When Isaac Sherwood won a contract to carry mail west from Onondaga Hill, he carried it on foot. But soon he was aided by a horse, and then a wagon, and then a stagecoach. From the stagecoach, he built an empire, owning and investing in stage lines running across New York from Albany to Buffalo. His name lives on at the present-day Sherwood Inn, in Skaneateles, New York, built on the site of the inn he first raised to serve his stagecoach passengers, drivers and horses.
:: A Chronology ::
1797 – Judge Jedidiah Sanger, having purchased much of what is now Skaneateles from Revolutionary War soldiers who were awarded the land for their service, lays out lots and begins selling them for $8 each. The site of the Sherwood Inn, west of the lake’s outlet, is, according to John D. Barrow in 1876, “a very dense and tangled hemlock swamp, those trees having a very heavy growth.”
1803 – A Mr. Wickes builds a house west of the bridge; one source notes that Isaac Sherwood and Winston Day open a tavern in his house a few years later.
1805 – Isaac Sherwood and Winston Day (Sherwood’s brother-in-law) buy land from John & Roxey Briggs.
1806 – Sherwood and Day buy land from Samuel Ward and his wife.
1807- Sherwood and Day have the original Sherwood Inn built; construction is attributed variously to Isaac Selover, David Hall, and a carpenter named Wicks; the most likely explanation is that the original Wickes house (1803) was expanded by Selover and Hall. Isaac’s son, John Milton Sherwood, manages the Inn.
1815 – Noble Coe and a Mr. Marsh lease the tavern from Isaac Sherwood.
1825 – Isaac and John Sherwood contribute to an historic visit, providing a team of six chestnut horses from their Auburn stables for the coach of General Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolution, who is triumphantly revisiting America. The General’s coach rides through Skaneateles at 1 a.m. on the 9th of June, passing under arches of flowers and flags, the entire village lit by lanterns hung in trees, candles burning in windows, and barrels of fire along the streets.
1825 – Sherwood refers to the inn as the “Stage House” in an advertisement offering it for sale, and notes that it is being managed by “Mr. Salutee.”
1833 – Isaac Sherwood sells inn to William Fuller, who had long tended to the bar for him.
1840 – A carriage maker, Alford Lamb, buys the inn, re-names it Lamb’s Hotel. (Its sign reads “A. Lamb,” much to the amusement of local children.) In New York, the stage coach era has come to an end, as first the Erie Canal and then the railroads took away the passengers, freight and U.S. mail the coaches once carried.
On April 24, Issac Sherwood dies in Auburn, N. Y., at the age of 70. In his Notes of Other Days in Skaneateles, William Beauchamp writes, “April 26th, Mr. Isaac Sherwood was buried, on a day when the rain poured down in torrents. The railroad had made stages useless on the great thoroughfare, and they came in long procession from Auburn, wheeling up the steep ascent to the grave-yard, stage after stage, but almost all tenantless. His and their occupation was gone.”
A tall, white stone obelisk marks Sherwood’s grave in Lake View Cemetery, Skaneateles.
1845 to 1860 – Alford Lamb changes the inn’s name to Houndayaga House, and later The National Hotel. Over time, he leases the inn to Henry S. Nye, Thomas Hutchinson and John Carpenter.
1851 – E.R. Richardson maintains a livery stable at A. Lamb’s Hotel where he “will be happy at all times to furnish Horses & Carriages in Good Style and on very reasonable terms, to those who may favor him with a call.”
1865 – John Packwood, shown above, who is building a carriage factory across the street (in what is now Shotwell Park), buys the inn.
1871 – Packwood removes the original structure and has the present inn built at a cost of $20,000. It is now three stories tall, with a balcony, and wings to the east and north. Packwood names it Packwood House, and demolishes a house across the street to provide a better view of the lake.
1874 – Packwood sells the Inn to partnership of Friend A. Andrews and Edward A. Andrews, who keep the name Packwood House. Edward Andrews manages the Inn for 45 years, the longest single ownership in the Inn’s history.
The front and back of a trade card for the Packwood House, from the collection of the Skaneateles Historical Society
1891 – World chess champion William Steinitz (shown below), while in Skaneateles to report on the New York State Chess Association’s summer tournament for the New York Tribune, plays and wins two blindfold games at the Packwood House.
1895 – The New York Times Summer Resort Supplement of May 26th includes this entry: “The Packwood. Skaneateles, N.Y. Edward A. Andrews, manager. Opens about June 1, closes in October or later. Accommodates 75 persons. Board, $2 per day; $10 to $12 per week… “To a person looking for a quiet, healthful Summer home there is no more delightful spot in which to locate, the management claims, than the Packwood, situated in the village of Skaneateles, on the shores of Skaneateles Lake, a beautiful sheet of water. The efforts which Syracuse people have made to obtain from this lake their water supply convinces one of its extreme purity. The altitude is so great that the air is perfect. Cool nights and no mosquitoes are counted among the charms of the place. The proprietor of the hotel, Edward A. Andrews, is a veteran hotel keeper, who thoroughly understands the management of his house for the greatest pleasure of his guests.”
1895 – William Duval of the Brooklyn Chess Club writes glowingly, in verse, of the hospitality afforded the New York State Chess Association’s summer tournament:
“And Andrews of The Packwood House
With sumptuous bill of fare
And cheerful bright eyed waiter girls
Made living pleasant there
His parlors bright with cheerful light
Beguiled us long to stay
While flying feet and music sweet
Round out the happy day”
1905 – The Packwood House bar has a Haberle Brewing Company poster (far left) and a display case for cigars
1906 – A postcard of the Packwood House, by Livingston, Williams & Hunt.
A real photo postcard, circa 1906
Undated postcard of The Packwood House
1917 – John J. Breslin briefly runs the inn, calling it The Breslin.
1917 to 1918 – Packwood House is closed during World War I. It is used as a hospital during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. The Village pays expenses for 11 patients, and people in the Village provide food and supplies. In the interests of hygiene, the inn’s Stickley oak furniture is painted white.
1919 – Prohibition presents another challenge. The Packwood House is put up for auction, but is sold back to the holder of the mortgage, Della Austin, foreclosing for $8,000.
1919 – The Longue Vue Inn Company leases the inn and begins renovation.
1921 – The inn is listed as the “Longue Vue” in the Official Automobile Blue Book for travelers. E. C. Lonergan leases the inn and changes the name back to The Packwood House.
1922 – The Packwood House is bought by Henry Horstman and Bert C. Sellen, who change the name to Kan-Ya-To Inn; the name is taken from a selection of Iroquois phrases prepared by local historian William Beauchamp; “Kan Ya To” means “beautiful lake.”
The livery stables to the rear of the Inn are torn down and replaced by “artistic gardens.” An orchestra plays for diners on the restaurant’s opening night.
Sellen, a long-time employee of the Eastman Kodak Company, garners this mention in The Kodak Magazine of June, 1922:
“Mr. Sellen has taken over the management of the Kan-Ya-To Inn, one of the houses of the Southern Tier Hotel Company, with which he is associated. Kan-Ya-To is situated on beautiful Skaneateles Lake in the Finger Lake section, and Bert hopes that all his Kodak friends, while touring that way, will call and enjoy a regular meal amid the wonderful surroundings of Skaneateles. It has been the pleasure of some of us to know Bert as a most entertaining host, and all guests who have been lucky enough to secure reservations, will surely have a good time at the Inn.”
The Kan-Ya-To publishes a card that shows the distances to the inn from towns all over New York State, and promises many kinds of recreation, including “Radio Concerts.”
The Kan-Ya-To publishes its rates and points with pride to amenities such as “tub and shower baths on each floor.”
1927 – The Skaneateles Rotary Club begins meeting weekly at the Kan-Ya-To Inn.
1929 – “Kan-Ya-To Inn, overlooking the lake, is another of the superior eating places whose cuisine is not excelled in all the Finger Lakes Region.” – Harry Roberts Melone in One Hundred and Fifty Years of Progress
1940 – The Duncan Hines Directory of Hotels Possessing Modern Comforts, Inviting Cottages and Modern Auto Courts, also Guest Houses Whose Accommodations Permit the Reception of Discriminating Guests says of the Kan-Ya-To, “Not magnificent, but mighty comfortable. The rooms are large and the hospitality is fine. A place you will enjoy.” The guide further notes that there are 40 rooms, 20 with bath, and that the room rates run from $3 to $47, with free parking. Open April 1 to November 1.
1942 – Food and labor shortages, caused by the nation’s entrance into World War II, force the closing of the dining room.
1945 – Mr. & Mrs. Chester Coats buy Kan-Ya-To Inn. One of its first and most important events was a dinner, on September 25th, honoring General Jonathan Wainwright, freed prisoner of war, held by the Japanese since the fall of Corregidor in 1942. Eighteen uniformed MPs guard the General, and march to and from the Inn at each changing of the guard.
In an article announcing Mr. Coats’ purchase of the Inn, the Skaneateles Press notes:
“With the advent of the automobile and its attending almost universal use, the Inn has been a haven for summer tourists of the Finger Lakes Region who come here from all parts of the country, Canada, Mexico and other foreign lands, to seek restful surcease from the cares of modern life.”
1946 – Chester Coats restores the name to The Sherwood Inn. There are various tales as to why. It is said that he heard an employee answer the telephone, “Can Ya Toe In.” And that he heard someone refer to the Inn as “that nice little Japanese place.” But in an interview in 1948, he said he made the change because “The Sherwood Inn” was easier to remember, adding, “Many of the people who have been stopping here couldn’t tell the name of the place two days after they left.”
Above, a photo postcard of the Inn with Chester Coat’s convertible parked at the front door.
1948 – The Sherwood Inn appears in Tourists Guide of Skaneateles (above) published by the Chamber of Commerce.
1952 – The Sherwood Inn advertises in the Finger Lakes Lyric Circus theater program (above), keeping it simple. The telephone number is 740.
1971 – Coats retires and the Inn is managed by the Skaneateles Holding Company, a group of local residents who want the Inn to survive and thrive, then purchased by Skaneateles Hotel Corporation and managed by Richard Dennie.
1974 – The Sherwood Inn is purchased by William Eberhardt, who restores and revives the Inn, preserving it for new generations of travelers and villagers.
1980’s — Actor and minor league baseball club owner Bill Murray travels to Auburn to watch his team play the Doubledays, and stays at the Sherwood Inn. In the evenings after the games, he chats with the waitresses and drinks beer on the front porch.
The Sherwood Inn, photo by Dora Beasley
2003 – William Eberhardt and others build a new hotel to the east of The Sherwood Inn which is named Packwood House.
* * *