The year was 1868, and the newly chartered city of Salamanca, NY was growing rapidly because it was the eastern terminus for the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad Company. Construction of freight houses, machine shops, and a depot brought trains, passengers, and railroad workers into Salamanca. Entrepreneur Charles H. Dudley wisely built a three floor hotel right across the street from the rail yards.
By 1880, Main St. had hardware stores, lawyer’s offices, restaurants, and banks lining the streets, and like the Dudley House, they were all constructed of wood. In September 1880, a fire that started in a washroom at the Dudley House was responsible for at least twenty eight buildings, including the Dudley House, being reduced to ashes. The headline read: “The Great Conflagration”.
The cause of the fire was unclear, but it was speculated that it was either an oil lamp that overturned, or two men threw a lit item into a window because they were seeking revenge for having been arrested the previous evening. Nevertheless, Main St. was rebuilt using less flammable bricks. Charles Mauer of Buffalo, NY reconstructed the Dudley House for Mr. Dudley.
Accounts of the day describe the new Dudley House as “a credible three story building with a mansard roof, shingled in slate, and having a roomy basement”. It had 52 sleeping rooms, a parlor, a dining room, and a bar. The furnishings were of the finest quality, including Brussels carpeting and solid walnut chamber sets. The community was proud of their new hotel. Charles Dudley died in 1889, and the Dudley remained under the ownership of the Dudley family until 1901 when it was sold to the Torge family of Salamanca.
In 1910, the proprietors found the need to remodel and expand the building, so they purchased the Salamanca Pharmacy, which was next door the Dudley, from Hamilton & Krieger. The addition and renovation boasted 85 guest rooms, a modern kitchen, a dining room, a banquet room, and a new bar, as well as a barber shop that was located in the basement of the hotel. Traveling salesmen came to town on the trains to sell their wares to local merchants, and many stayed at the Dudley where they were accommodated with a “sample room” to conduct their business. Even a recently as the early 1990s, the Dudley was regularly visited by a salesman who sold men’s suspenders to the former Fishers Big Wheel Department Store.
The railroad, once the reason for building the hotel, also made the Dudley its home away from home. Railroad workers from three different railroad companies had rooms available to them for their required rest between trains. The demise of the caboose ushered in the sight of these men in their striped bib overalls waiting in the lobby for their next shift.
In the spring of 1913, a second fire ravaged the Dudley gutting the interior. Once again, the building needed to be restored. In 1960, the Torge-Martin family sold the Dudley House to George Kissak Enterprises. Mr. Kissak remodeled the hotel, added the banquet room in the rear of the building, and upgraded the exterior and interior of the building. He named the lounge “The Rondel Room” which featured a chandelier and a curtain partition made from Rondel glass imported from Italy. Local residents remember George as “quite a character”, and some employees believe he roams the halls of the Dudley today even though he passed away in 1977. The hotel was bought in 1979 by Lance Shaner of Bolivar, NY who at the time was considered the youngest self made millionaire in the United States. Ten years later, the hotel was sold to local residents Don Krantz and Robert Hoag, a former president of the Seneca Nation of Indians.
The Dudley Hotel has been host to a few celebrities in its long history. The most notable was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who stayed there when he could no longer manage the stairs at the home of his friend, the honorable Judge Dowd. (Incidentally, the Dudley had one of the first elevators in Cattaraugus County, and people would come from miles around just to ride the elevator.) In September, 1911, C.P. Rodgers stopped in Salamanca during his record breaking transcontinental flight in his airplane, “The Vin-Fiz”, and he was photographed in front of the hotel. Other well knows included: Boxing legend Larry Holmes, Louise Mandrel, Tanya Tucker, Jerry Reed, The Drifters, Dr. Hook., Porter Wagner, and hometown son, the Oscar award winning song writer, Ray Evans. Hillary Rodham Clinton also made the Dudley Hotel one her stops while campaigning for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
The Dudley Hotel changed hands once again in 2001 when Don and Sandy Hill of Western Door Enterprises bought the hotel, and they renovated the lobby, restaurant, banquet center and lounge. When the Hills wanted to sell the property, they enlisted the aid of their VP of Marketing, Laura Dorfman, to show the property to potential buyers; however, when they were unable to sell the building, Ms. Dorfman, who had become so enthralled by the history of the hotel, purchased it herself in the Spring of 2007. As the current owner of the Historic Dudley Hotel, Ms. Dorfman hopes to return the hotel to its former glory.