The Hotel itself was originally a white building facing east on Railroad Avenue, built across from the Danville railroad station land after the Southern Pacific train arrived in 1891. As historian Irma Dotson wrote, the Contra Costa Gazette repeatedly called for a hotel near the depot and then reported that the Hotel Danville was ready for business in 1892.
Irish immigrants George and Mary McCauley had moved to the valley in 1868 and began the hotel. They purchased four lots from John Hartz, built the hotel, and served railroad passengers and personnel for decades. Their large family helped run both the hotel and a 162-acre family farm.
The McCauleys had six daughters and three sons. They purchased another lot next to the hotel for a residence and built a one-and-a-half story Folk Victorian home for themselves.
Originally the Danville Hotel faced west. A two-story building, it had eight to 10 rooms and one bathroom shared by guests upstairs. Mrs. McCauley prepared meals and was known as a good cook; her pies were highly regarded. The Gazette wrote Nov. 3, 1892, that "Danville can at last boast of a restaurant. Travelers can be lodged and fed."
Patrons and locals called the hotel by other names over the years, including the Railroad Hotel, the McCauley Hotel and Restaurant, and the McCauley Hotel and Grill.
Danville's main downtown was located on Front Street during the 19th century. As San Ramon Creek eroded one side of Front, and businesses and homes were built on Hartz Avenue, Hartz became the main thoroughfare. Dependence on the train declined as automobiles and trucks moved people and goods on newly paved roads such as Hartz Avenue.
In 1911 Mary Jane and Sarah Ellen McCauley (Parker) bought two lots on Hartz Avenue. These two daughters were deeded the Railroad property in 1920, and in 1927, the hotel and McCauley house were moved to the Hartz lots, facing east. The sisters managed the hotel until the 1930s when they leased the property to a German chef, Paul Zeibig.
Zeibig opened a restaurant, which advertised fine dining and served liquor as well. He publicized the Danville Hotel Restaurant as the place to go and drew patrons from as far as San Francisco. Occasionally he would walk around Hartz Avenue in his chef's hat, according to some stories. But World War II and gas rationing ended easy drives for those who wanted to come to Danville for a rural excursion and good meal.
In 1952 the lively Russel Glenn leased the hotel, buying it in 1956. He worked to make the hotel a tourist attraction, painting it red and white and adding a Ghost Town patio. He had some success and lived upstairs at the hotel . After trying to sell the property, he decided instead to expand, purchasing the entire block. He built a covered wagon entrance to the Danville Hotel and began to offer live music. In 1965 he added the large ornate Silver Dollar Room on the Railroad Avenue side of the property.
The next owners were Jerry and Aileen Carter, who renovated the property, dubbed it the Danville Hotel Territory and decorated in a 19th-century theme. They turned the large restaurant into the popular Danville Hotel Restaurant and Saloon, which re-opened in 1976. The Historical Society point of interest plaque No. 5 was dedicated in 1977.
For the past 30 years the Danville Hotel Territory has provided a well-regarded retail, office and restaurant space in Old Town Danville, as ownership has changed several times. Today many of the buildings are vacant and plans for new development are in the works, with final Town of Danville approvals to come. Happily, the original Danville Hotel and McCauley House will remain.
Sources: Irma and Jim Dotson, "Downtown Danville"; Irma Dotson, "San Ramon Branch Line of the Southern Pacific"; Contra Costa Gazette; "The History of the Danville Hotel and McCauley House," brochure produced by Nearon Enterprises); museum archives