Chaumont Landmark For Many Years, O. S. Wilcox Residence Became National Hotel Then Carlier Hotel In Later Years
Oren Schuyler Wilcox, O. S. Wilcox herein, began construction on the Wilcox residence, later the National Hotel, on a Monday in June of 1873 with the digging of the cellar to his new house. On the corner of Main and Madison Street, the lot would be right next to the Hiram Copley building made of limestone, serving as the office showcasing their limestone business.
On December 1, 1873, The Watertown Daily Times reported–
O. S. Wilcox has nearly completed a commodious residence on the corner of Main Street and Madison Avenue. It is 50 by 40 feet, 2 1/2 stories high, with observatory. The wall of the cellar or basement is of blue limestone and 2 1/2 feet thick. The first, second, and third stories are 10, 11 and 7.5 feet between joints respectively, and the windows of the best French glass, 40 by 16 inches, four panes to the window.
It was also stated that the cost of the Wilcox residence would be over $7,000 upon its completion. He planned to open a grocery store in Chaumont, but it wasn’t successful. In July of 1877, the Times would state he was planning to remodel his large residence into a hotel with plans to open it the following year. It’s unknown if he went through with his plans at that time because he ended up forming a partnership, Wilcox and Dewey, which sold dry goods and clothing.
At some point around 1888, the Wilcox residence would become the National Hotel – a true nightmare for researchers as every place seemingly had a National Hotel, whether big or small, during the era. A brief passage in the Daily Times noted a new National Hotel in Jefferson County that year, while two years later associating it with Clark Wilday. The venture must have lasted less than a decade, for in 1896, it would be leased by L. Crouse, formerly proprietor of the Peck House in Chaumont, who would place ads in the Watertown Daily Times letting patrons know that, although changing its name to the Crouse Hotel, they intended to keep a first-class place in every respect.
In the years after, the building would change ownership numerous times, most notably to Grace Adams, who would reside there, but in earlier years operate it as the Venture Inn dating back to 1921 when Miss Adams purchased the National Hotel from William Allison of Dexter when she renamed it.
In 1945, the former Venture Inn and Grace Adams residence would be sold to Mr. and Mrs. G. Maurice Carney and Mr. and Mrs. John Bourlier, which the Watertown Daily Times reported, “the building, the former residence of Mrs. Grace Adams, was converted to a hotel in 1945 by the Carneys,” which implies Miss Adams, as she had always been referred to prior, had, at one time, stopped running it as an Inn. The new owners would proceed to rename it the “Carlier Hotel,” taking the first three letters of the Carney last name and combining it with the last four letters of the Bourlier name.
March 31, 1957, Fire
On the afternoon of March 31, 1957, a fire destroyed the Chaumont landmark. An employee arriving to his job as a bartender, Leo Bourn, father of Deputy Fire Chief Victor Bourn, discovered the fire just after 1 p.m. 250 firemen would fight the blaze caused by an explosion, the Watertown Daily Times would report–
The Carlier Hotel, an 83-year-old village landmark at the corner of Main and Madison Streets, was destroyed Sunday afternoon by fire, believed to have been started by an overflowed oil-burning heating unit. The lost was estimated at between $40,000 and $50,000, partially covered by insurance.
Only a shell of a building remained standing today in the aftermath of the fire which raged for more than four hours before being brought under control at 5:30 Sunday afternoon. An estimated 250 firemen from twelve volunteer fire departments battled the stubborn blaze which moved from the basement through partitions to break out at the roof.
It was said that the heat from the flames was so intense the glass from the cupola burst, sending pieces of glass flying about. The Times would further report that the blaze would start anew overnight with a shift in the wind, but a crew from the Chaumont department was on guard, and the fire at the top of the building was quickly extinguished.
At that particular time, the Daily Times reported the Carlier Hotel as having “a bar and lounge in the basement, two dining rooms and kitchens on the main floor, six bedrooms for guests on the second floor, and living quarters for Mr. Carney on the third floor.”
Rather than rebuild the hotel, the owners would construct a new restaurant with the same name. Carlier Restaurant would open in 1958. In 2006, the restaurant would become The Blue Heron, owned and operated by Cari Greene, who worked at Coleman’s Corners and the Fairgrounds Inn in Watertown, both owned by Leo Coleman, who would give the Salmon Run Mall its first sit-down eatery, the popular Barkeaters, several years after Ground Round and O’Toole’s left in 1993.
And that little castle made of limestone next door? It’s still there and is now called the Chez Heron Bed & Breakfast. You can visit them here and see some interior photos and the accommodations they offer.