The abandoned Monongahela Hotel is located at 56 Market Street in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. In later years, it became Towne House, an apartment complex.


History

The Monongahela House, built as a residence in 1832 and converted to a hotel in 1844, was demolished in 1911. 6 It was replaced by a new hotel near the corner of Market Street and Brownsville Avenue. (It was located on Market Street where the former First National Bank is located at.)

The new hotel was called the Monongahela House, but it had been renamed to the Monongahela Hotel by 1920. 6 The ground floor was host to a men’s furnishing store on the west side, a bar on the east side and a lobby in the center. The bar closed in 1919 due to Prohibition.

By the 1920’s, the Monongahela Hotel was too small. With approximately 50 rooms, demand for lodging often exceeded supply. 2 The owner, Samuel Leff, needed a larger building and accepted the Monongahela National Bank’s offer.

Monongahela National Bank

The circa 1911 Monongahela Hotel, replaced with the Monongahela National Bank in 1925.

The hotel closed in 1923 and construction promptly began on a new 110-room facility next door, 2 opening at 56 Market Street 1 on March 15, 1925. 2 It also contained a 20 room annex that was located above the Monongahela National Bank in the old hotel building. The new hotel was furnished with all steel furniture. The ground floor contained the Coffee Shoppe where food was served at “moderate prices” and a dining room was located in the rear which could hold 200 patrons. The property also contained a garage for automobiles.

The Monongahela National Bank renovated the facade of the old hotel from 1923 to 1925, replacing the Neoclassical facade of Indiana granite with pairs of Ionic columns and large steel-frame windows. 3

Monongahela Hotel, Towne House

The new circa 1925 Monongahela Hotel.

By March 1930, the Monongahela Hotel had changed hands once. 2 The Great Depression was causing a slump in business and the owner was desperate for business. To generate income, the hotel garage’s first and second floors were leased for ten years to Samuel S. Sidle, a Bentleyville merchant who converted the building into the Sidle Motor Company, selling new Oakland-Pontiac automobiles. The bottom floor was leased to the River Transit Company.

The new income was not enough. A sheriff’s sale was ordered for late December to sell the contents of the hotel, but before it could be held, other creditors took preemptive action. 2 The hotel declared bankruptcy in November. It was sold in 1931 and as part of a cost cutting move, the new owners decided to stop using the annex above the Monongahela National Bank. The annex became home to apartments, reached via the outer lobby of the then closed Monongahela National Bank. 4

The Monongahela Hotel was later sold to Earle Milner Hotels, a chain. 4 At the time, the company offered a room in the lower-class Milner Hotels for $1 per night and a rate at his mid-class Earle Hotels for $4 per night. The facility became an Earle Hotel. Eventually, business dried up and the building was purchased at auction by Frank Bock who renamed it the Towne Hotel and converted it into an apartment building.

In 1991, the Liggetts acquired approximately 75% of downtown Brownsville’s buildings, including Towne Hotel. 5 The couple promised that the vacant Towne House, Plaza Theater, Brownsville Hospital and nursing school, Union Station and dozens of houses and storefronts would be restored so that downtown would resemble “Williamsburg on the Mon.” Some of the buildings were acquired at tax sales while others were mortgaged or bought out-right.

Bt the mid-1990’s, the Liggetts proposed a floating casino, wharf and marina along the Monongahela River. 5 The state, however, failed to pass measures that would have permitted riverboat gambling, nixing those plans. The Liggetts did little to maintain their buildings throughout and several of them became serious hazards to the public. The county, on more than one occassion, ordered the Liggetts to pay overdue taxes.

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