The Olean House/ Old Martin Hotel

This was formerly known as Martin's Hotel and perhaps a "station" on the Underground Railroad.  Presiding over the staff, the kitchens and restaurants, plus 150 guest rooms of the Olean House was Richard ‘Dick’ Marcus. He was seen moving about the hotel every day and often helping out on crowded nights with the food, carving the roast beef.  On the 1st of March, 1869, George Van Campen moved to Olean, owning with his sons, James K. and George, Jr., the Olean House, managed by his sons.

The Marcus family owned and ran the Olean House for almost 100 years in Downtown Olean. His grandfather, H.W. Marcus purchased the current incarnation of the hotel in the early 1900s, and ownership and management passed to his sons Leo, Mendell and his father Benjamin. In the late 1950s, Benjamin asked his son Dick Marcus to step in as manager, and although it was supposed to be for a short time, it was almost twenty years until he sold it to HUD for senior housing, just a the moment when motels were rising in use, hotels dropping off.

The Olean House was famous as a stopping place for traveling business people who would get off the Erie Lackawanna or Pennsylvania Railroads and come to the hotel for meals and rooms, walking up Union Street, or driven by "Taxi Joe" Magnano. It was a mainstay of downtown Olean, with "the coffee shop" which eventually was painted with murals of Olean in an earlier time. The coffee shop had a cadre of waitresses who stayed for years, were known by travelers and local business people who gathered there daily, and who served daily specials and normal menu items ranging from burgers and Sloppy Joes, to delicious fried chicken, pancakes, homemade pies, rice-custard pudding and much more. A team of chefs and bakers cooked morning to night.

There was also the Main Dining Room which had a more formal menu than the coffee shop, and at one time the Marcus family even hired a husband and wife chef team, Georges and Janinne Frue. They came to Olean, and added a French menu to the nightly offerings in the dining room!

On Friday nights the family introduced the Fish Fry, and hundreds of people lined up to get it, freshly flown in from the seashore each Friday. On Saturdays was the Smorgasbord, a long table filled with hundreds of delights, and long lines waited for that too, paying the high price of $3.25 for all you could eat.

The "Tap Room" a real English barroom was at the back of the hotel, and once a week prime ribs of beef were offered there. And often there would be banquets and weddings in the "ballroom" in the evenings and on the weekends. A free wedding cake was offered for each wedding.

Marketing was a skill that he possessed earlier than most in the industry and it brought in new and increased business. Dick offered special packages of room and meals for skiers coming to Holiday Valley or Ski Wing. Hundreds came from Canada, Cleveland, Pittsburgh to enjoy the good skiing and the good food, the spirited music in the tap room, and the general good will of our lovely town.

- From the Olean Chamber of Commerce


132 N. Union St
Olean, NY 14760

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