grass Lick but she worked in the dining room of the hotel, too. She also did some of the cooking at the hotel.
Mary Dolan
Mary Dolan had charge of the laundry for the nineteen room hotel, which was quite a task when the hotel was fully occupied. She did the laundry every Monday using a gasoline powered washing machine with a hand wringer. Mary also was the primary gardener, although Jo also spent a lot of time in the garden.
Elizabeth Josephine “Jo” Dolan
Jo was a marvelous cook and baker, but she seems to be remembered as the public face of the Dolan Hotel. Decades after the Hotel closed, people recall Jo in particular when mention is made of the Dolan Hotel. However, the Dolan girls all worked together and equally shared the tasks in the operation of the hotel.
Right: On the right side of this photo is hotel co-owner Jo Dolan. On the left is her sister Rose.

.Family Members Worked at the Hotel.
John C.
John worked at the first location of the hotel next to the Roman Catholic Church. In the 1920 census and on his marriage license in 1921 he listed his occupation as “hotel business”. He later was a driller for one of the gas companies, and retired from the gas company.

Joseph “Bern” Bernard
Bern was a supervisor of road work for the state, but he was involved in the life of the hotel. Bern lived on the family farm where hogs and cows were raised for the hotel, and folks recall that Bern helped out at the hotel itself, when he had the time. After his wife’s death their daughter Bernadette spent summers at the hotel and helped do housework and also worked in the kitchen. In the winter she lived with her Aunt Maggie and Uncle Owen in Weston.
Bern’s picture is on the left, his daughter Bernadette’s is on the right.
Bridget “Biddie” (Dolan) Francis
Biddie helped clean the hotel, serve at the table, clean up and anything else that needed done. Bridget and husband Perry Francis (whom she met when he was living at the hotel) had two daughters, Sarah Elizabeth, known as “Betty”, and Mary Margaret. In 1939, while her daughters were still teenagers, Bridget passed away. With the passing of their sister, Mary and Jo took charge of Betty and Mary Margaret. they lived at the Dolan Hotel until they finished school.

Left: Bridget “Biddie”. Right: Biddie’s daughters Betty and Mary Margaret.
Rose (Dolan) Dyer
Rose married when she was thirty one years of age. Betty (Francis) Rainer recalls that Rose worked at the hotel until she married. Rose and her husband Frank moved to Oklahoma, where his job was located.
Margaret Abalene “Maggie” (Dolan) Dolan
Maggie was married and lived in Weston when her family went into the hotel business. While she often visited her family, there is not evidecne that she ever worked at the hotel.
While the family provided most of the labor, the Dolan Hotel also provided employment for others. Daisy Blake worked at the hotel as a chambermaid. Nellie Godfrey and her sister Wilda also worked at times at the Dolan Hotel. After Mary’s death, Jo contracted Nellie and Wilda’s mom, Bridget “Biddie” (Heater) Godfrey to wash and iron the hotel linens and other laundry.
Left tot right are Biddie Godfrey, then her daughters Wilda and Nellie. See Daisy (Heater) Blake and her husband Charlie in the Jan ’07 entry Charlie Blake, Master Woodworker
And finally, at least three critters were part of the household at the Dolan Hotel. In the photo at the right, Curley is the dog, the cat in front is Fluffy and the cat in the shadows is Bill.
. .
The Hotel Dining Room
Many people remember the dining room in the Dolan Hotel. The dining room had one long table in the large dining room, The table could seat twenty or more persons which made for a more homey and familiar meal. The table was set home style, meaning the bowls and dishes of food to be served were set out on the table and the guests would pass the food among themselves.
(A platter of fried chicken is to the left.)
Boxed Lunches
The Dolan Hotel was well-known, if not famous, for the boxed lunches the hotel prepared for train passengers and train workers. Jo Dolan would meet each train stopping at Orlando with boxed lunches which had been ordered ahead by the engineers, firemen, conductors, and baggage handlers. Orders for lunches would come in at the telegraph office at the depot. The telegrapher would send the orders to the hotel by messenger where they would be filled. The lunches would be waiting when the passenger train arrived in Orlando. There were also boxed lunches for sale to train passengers who preferred to eat their lunch on the train. The lunches, according to Mary Margaret (Francis) Yahn, would include fried chicken or ham, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and cake or pie. Occasionally some lunches would include sandwiches, cookies, and fruit, and quartered tomatoes, salted and peppered, according to Helen Jeffries. Nieces Mary Margaret (Francis) Yahn and Betty (Francis) Rainer, when free from school, would help their aunt sell the box lunches to train workers and passengers, as would their cousin Bernadette Dolan, daughter of Bern Dolan, who spent her summers at the hotel. The cost of the lunches was from thirty five to fifty cents.
Hotel Laundry
Before she passed away in 1945, Mary Dolan was the laundress of the hotel. Pat Reckart recalls that Jo Dolan, after Mary’s death, contracted with Pat’s grandmother, Bridget Godfrey, to wash and iron the hotel linens and other laundry. Pat remembers that her grandmother used old flat irons to iron the sheets and pillow slips. This involved the use of at least two irons, the one being used and the other which was being heated on the fire to be used when the first iron became cold.
The Hotel’s Vegetable Garden
The Dolan sisters maintained a huge garden to serve the hotel. Dale Barnett, who grew up on the farm next to the Hotel property, remembers that Jo Dolan seemed to always be in the garden whacking away at weeds and gathering fresh produce to serve her guests. The garden looked to be at least an acre. It was maybe the best tended in downtown Orlando, and it it was very productive. Betty (Francis) Rainer, daughter of Bridget (Dolan) Francis, who lived with her aunts a the hotel, recalls that during her time at the hotel, her Aunt Mary seemed to be in the garden most frequently.
Green beans, ready to be strung, to the left. Summer squash, still growing in the garden, right.
Cows and Hogs and Chickens
The Dolan sisters kept a cow or two that grazed on the hilly area behind the hotel. Hogs were also kept in the rear of the hotel property. the girls had two chicken houses, one for the young chickens and one for the older chickens. In the spring, they would get chicks in the mail and keep them in the sewing room until they were old enough to be let outside. They also kept cows and hogs at the Dolan farm on Grass Lick, and ther brother Bern Dolan looked after them and took care of the butchering.
Home cured, thick sliced bacon (right). Seeing home cured meat does not go far toward the experience of it. To know about home cured meat, you must be able to smell it.
Rural Free Delivery made it possible to mail the chicks. The July '07 entry The Plight of the Rural Mail Carrier talks about the RFD program.
The End of an Era
Nelle died in her sleep in 1934. With Mary’s death in 1945, Jo Dolan was the last surviving member of her family. Rail passenger service was in decline. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had closed the Orlando Depot in 1941. North and south automobile traffic was bypassing Orlando on Route 19 to the east and on Route 119 to the west. Jo Dolan recognized the economic realities of the loss of business and decided to close the Dolan Hotel. In 1946, Josephine Dolan and her sisters’ heirs sold the Dolan Hotel to Edith Stutler, bringing to an end, the history of the Dolan Hotel in Orlando.
Edith (Skinner) Stutler, granddaughter of former owner George W. Bennett, and her husband Oras moved there from their little place on Oil Creek and lived for thirty years in the house Kennedy built and the Dolans made famous. Oras worked in the natural gas fields. In the 1950s the Stutlers added electricity and plumbing to the house. They kept a large, neat garden, chickens, hogs and a milk cow.
To the right: Oras and Edith (Skinner) Stutler with grandchildren Gary and Nancy Stutler on the porch of the house in the 1960s.
For more on the Stutler household, see the May ‘07 entry The Dolan House, When the Stutlers Lived There
Oras Stutler died in the 1960s. After Edith’s death in 1976 the home was sold to Ervin Crim who lived in the former hotel building for a while but later had the venerable building torn down and replaced it with a double-wide trailer.
. . . . .
Comment 1. When the Dolan family sold the Dolan Hotel property to Edith Stutler, the grantors of the deed of conveyance were Margaret Dolan, John Dolan, Bernadette Dolan, Betty Rainer, Perry Francis, Rose (Dolan) Dyer, Edward R. Dolan, and Josephine Dolan.

Comment 2. A gasoline powered washing machine is running in the video at The machine Mary Dolan used on Mondays may have been round rather than square, and the ringer may have been either hand operated or engine driven, but it certainly sounded like the one in the video and it would have had the ringer perched on the side like this one.
Comment by Mary Margaret Francis Yahn
When I was growing up in Orlando in the late 1930s and early 1940s, I often helped by aunts Josephine and Mary Dolan in the kitchen at the Dolan Hotel My aunts cooked on a cream and green enameled Magic Chef gas range with four burners. There was also a gas refrigerator in the kitchen. The kitchen had built in shelving for all of the serving bowls, plates, glasses and cups. The kitchen sink was in the corner of the room with two windows looking out onto the driveway. There was a coal stove in the kitchen for general heating. A large and heavy swinging door led into the dining room from the kitchen. A very large dining table was located in the dining room which took up much of its floor space.
After my aunts closed the hotel, they had an auction sale to dispose of the personal property in the hotel. At the time of the sale, I was in Chicago with my future mother in law visiting my fiancé who was in the military service. The large dining table was sold at this sale, along with the rest of the hotel furniture.
Comment by Dorothy (Riffle) Weckbacher
When I was growing up on Three Lick during the late 1930’s, the gas company was laying a large pipe line through the Orlando area. The pipe line crew parked some of the equipment being used on the job at my family’s home. (Mr. and Mrs. Arch Riffle) Many of the workmen laying the pipe line stayed at the Dolan Hotel in Orlando. The hotel packed lunches for the men who stayed there. I remember that some of the workmen would share their lunches with my brothers and sisters. One item of the lunches I recall is egg sandwiches.
Dorothy’s father is the subject of the March ’07 entry Arch A. Riffle – Orlando Nimrod and Groundhog Nemesis .
Comment by John Jeffries
My father, Coleman Jeffries, bought the former Rush Hotel located beside St. Michael’s Catholic Church in the late 1940s. At this time the old building had already been partially dismantled. My father, my older brother, Tom Jeffries, and I completed the dismantling of the old building and hauled the lumber to our farm on Oil Creek by wagon where the lumber was used to later build our home.
See the Feb ’07 entry Remembrances of Hauling Lumber
My great uncle, E. R. “Heaterhuck” Henline, told me that the original Dolan Hotel which was located beside the Rush Hotel, had, in the early 1920’s, also been dismantled and the lumber was used by the Dolan family to build the long wing on the Dr. Peck home which had been purchased by the Dolan sisters for use as the new Dolan Hotel. Uncle Heaterhuck told me that the old site of the Dolan Hotel was too flood prone so the Dolan family decided to move the site of their hotel from the mouth of Clover Fork.
Comment by Laurence Dyer, Jr of Jensen Beach, Florida
Rose Dolan was married to my uncle Frank Dyer. He and Rose lived in Ada, Oklahoma. They were both pleasant and likeable people.
Comments by Dale Barnett
Before the bridge was built over Oil Creek in Orlando, the road from downtown Orlando going west toward Burnsville went directly in front of the original Dolan Hotel and Rush Hotel which were beside where the brick St. Michael’s Church was later built.
Bern Dolan, brother of the Dolan girls, was a WPA Supervisor during the Depression, and later became a Supervisor for the Department of Highways in Weston.
Comments by Ethel Doyle
When Bern Dolan’s daughter, Bernadette, would come from Weston to Orlando on the weekends, I was working in Weston at the State Hospital. I would give her a ride to my home on Three Lick. Her Aunt Jo Dolan would pick her up and take her on down to Orlando.

When commenting on an inquiry about the food at the Dolan Hotel, Ethel said “Betcha a dollar the food was good.”
. . . . .

Thanks for the following Orlando folks who contributed their own memories to this entry.
Juanita (Bennett) Buchanan, who is 86 years of age, and grew up just across the railroad tracks from the first Dolan Hotel.
Dale Barnett, Juanita Bennett’s cousin who lived next to the second Dolan Hotel.
Nieces who lived and worked at the Dolan Hotel.
. . Betty (Francis) Rainer
. . Mary Margaret (Francis) Yahn
Nellie Ruth (Godfrey) Hopkins
John Jeffries .
Pat Reckart, grand-daughter of Bridget Godfrey, who did laundry at the Dolan Hotel.
Ethel Doyle, a neighbor
Helen Jeffries



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