Merced Sun Star
Rad's Ramblings (Corwin Radcliffe)
July 3, 1930

THE OLD TUOLUMNE

When J. R. Flynn begins soon to raze the old Tuolumne hotel adjoining his store on Main street preparatory to erecting on its site a modern building to house his hardware business, it will mark the passing of one of Merced's landmarks. It has been said that the old hotel is the oldest brick structure in town. Such is not the case, however.
It seems to be uncertain just what brick building was erected first, but the honor seems to lie between three buildings on Sixteenth street, the J. C. Smith Cosmopolitan saloon at the corner of M, and the Simon-Jacobs and Olcese and Garibaldi buildings at the corner of L.
J. C. Smith, father of Dr. John smith, bought the first lot at the auction sale Feb. 8, 1872, and it is likely that he lost no time in erecting that building on the site which was within a stone's throw of the place where the auction sale was held.

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William Fahey was one of the early pioneers of Merced, a jovial hospitable type of the hotel and saloon men who catered to the builders of this valley. On Feb. 17, 1873, he bought from the Contract and Finance Co., (a subsidiary of Central Pacific, which owned the townsite) the north half of lot 3 in block 185. On this 25-foot frontage he erected a frame building containing a restaurant and saloon, later adding sleeping rooms on the rear. He called the place the Tuolumne hotel.

To trace the history of the present building it is necessary to see what became of the south half of the same lot, the other 25 feet. This was purchased Sept. 24, 1873, by Elizabeth Smythe, mother of Belle Smythe Gribi. Both Fahey and Mrs. Smythe borrowed money on their property, and at this day of the ruling 7 per cent per month.
Mr. and Mrs. Smythe built a small frame hotel and restaurant adjoining Fahey's, and on Oct. 19, 1875, they sold the property to J. M. Henry who enlarged the building and named it the Star hotel. Henry had the distinction of conducting the first bowling alley in Merced in those premises. William Adams recalls rolling the pins over, and after a game the bowlers would call out, "Oh Henry!" Forthwith there would be something tipped over the bar.

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(Transcribers notes: The right side of the newspapers is blacked out, portions of words are missing)


The centennial year of '76 passed and on came the dry year of '77 with Fahey's Tuolumne and Henry's Star hotel as adjoining caterers to the hungry and thirsty wayfarers tarrying in Merced. Came then the eventful month of May 1877, when two fires, within a week of each other, just about wiped out the whole block of business hous- on the south side of Main street between L and M. The first fire, -- reported in the Express of May 1- 1877, destroyed Levinsky’s store and hall at the corner of M, Karau—Brewery, Willows Brewery, the St. Louis House, Moran’s Farmers’ Hotel. In the Express of the next week issue, May 19, 1877, we find the account of the second fire, which occurred in the evening as people were coming home from the Montgomery Queen Circus. The blaze started in the rear of McDonald blacksmith shop spread eastward, destroying both Fahey’s and Henry hotels, also Patrick Griffin’s café and the saddlery and harness shop of I. W. Harris.

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The block was laid pretty low --- those two fires. Not much remained aside from a frame warehouse of Simon, Jacobs & Co., which occupied the corner, where Maize pharmacy is now. William Fahey emerged as one of the strong survivors of the fire. He replaced his frame hotel with a brick one. It was only 25 feet wide but he opened it with a flourish, and on Oct. --, 1878, he bought the Henry lot adjoining. Soon after this, in 1878, Fahey doubled the size of his building, duplicating architecturally the original structure and covering the whole 50-foot frontage. Fahey opened the new place, what we now see as the Tacoma hotel, the name having been changed, with a bla—of trumpets. He had the band out. He had a brand new bus to run – the trains. The Tuolumne was nothing to be sniffed at, even if the select line of sheepherders did get rooms there at two bits a night. The best rooms were four bits and meals two bits.

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There were two chief hotels on Main and two on Front street --, Moran’s Cosmopolitan and Fahey’s on Main and Bickford’s Eagle at Evans’ Merced House on Front, in addition, of course, to the El Capitain , the Tioga of that day, which stood on the S. P. reservation.

Bickford ran the only temperance house in Merced in those days, The Eagle was the only hotel in town where no drinks were served. In these latter days the hotels’ are a—Eagles so far as concerns the cu- that cheers.

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July 1, 1897, Fahey leased the Tuolumne hotel to Chris Schrt for three years at $80 a month, In 189-, Fahey sold the property to J. K. Law. In 1902 a deed appears on the record from Law to Margaret Haycock, and later in 1902 the property was acquired by R. Barcroft sold the property to W. J. Flynn’s son and heir. John Raymond, is fixing to tear the old place down to make way for his new hardware establishment in which beer kegs of olden days will be supplanted by kegs of nails, bolts, rivets and what have you.

Transcribed by: Alma Stone