Writer Nancy Allwein Nebiker grew up in Lebanon, where her parents owned the Lafeyette Hotel from 1954 to 1982. Nebiker has been researching the building, located at 602 Walnut St. in Lebanon, and shared her findings with us.
The Lafayette Hotel was one of the oldest hotel-bar-restaurants in the city of Lebanon.
On Aug. 26, 1891, the Lebanon Courier Newspaper announced James March, owner of the southwest corner of Sixth and Walnut streets, would build a handsome hotel on this site. The building was to be brick, three stories high, and have a front of 33 feet on Walnut and 70 feet on Sixth. March hired Samuel Spangler to create his vision.
On Dec. 14, 1891, Adam Stains leased the new building from March. Two weeks later, Stains secured a tavern license for the newly named Lafayette Hotel. A crew of 13 plasterers headed by Frank Allwein completed the job, and by Jan. 12, 1892, the Stains family moved into the Lafayette.
Stains wanted his hotel to accommodate not only visitors, but also farmers traveling to Lebanon. His plan was for the farmers’ horses and livestock to stay in the stable. Despite opposition from neighbors who did not want a hotel near their homes, Stains eventually obtained the necessary license.
Stains’ culinary abilities became well-known to the community. On several occasions, he entertained people with performances by the Grand Central Orchestra or the Washington Band from Annville, plus a large spread of food. He enjoyed making appearances at the hotel for many celebrations. On Jan. 25, 1892, the Republicans of the First Ward changed the location for meetings and primary elections from the City Hotel to the Lafayette. They remained there for a number of years until the Lincoln Republican Club was established on South Ninth Street.
On a spring night in April 1892, Stains celebrated with a grand opening of the hotel, inviting about 300 people who feasted on local favorites such as veal, roast beef, fried oysters, bologna, chow-chow, cheeses, many soups including chicken corn, clam, mock turtle, and vegetable, many fruits and sponge cake.
Many wedding celebration dinners were served at the Lafayette Hotel. In 1895, Anna Cordelia Allwein wed Prof. Henry W. Ruoff and enjoyed a wedding dinner at the Lafayette.
Adam Stains died Feb. 13, 1900; he was 71 years old. He was widely known and had many friends. During the Civil War, he had served his country and was a member of Company I, 73rd Pennsylvania Regiment. He left a wife and several children: Mrs. Milton Hershberger, Mrs. Joseph Nagle, Florence Stains, Sadie Stains, Thomas Stains, Charles Stains, Millard Stains, Albert Stains, Fred Stains, Paul Stains, and Mrs. Peter McMichael. Adam Stains was laid to rest in Mount Lebanon Cemetery.
On March 7, 1900, the Lafayette Hotel was sold to Harry S. Weaver for $8,000.
On Oct. 11, 1900, there were major improvements to the hotel. The fronting remained 33 feet on Walnut Street, but extended in depth about 215 feet to Strawberry Alley. The improvements consisted of a two-story frame dwelling house, two kitchens, two balconies, cement sidewalks and pavements, hennery, pigsty and all the necessary outbuildings.
On Sept. 13, 1907, the sale of the Lafayette went from Harry S. Weaver to Millard Stains, the son of Adam Stains. Millard Stains passed away Nov. 20, 1922, at 61, leaving his wife Nettie Stains, a sister and a brother. Millard Stains is buried at Mount Lebanon Cemetery.
A public sale was advertised on March 5, 1923, as a: “three (3) story brick building fronting thirty-three and one half (33-1-2) Feet on Walnut Street, by forty (40) feet on Sixth Street. The adjoining is a two (2) story brick, thirty-two (32) by eighteen (18) feet, a one-story brick scullery, eight (8) by nine and one half (1 1-2) feet. The building has seventeen (17) rooms, two (2) baths, and hot water heat, and is especially well built. There is also a fine two (2) story frame stable on the rear of the lot, forty-eight (48) feet on 6th street and thirty-three and one half (33 1-2) feet on Union alley. This building could be used for a factory, or various other purposes. A private garage, fourteen (14) by eighteen (18) feet, a fine yard forty (40) by thirty-two and one half (32-1-2) feet. The yard is laid out in lawn and flower beds. This property was always kept in first class condition and is located four (4) blocks from the center of the city.”
On Jan. 25, 1926, the Lafayette Hotel was damaged by a fire of undetermined origin on the first floor. The loss was placed at $2,000.
In 1927, the Lafayette Hotel was sold from Nettie V. Stains to George H. Carpenter for $16,000. Later that year Carpenter sold the Lafayette to Maurice Forney, who devoted his attention to the room and boarders. The restaurant, butcher shop, and meat market in the rear were leased.
Nationwide Prohibition lasted from 1920 until 1933 so no sale of liquor was allowed. On June 9, 1928, a big raid was made at the Lafayette Hotel. Two half barrels of beer and one milk bottle full of whiskey were found on the premises. Twenty-six raids were made by Prohibition officers in the city. The arrestees were taken by federal officers to the office of attorney Harry J. Schools, U.S. Commissioner of the Middle District, at 112 N. Eighth St. to post bonds for bail, according to the officers. The liquor was seized and destroyed.
On June 1, 1933, 122 people were licensed in Lebanon County to sell beer to the public.
On June 6, 1938, the Lafayette Hotel was sold by the sheriff to Calvin Basehore and John W. Snyder as proprietors.
On Jan. 9, 1943, proprietor Edward A. Rasbridge died at age 62, leaving a wife Selma. A few years later Selma Rasbridge died on May 20, 1947. They left no children. Her nephew W. Ben Michael inherited the estate. He modernized the kitchen in 1948 and patrons could order platters, short orders, seafood, sandwiches, etc. prepared in a home-style manner. On Aug. 28, 1954, Ben Michael died at the Lebanon Sanatorium at age 51. A well-known local hotel proprietor and sportsman, he was survived by his wife, the former Claire M. Cullen, and three children, Patricia, Margaret and Kathleen. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery.
The Lafayette Hotel was sold by Michael’s widow to Andrew and Ida Allwein for $20,000 on Oct. 14, 1954. Andy Allwein was a member of the Lebanon Police Department since 1942, but left the force to enter business for himself. His first major renovation was to tear down the building at the rear of the hotel to the alley and make a large parking lot.
During this time there were only two full-time boarders living at the hotel. William “Curly” Neat, a Spanish-American War veteran, and Paul Putt, a World War I veteran, both lived at the hotel for many years.
Andy Allwein was open for business early in the morning to serve patrons their drink of choice. These men worked on the nightshift at the steel mills. One year, Andy had T-shirts printed with the name “LAFAYETTE.” He handed out the T-shirts to friends and customers. The restaurant was not in service at this time, but subs, ham sandwiches, red beet eggs, candy and crackers were sold at the bar.
On May 7, 1964, Andrew James Allwein Sr. died in the Reading Hospital at the age of 49. He was also owner of the Silver Dollar Grill on North 9th Street. During his high school days, he was active in sports, starring in football as an end and was captain of the 1934 football team. He was a 1935 graduate of Lebanon High School. He left his wife and children Margaret, Andrew J. Jr., Rose, Nancy, Frank, and Michael.
His widow Ida Allwein was the sole proprietor of the Lafayette until she married John F. Pentony in 1966. Ida and John Pentony sold their home and moved to the Lafayette Hotel in 1974. John converted two bedrooms into one and connected a hall bathroom and bedroom into one beautiful apartment. Pentony also converted two bedrooms into one, with a hall bathroom for the renter. They sold the Lafayette Hotel to Henry James and Sandra L. Shaffer in 1982 for $70,000 and retired to Delaware. The new owners operated the hotel until Nov. 10, 1991.
The Lafayette Hotel is said to be the oldest hotel premises with bar service in Lebanon. There are 12 guest rooms. After 1991 the Lafayette became a rooming home with no bar, no hotel, no restaurant.
On Nov. 10, 1991, the Lafayette Hotel was advertised as a sheriff sale. PDK Inc. bought 602-604 Walnut St. for $66,000.
In 2022 the Lafayette Hotel was sold from PDK Inc. to Sunrise Assets Inc. for $550,000. The rooms are rented out to this day.
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