Home  

FIRST ERIE DINING-STATIONS.

The first building intended to be used for dining purposes along the line of the Erie was built at what is now Sterlington, about twenty miles from Piermont, before the railroad was yet finished as far as that. It was put up by speculative persons connected with the Company, on the belief that after people had travelled twenty-four miles by boat and twenty miles by rail, they would be hungry, and welcome a spot where they could get something to eat. The building was a pretentious affair architecturally, but not large. But it proved that travellers did not seem to have taken on appetite enough after a trip of that distance to patronize the pioneer dining-place, and it was never used for the purpose for which it was built. The Peter Turner place, at Turner's Station, some miles further on, was apparently just the right distance from New York to have whetted the appetite of the patrons of the road, and their demands made of this place the first dining-station to come into existence along the railroad. For years the wants of the travelling public were catered to so sumptuously and excellently, that Turner's became famous the country over as a dining-station, in spite of the unpretentious, homely appearance of the caravansary where the meals were served; and all through trains, east and west, that arrived there anywhere near a suitable meal time, stopped there for meals. Peter Turner died, and his son James succeeded to the famous old dining-saloon. During Nathaniel Marsh's administration, the building of an immense dining-station at Turner's was begun by the Company, and it was completed during the administration of President Berdell. It was of brick. It was three stories high and 400 feet long, situated between the east and westbound tracks, fifty yards east of the old Turner's dining-saloon. The railroad offices were also in the building, which was fitted up sumptuously as a hotel as well as a dining-saloon. The dining-room would seat 200 guests, and the lunch-counter was of proportionate capacity. There was not another such place on the line of any railroad in the country. Experienced hotel men at various times leased it and conducted it, but never at a profit. It was a favorite retreat of James Fisk, Jr.'s, who, with special train-loads of boon companions, chiefly of the gentler sex, was wont to entertain lavishly there in his palmy days in Erie. The place was called the Orange Hotel. After the days of Gould and Fisk, the glory of the famous dining-place began to wane, and it was rapidly becoming a spot of solitude, amid splendor, when, on the night of December 26, 1873, it was completely destroyed by fire. The building and its furnishings had cost $350,000. For years its charred ruins disfigured the landscape thereabout, and, during Jewett's time, were at last cleared away. To-day the spot is covered with railroad tracks, and not a thing remains to remind this generation of the splendor and folly that once ruled there.

The second dining-saloon on the Erie was at the Port Jervis station. It was started soon after the railroad reached there. Its first proprietors were J. W. Meginnes and James Lytle. Lytle retired from the firm, and Meginnes ran it until 1857, when he died. His widow conducted it a short time, when S. O. Dimmick took it and ran it until Port Jervis was abandoned as a regular dining-place in 1869.

Narrowsburg became a dining-place when the railroad was opened to Binghamton. It was conducted by Major Fields, and acquired much fame by the fact that the grand excursion over the railroad, May 14, 1851, on the occasion of the opening to Dunkirk, dined there en route, on that day. At that dinner, President Fillmore and members of his cabinet, Daniel Webster among them, and scores of other notable men of that day, sat down, and made the wayside dining-hall echo with their after-dinner eloquence. Narrowsburg became a famous Eriedining-place, and was conducted later by Commodore C. Murray and afterward by his sons, C. H. and H. C. Murray, for many years, when the Company abandoned Narrowsburg as a regular dining-station.

Later, Deposit became a dining-station, and Owego, Elmira, Hornellsville, Olean, and Dunkirk had large depot dining-saloons for many years after 1851, Susquehanna was made a leading and regular dining-place early in the 60s, and the Company erected the immense and costly station building there. This dining-saloon was one of the notable ones of the country for more than a quarter of a century. The Erie dining-saloon at Hornellsville also became famous, and is remembered to this day by travellers for its delicious waffles.

The coming of the dining and hotel cars on the road destroyed the general usefulness of the station dining-saloons. They became unprofitable, and the greatest of them now depend chiefly on their lunch counters.


Erie Page | Stories Page | Contents Page

Home
This page is from Thomas Ehrenreich's Railroad Extra website, and is reproduced here as a memorial to him and his dedication to preserving the history of railroading in America. Please note I have no access to the original source material and cannot provide higher resolution scans.
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery . The Railroad Extra pages are ©2001 Thomas Ehrenreich.