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Flanagan a wealth of history: Longtime Malone hotel full of stories, memories PDF Print E-mail
Written by SUSAN TOBIAS, Staff Writer   
Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Oh, do you know Malone's hotel,

The Hotel Flanagan.
Everything about the place
Is new and spic and span.
The elevator runs upstairs
Once in a while or later!
But when it comes to meals
Jack and Sam know how to cater!"
— Author unknown, 1914.



The Flanagan Hotel has served the famous and the not so famous since its opening in July 1914.
Its imposing size has anchored Main Street through thick and thin.
If and when the building falls to the wrecking ball to make way for a new hotel, as has been proposed, it will take a wealth of Malone's history down with it.


THE FLANAGANS

The Flanagan boys — Samuel J., John A. and Joseph J. — built the hotel, drawing from their hostelry background.
Their father, Alexander, had entered into the hotel business in 1857 at both the Miller Hotel, which was first located on the Flanagan site, and the Howard House, across the road.
The popularity of the automobile had started bringing people from far-off places. Jack Flanagan got behind the auto industry and started advertising Malone and its hotels.
Combined with the daily arrival of the train, the Flanagans soon decided that Howard House wasn't big enough for all their business. Plans were started right away for a new hotel, to be called the Flanagan.


'HIGH CLASS'

An account of the Flanagan that appeared in the 1984 "Franklin Historical Review" states that it originally had 87 rooms with an unfinished top floor.
At the time of the writing, the owner, Raymond M. Grinstead, offered 54 apartments, 26 hotel rooms, 12 stores, office rentals and miscellaneous use of the top floor.
Frederick J. Seaver, author of "Historical Sketches of Franklin County, N.Y.," a book of local history written in 1918, states that "the new Hotel Flanagan, on the site of the old Miller House and the most modern and probably the largest hotel in northern New York, contains over 100 rooms, and every item of equipment is high class. The cost of the house, including site, was over a hundred thousand dollars."


FAMOUS GUESTS

Said to be the largest hotel north of Albany, the Hotel Flanagan attracted the rich and famous, as well as locals.



Included on the list of notables are Teddy Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Morgenthau, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Harvey Firestone, Robert Kennedy and Nelson Rockefeller.
Toward the close of Prohibition, Dutch Schultz was put on trial in Malone for smuggling liquor.
He stayed at the Flanagan until his acquittal.
With the Franklin County Fairgrounds just down the road, lead acts also chose the Flanagan for a night's sleep.


THE HUMAN FLY

The famous hotel also drew the peculiar.
A little-known story about the "human fly" was related by Harold F. Brown, editor of the local newspaper.
He stated that he and his family lived above the Newberry building, diagonally across Main Street from the Flanagan, when he was about 8 or 10.
Crowds stood in awe as a climber started out at the building's corner on Main and Elm streets. He then climbed, spider-style, up the facade until he reached the upper stories, climbing from window to window until reaching the overhanging roof.
Brown assures the reader that the climber used no ropes nor other mountain-climbing aids, nets or safety devices.


WELL-KNOWN BARTENDER

Over the years, the seven-story hotel offered a variety of restaurants. Eating establishments in the hotel over the years included the Bombshelter, Men's Bar, Bar-Lounge, Ship's Grill, Jade Room, Gay Nineties Room, Parakeet Lounge and South of the Border restaurant.
Bob Grinstead, Ray's son, also wrote about the Flanagan.



He said his father remembered one head bartender, in particular, who became a Malone legend.
Mae Atherton tended bar at the Flanagan for about 26 years, circa the 1940s and '50s. The local men who frequented the establishment became like her family, and when they went away to serve in World War II, she kept in contact with them and welcomed them back when they came home.
Grinstead said Atherton was remembered for her grand and dignified stature, her conduct and her ability to win at bingo.


SHOPping

The first and second floors of the hotel served as its business center, with a variety of proprietors coming and going over the years.
WICY radio opened its first offices there in 1946. Dentist Bernard L. Cohen, Jessop Jewelers, Postal Telegraph, Levy's Clothing Store, McCarthy Drugs, beauty shops, barbers and dry cleaners all took advantage of the site as a hub of local commerce.
Before the demise of the train through Malone, the Rutland Railroad stopped just up the hill from the Flanagan.
Guests often found themselves maneuvering around steamer trunks and salesmen's samples as they awaited the next club car going east or west.


ATMOSPHERE

The late Malone accountant, Charles H. Wolfe, once wrote a letter to the owners of the Flanagan, summing up the sentiments of those who partook of the ambiance of the hotel:
"I feel so at home at the Flanagan, and I love it. I suppose sometime the march of progress will close its doors, as has been the fate of so many similar hotels.
"But no concrete and plywood motel, no matter how luxuriously furnished, will ever acquire the warm, hospitable atmosphere of a 'lived in hotel.'
"You seem to feel the blended personalities of those who have made it their home and those who have been just transient visitors."

 

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