The Warwick’s Historical Past
There are a number of buildings in Hummelstown whose present exteriors conceal a historic past. One of these is the Warwick Hotel, which stands at the northwest corner of the square.
This may have been erected as a private dwelling but it became known as the “Cross Keys” Hotel as early as 1800 when it was well known stopping place on the turnpike from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. In the early nineteenth century, mine hose at Cross Keys was Daniel Baum, the father of Adam Hummel Baum who was born there in 1822 and is known to Sun readers as “Ingomar,” a pen name he adopted when he wrote a series of historic columns for the paper in 1891-1892. A few of these were reprinted in The Sun in late years, and then in 1970 the Hummelstown Area Historical Society issued the entire series in booklet form.
The Cross Keys was later known as “The Mansion House,” then the “U.S. Hotel” and sometimes was spoken of simply as “Baum’s Hotel.” After the death of Daniel Baum, his widow carried on the business until his son, David H. Baum returned from Pittsburgh to take over.
David Baum, for a time, closed the bar of the hotel according to this bit of history gleaned from The Hummelstown Sun’s issue of February 27, 1885: “At present Hummelstown has but two licensed houses, the National and the Keystone, which has not been the case for a great many years. The United States Hotel, known as the Mansion House, the leading inn of the place in the days of stage coaches, has closed its bad and the present proprietor David Baum, offers the room for rent for mercantile business. The room is well calculated for the purpose.”
In December, 1889, the hotel was sold by Mr. Baum to Joseph S. Early who was to become sort of a legend in Hummelstown. A Civil War veteran, he became the last surviving member of the Boys in Blue in the local area, dying in 1939.
Mr. Early had been the proprietor of the Holly Inn at Mt. Holly, PA, and was responsible for “erasing the old landmark.” The Sun announced in its December 13. 1889, edition that he had bought the property for $5,000 and work has commenced on an addition to the rear of the house which will be followed by a mansard roof, a complete remodeling of the interior with a glass front. Water and steam heat will be placed throughout the building. When completed, the old landmark will be erased, as the appearance of the house will be so completely changed that there will not be once trace of the old hotel left. Mr. Early is a gentleman who has had considerable experience in the hotel business and it is his purpose to make the stand comfortable and inviting.
Not only was the appearance changed, but the name. It became the Grand Central, with amenities to match: gas, water, inside plumbing and steam heat!
According to accounts, Mr. Early operated a popular and successful business. A notable event in July, 1893, was the burning of the large stable in the rear of the hotel. Mr. Early lost a valuable driving horse and a fine two-seated carriage, a lot of business, 14 tons of hay, 150 bushels of oats, and a lot of farming implements. He also burned his hand badly in attempting to get the horse out of the building.
In July of 1895, Mr. Early disposed of the “good will and fixtures” of the Grand Central to A.L. Taylor, who became the new proprietor. Taylor made interior improvements which included a “handsome new bar.” Quoting The Sun, “this magnificent piece of furniture from a firm in Baltimore, MD, was placed in the Grand Central last Friday evening. Another new feature, of at least equal importance, was the wiring of the house with electricity.”
It appears that The Sun’s appraisal of the bar was a hasty conclusion, for by September, the true magnificence of it had dawned upon the writer who penned this adulation:
“A perfect transformation has taken place in the general appearance of the Grand Central barroom within the past week. This first object to attract attention, even in excess of the clerk, is the beautiful solid cherry side bar with its three French plat mirrors, glass cupboards at either end, brackets, drops and neat molding, all in perfect symmetry (sic) which are rendered the more pleasing by the manner they are decorated with fancy bottles, tumblers, etc. Directly in the center of the bar rests one of the latest improved solid nickel cash registers, which is an admirable piece of mechanism and beauty. The arrangement of the counter and beer faucets, with other improvements all go to make it one of the finest barrooms to be found anywhere in the state outside of the some of the finest in large cities. Mr. A.L. Taylor is to be congratulated not only upon his efforts to please and accommodate this portion of his trade but upon the fact that his room is only an index of his manner and method of conducting affairs found to exist throughout his entire house. His tables are spread with the best; his reception rooms furnished in comfort, and his chambers where perfect rest can be found. Give him a call.”
An event worthy of the Gilded Age took place under Taylor’s administration when a dinner for thirty-five businessmen was held in the dining room or the Grand Central “to promote sociability and discuss proposed business enterprises for town.” In the spacious dining room two tables reached the entire length of the room, sparkling in an array of fine glassware as the electric lights fell upon them. The elaborate and rich menu began with “half a dozen on the half shell” and was served by imported waiters.
How the business enterprises fared the Sun said not, but “the toasts were many and embodied brilliant and poetic thoughts, while a vein of humor made poetic the occasion. Doubtless that old wind-up line appended to so many social gatherings of the day applied here: “A good time was had by all.”
Next to try his hand at operating the Grand Central was Aaron Porter, who had been managing the Brunner Farm, west of town, for the preceding 18 years. He took over the hostelry in December of 1989.
Mr. Porter brought the hotel into the Twentieth Century. Other than that his only outstanding accomplishment seems to have been his involvement in a “shocking incident” at the railroad crossing near the tollgate on the way from Swatara, as a passenger in a phaeton driven by Dr. R. Schaeffer.
Both men escaped death in a miraculous fashion, especially Porter. The doctor, hearing no signal and feeling satisfied that no train was approaching drove on the track when an engine running light at high speed came along, killing the horse instantly. The doctor was thrown into the air twenty feet and fell at the side of the track, and Mr. Porter was also airborne, though unusual good fortune landed on the pilot of the locomotive while still seated on the cushion of the buggy!
They did not call an ambulance in those primitive times. The men were loaded on the engine which backed up to the Hummelstown station, when Porter walked home. The doctor, however in deference to his seemingly more severe injuries, was taken home in a conveyance. Porter felt a little worse from the experience after reaching home and though to have internal injuries. Both men suffered shock and bruises but were not hospitalized. Apparently, it took more than being struck by a train to put a man in the hospital in the “good old days.”
The Grand Central scored a “first” when, on January 23, 1899; a long distance telephone was placed in the reception room. The instrument was installed by the Long Distance Telephone Company. It was reported that the phone was used frequently by our “business people” and in February the company placed a “booth around their machine.” Persons may now send messages without a word being heard outside of the booth.
Mr. Porter retired in 1903 when, on April 1, Joseph S. Early returned to take charge of the business, announcing he intended to make some improvements. This included painting the exterior and painting and papering the interior. More interesting was the fact that he brought along from Mt. Holly, Mr. Ervin E. Lerew as clerk, and the editor remarked, “With the experience both gentleman have had in the hotel business the public can rest assured that the most courteous treatment will always be extended.”
“Mervy,” of course, is well remembered, as he spent the remainder of his life in Hummelstown, later operating a livery stable, then a taxi service and slow served as borough policeman. No exterior changes were made in the hotel building but the interior blossomed: “Special attention has been given to the parlor with its new and richly designed Brussels carpet, furniture upholstered in silk and newly papered walls render in palatial in every respect.” The kitchen received a handsome new range and consequently sumptuous and elegantly prepared meals are served at moderate rates.
On September 8, 1905, the Sun mentioned that “D.K. Jones and an assistant changed some of the wiring at the Grand Central Hotel and introduced 104 candlepower lights on the lower floor. These lamps make a brilliant light and render the apartments almost as light as day.”
A brilliant affair at the Grand Central on December 5, 1905, was an “Appreciation Dinner to Officials of the Trolley Lines from East to West” which had been recently completed, when “the officials of the Traction Railways were sumptuously dined.” The borough council and a number of leading citizens under the direction of Mr. Early and G. Zeller arranged the affair, the menu included oysters in the deep shell, mock turtle soup, lobster a la Newburg, filet of beef with mushrooms, roast turkey, and a host of side dishes. The dessert was ice cream in the form of street cars.
“The last course served and the Havanas lighted, Mr. M.S. Hershey, president of the Hummelstown & Campbelltown Company, introduced F.J. Schaffner, Esq. toastmaster, who performed his part in a neat and brilliant manner.”
Mr. Early made extensive improvements in 1906, including an addition which would serve as a general washroom, the bar was enlarged, the parlor divided into two rooms, the rear drinking room was wainscoated and new wiring installed with more lights so that “every room and hall would be brilliantly lighted.”
On June 14, 1907, The Sun announced: “Mr. Joseph S. Early who spent a short lifetime in conducting hotels has concluded to retire from business, having disposed of the Grand Central to A/K. Eischied of Harrisburg who will take charge of the place as soon as the license can be transferred.”
In August, 1907, Mr. Early was said to be “erecting on West Main Street (this is an obvious error- it was East Main Street) a private residence which will make a very attractive appearance. The house will be constructed of brick with brownstone trimmings. The architectural design is very attractive.”
For a number of years following 1907 little mention of the Central was found in The Sun, the proprietors probably not realizing that the way to a newspaper editor’s heart is through the advertising columns. For a time A.M. Brandt conducted the business, and in August 1913, the Commonwealth Band of Harrisburg gave a concert on the lawn.
The barn in the rear was again the scene of a fire in July 4, 1916, when it was being used, of all things, principally as an ice house. The Motor Age was dawning and a garage was erected on the site in 1917. Hess & Company sold seven Ford automobiles within six weeks time of opening.
Sometime during the second decade Jacob Shenk bought the property and in `1920 sold the Grand Central to Charles Frederick and Charles Scandalis of Harrisburg. J. Emmet Page held the lease at the time, an unfortunate period for tavern keeps since the United States went dry in 1920. With nought but “near beer” to sell, Page remodeled the bar room and fitted up a restaurant and quick lunch.
Samuel Wolf who had for many years operated a general store at 17 West Main Street purchased the Hotel from E.M. Hershey in June of 1923, while J.E. Page was tenant, and took over the business in September: “Samuel Wolf, who recently purchased the Central Hotel, took charge following the removal of J. Emmett Page of Campbelltown. Levi Emerich has been employed and will conduct the bar according to the Volsted Law. Near beer and other soft drinks, cigars, etc. will be on sale as usual. The lodging part of the business will not be operated at present. Improvements have been made in the building which has been changed into apartments, some of which are always rented.”
On September 12, 1926, The Sun noted: “Samuel Wolf had rented the Central Hotel to W.M. Siler of Middletown who will take possession on September 25. Mr. Siler will operate a first class hotel and in connection therewith will conduct a poolroom and restaurant.”
Then in October of 1926, the name of the Hotel was changed to the “New Warwick,” as it has since been known, the “New” being dropped after some years.
“Happy Days Were Here Again” in 1933 when the 18th Amendment was repealed which meant that the bar could once again be operated as it was in former days.
The hotel remained in Mr. Siler’s hands until 1945 when Orlando Orsini took over. Among the changes he instituted was modernization of the bar which was arranger in “U” shape. Mr. Orsini had charge of the hotel for 30 years, the longest span of ownership since the Baums had the business in the nineteenth century.
Mr. Orsini’s son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Paine, became owners on his retirement in 1975 from professional baseball. Paine played for the Boson Braves, Milwaukee Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, which ushered in an era of the establishment becoming the local place to keep up with sports on a local and national level.
With the death of Mr. Paine in 1978, Mrs. Paine continued the business with her daughter, Sherri Rizzo, her husband John Rizzo until 1995.
In 1995, the ownership passed on to another area sports icon, J.D. Mathers (who is the son of Hershey Bears hockey great Frank Mathers) purchased the business. In keeping with the traditional food that “The Warwick” had offered in years past and also by adding new recipes to the mix. Mathers has also improved the established time and time again. In 1997, the garden room was added on the west side of the establishment. A bed and breakfast opened in 2002 with seven rooms and two baths.
At the same time, banquet facilities on the second floor for groups up to 40 were renovated. But Mather’s biggest improvement was in 2010 when a complete outdoor deck was added.”The Warwick Hotel” is continuing to grow and improve.
So eat hearty and enjoy the casual friendliness of the “Wick” and if you happen to hear the creak of an old carriage wheel or the low neighing of an impatient horse awaiting its owner outside, remember the four walls have nearly two centuries of memories.