http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/07/17/presenting-the-past-danville-hotel-remembered-with-a-monument


Danville Express

Living - July 17, 2009

Presenting the Past: Danville Hotel remembered with a monument

by Beverly Lane

The Danville Hotel is one Danville building that is recognized as historic by everyone. The old hotel is now painted red and houses the Sideboard Neighborhood Coffeehouse and Kitchen. There you get great food and a view of Hartz Avenue and the Veterans Hall from the hotel's front porch. North of the Sideboard is the San Ramon Valley Historical Society's brass plaque, placed on a brick pedestal.

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

Beverly Lane is curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and co-author of "San Ramon Valley: Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon" and "Vintage Danville: 150 Years of Memories."

Comments

Posted by Anon, a resident of Danville
on Nov 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm

What a great historical record of the Danville Hotel. I moved to the area back in 1974 and remember the hotel as one of the highlights of the town. I have vivid memories of the hotel, the saloon, and the jail. About the jail... I do recall something about it being the original jail back in the wild west days. Is there any truth to that? I remember my dad locking me in and then thinking how horrible it would be to really be a bad guy and be stuck in that tiny cell all day/night. Is there any plan to keep that part of the hotel when they remodel? I looked at the plans but didn't see anything regarding the jail.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Danville
on Nov 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm

What a great historical record of the Danville Hotel. I moved to the area back in 1974 and remember the hotel as one of the highlights of the town. I have vivid memories of the hotel, the saloon, and the jail. About the jail... I do recall something about it being the original jail back in the wild west days. Is there any truth to that? I remember my dad locking me in and then thinking how horrible it would be to really be a bad guy and be stuck in that tiny cell all day/night. Is there any plan to keep that part of the hotel when they remodel? I looked at the plans but didn't see anything regarding the jail.


Posted by Ralph N. Shirlet, a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Dear Dolores,

It is a delightful adventure to read the history of the buildings surrounding the Danville Hotel and the other historic home on the property. Somewhere around 1947 for some reason not quite clear the various buildings including the jail were constructed to create an attraction in Danville.

Possibly you could get Ms. Beverly Lane to tell more of that story because the history I researched left more questions about WHY all such construction was done. I lived in Berkeley, as a boy, at the time and our Sunday rides were down our corridor. I don't remember my parents ever thinking the Danville Hotel was an attractive place to stop.

Tell us the story, please,

With less ROFL in Ralph N. Shirlet
halbailey@yahoo.com


Posted by registered user, Dolores Ciardelli, a resident of editor of Danville Express
on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:26 am

The Danville Weekly explored the history in one of its first issues, Aug. 19, 2005, in a story called, "Into the sunset: What is the future of the Danville Hotel?" Here is the link to the story: Web Link

And here is the link to the issue: Web Link


Posted by Harald A. Bailey, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Dear Dolores,

That is a joyous reminder of what in no more. Your readers miss The Danville Weekly.

Thank you for such a wonderful reminder,

halbailey@yahoo.com


Posted by Derek, a resident of Danville
on Nov 25, 2010 at 9:57 am

"Today many of the buildings are vacant and plans for new development are in the works, with final Town of Danville approvals to come"

Here, let me correct that sentence: "Today many of the buildings are vacant and plans for new development which will be hideously out of place and which will also have a high vacancy rate are in the works, with final Town of Danville approvals to come via various monetary incentives"

An unrelated question: The oldest structure downtown would in fact appear to be the tiny plaster & brick one story building next to the hotel - the one across the alley fifteen feet to the north. It's now a jewelry store, formerly a cigar shop. What's the story on this one?