Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

The Hotels of Bohemia, New York

It has often seemed unusual to us that Bohemia, New York, had several hotels, mainly because it is not, like other Long Island towns known for tourism, like the nearby ocean resort communities.  Some long-time residents explained to us that the hotels, although they did have lodging, were most often used for social gatherings such as balls, dances, celebrations, fraternal organization meetings, weddings, or just for a meal or pint of beer.  Some of the hotel owners were well-known and respected civic-minded residents, serving as such things as volunteers for the Bohemia Fire Department or Connetquot School District. Because the hotels seemed to play a significant part in the local culture, we decided to research the topic and learn more about them, their owners, and what became of them. During our research, using mainly old newspapers and historical books, we realized it was impossible for us, within a reasonably limited amount of time, to document every one of the hotel owners, because the turnover rate of these properties was very high.  For this reason, we are unable to provide a continuous year-by-year accounting of ownership. There are gaps. We also have not included the Chateau La Boheme in this work, because we already reported on it in chapter one.


Wild’s Hotel


The first mention in the local newspapers of a hotel in Bohemia, New York, was Wild’s Hotel. The owner, William Wild, like many of the other Bohemia residents of the time, was a Czech immigrant. (1)  The hotel, located on Smithtown Avenue, held events such as picnics, grand balls, New Year’s Eve celebrations, hops, and even “hog guessing,” in which chances were sold for guessing a hog’s weight before it was slaughtered and weighed.  One sensational news item connected to the hotel involved a shooting which occurred there in 1887. Philip Goodman, a hotel guest was shot by William Schlosser.  The newspaper reports gave the impression that the gun was accidently fired by Schlosser, and that Goodman, who was not seriously injured, was possibly trying to benefit financially by revoking a settlement agreement the two men had concerning the matter. (2)  This was the only significant news item found about the establishment. All other newspaper accounts of it were about parties and other social events held there.


After purchasing Wild’s hotel, Mr. Markert renamed it the Metropolitan.  In January 1895, he sponsored a competition that evoked the sentiment of a Currie and Ives print. A prize of “$2.50 in cash or its equivalent in refreshments to the first party to arrive at his hotel from Sayville, Bayport, Islip, Bay Shore or Patchogue, in a pleasure sleigh on the first snow fall.” (3)  There was no follow up on who won this challenge, or if anyone even participated. After Mr. Markert, Louis Ruzicka owned the hotel, but in 1902 it burned down. (4)  Ironically the fire occurred while the Bohemia Fire Department was holding its annual masquerade ball there.


Sunrise Hotel


Joseph Nohowec, owned another of the earlier hotels, the Sunrise. It was located at the corner of Church Street and Smithtown Avenue across the street from where John Pearl Elementary School is today. Mr. Nohowec was a hotelier, farmer, and a Bohemia Fire Department Foreman. The Nohowec Hotel was a family run business. Joseph Nohowec, Jr., who later became the mayor of Mineola, stated that while growing up in Bohemia, he worked various jobs on the family’s farm and hotel. The hotel had a steady business. Every second week, a Czech musical ensemble played dance tunes for the hotel clientele. Other social events included calico balls (at which ladies wore calico dresses), a Christmas Day “grand pigeon shooting match” (which we assume was held outdoors), and the Bohemia Sportsmen’s Club ball during which a venison supper was served.  In January 1902, A.F. Spawn, later known as the “father of dehydration” and who had been buying rutabagas, turnips, parsnips and carrots from local farmers for his Bohemia Evaporating Company, invited 100 people for a supper and social at the Nohowec Hotel. The dinner consisted only of the evaporated products made at the plant. (5) 
After Joseph Nohowec, Sr., died, Frank Fiala purchased the hotel and changed its name appropriately to Fiala’s Hotel.  He made extensive alterations to the building, including wiring it for electricity.  Fiala’s Hotel hosted the usual parties and social events, however it also had a bowling alley. During the early 20th Century, bowling was a popular sport. The Brooklyn Eagle declared in 1915 that bowling was the “king of indoor sports.”(6)  Within Fiala’s hotel there were bowling alleys in which local teams held competitions. The Suffolk County News and other local newspapers reported on the bowling teams and tournament scores. Even after Frank Fiala sold the business to Charles Potuzak in August 1915, bowling continued for many years in the hotel.
Although it is possible that the hotel was known as “Sunrise Hotel” before Potuzak, it was during his ownership it was advertised as Potuzak’s Sunrise Hotel.  During World War II, John Sabre owned the hotel and then sold it in 1948 to Frank Jaszek. Mr. Jaszek was from Locust Valley, but after buying the hotel, he and his family relocated to Bohemia. (7)  Mr. Jaszek changed the name of the establishment to Hotel Franklin and advertised that he welcomed “bus ride parties” for his home cooking. (8)  He also rented rooms not just for the day or week, but also for the season.  Mr. Jaszek does not appear to have been proprietor very long. A year later the liquor license was issued to Ignatius Michalsky and Edward Witkowski.  Shortly after purchasing the hotel, Edward Witkowski, who was reported to have been overwhelmed with financial problems, committed suicide at the age of 38 years old. On the front page of the July 22, 1949 edition of Suffolk County News appeared an article titled “Franklin Hotel Owner Ends Life with Revolver Shot in Bohemia.” His widow Stella Witkowski continued the business up until around 1951, at which time William and Josephine Shumski are listed on the liquor license. (9)   By 1953, the hotel had another name change becoming the MacArthur Field Hotel. (10) Owners Jan and Stella Lewkiewicz advertised that their hotel had bowling alleys, shuffleboard, home cooking, rooms for rent, business lunches, bock beer, and bockwurst. Other subsequent owners were Margaret Becker and George Bauer, Michael Fitzgerald, Carl Bartl, and Helen Schwarz.


A sensational story which was reported about in 1965 concerned a MacArthur Field Hotel resident whose ex-wife stabbed him at the hotel. (11)  He survived and even chose not to press charges against his ex, who lived close by in Oakdale. In the early 1970s, for a brief time the hotel was the Marian Manor and it advertised an all you can eat smorgasbord for $4.95. (12) During the disco craze of the mid-to-late 1970s, it evolved into a popular dance nightclub. On March 14, 1978, a fire destroyed the building. (13)  Soon thereafter the Town of Islip razed what remained of the building, bringing an end to one of the longest running hotels in Bohemia, New York


Central Hotel
In the Bohemia Fire Department Anniversary book it is mentioned that William Knakal owned Bill’s Hotel, which later became the Central Hotel. Mr. Knakal was a Bohemia Fire Department chief. How long he owned the business and when he sold it are unclear. However in 1928 Charles Grave is stated as selling the business to Joseph and Josephine Stejskal.  Before living in Bohemia, New York, Joseph Stejskal worked in the tavern business in the Yorkville section of New York City. When he moved to Bohemia he became involved in the hotel business and later purchased the Central Hotel.  He expanded and improved the building, adding a dining-porch, which cost several thousand dollars.  On July 22, 1932, a fire destroyed the hotel. The severity of the damage was blamed on the inability of the firefighters to access water. The water mains on Lakeland Avenue did not go up to the hotel. The damage of an estimated $15,000 was only partly covered by insurance. (14)  The hotel was rebuilt, but tragedy struck again for the Stejskal family. On January 21, 1936, Joseph Stejskal died of a heart attack at the age of 54, but the Stejskal family continued the business. (15)  Barney, the son of Joseph and Josephine Stejskal, managed the hotel, while his sisters and mother cooked and served in the restaurant. From 1928 through 1950s, the Stejskal’s Central hotel was famous and well-reviewed for its traditional Czech food such as, veprove, knedlikya zeli (pork, dumplings and sauerkraut), kolace and mazanci.  Saturday evening at the Central Hotel was “good-time night,” which consisted of music, dancing, and a duck or pork dinner. These socials were not just popular with the locals, but they also attracted people from other localities. The Stejskal family sold the business in 1954 to Frederick Heissner. (16)  An advertisement in the local newspaper for Joseph Careccia’s grand opening of the Central Hotel seems to indicate that the hotel had been resold in 1963. (17)


Mazanek Hotel


Mazanek’s Hotel was located at Church and Walnut streets. Charles Mazanek was a Czech immigrant, who, before owning his Bohemia, New York, hotel, had been a partner in Stejskal’s Central Hotel and also owned another hotel in Holbrook. (18)  Later John Wolf purchased the building and leased it to James Vincent Ryan.  Mr. Ryan had been an experimental test pilot, and was noted for having won the Grand-Prix at the Paris International Air-Show for best presentation in flight in 1961. (19)   He founded the Brook-Slip Soft ball league which would later be named after him.  Some locals considered Ryan’s Hotel, as well as the Mac Arthur Hotel, during the 1960s and 70s as being just “gin mills.’(20)  A number of incidents at Ryan’s Hotel and Mac Arthur Hotel, such as break-ins, fights, and fires, were reported in the column, “From the Police Blotter” in the Suffolk County News. A fire destroyed the building in the 1970s.

All of the Bohemia, New York hotels mentioned in this article are gone. They all succumbed to destruction and/or social change.  During the 1970s, fires destroyed some of the hotel buildings, while at the same time the community population and needs were changing.  In addition, other businesses, like bowling allies, catering halls, and restaurants were being built in the area, and these were offering the entertainment that the hotels once did.  These were a couple of the factors that brought an end to the Bohemia, New York hotels.

 

  1. U.S. Federal Census: Suffolk County, New York, 1880, Enumeration District: 321, Page: 309B, Ancestry.com (1880 U.S. Census) viewed on 27 September 2017
  2. South Side Signal. (Babylon, N.Y.) 1869-192?, February 26, 1887, Page 3, Image 3, Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  3. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, January 11, 1895, Page 2, Image 2. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  4. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, February 14, 1902, Page 3, Image 3. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  5. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, January 31, 1902, Page 3, Image 3. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  6. Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 9, 1915, Page 25 - (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from https://bklyn.newspapers.com
  7. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, March 19, 1948, Page 12, Image 12. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  8. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, March 19, 1948, Page 12, Image 12. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org. The Patchogue Advance. (Patchogue, N.Y.) 1885-1961, May 27, 1948, Page 9, Image 9. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  9. Patchogue Advance. (Patchogue, N.Y.) 1885-1961, September 20, 1951, Page 5, Image 5. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org. The Patchogue Advance. (Patchogue, N.Y.) 1885-1961, May 27, 1948, Page 9, Image 9. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  10. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, February 27, 1953, Page 6, Image 6. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  11. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, October 07, 1965, Page 1, Image 1. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  12. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, August 23, 1973, Page 3, Image 3. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  13. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, March 16, 1978, Page 9, Image 9. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  14. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, July 22, 1932, Page 1, Image 1. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/
  15. Mid-island Mail. (Medford, N.Y.) 1935-1941, January 22, 1936, Page 1, Image 1. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  16. Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, December 03, 1954, Page 13, Image 13 http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  17. The Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, January 24, 1963, Page 10, Image 10 http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  18. Patchogue Advance. (Patchogue, N.Y.) 1885-1961, April 06, 1961, Page 5, Image 5 http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  19. The Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, March 25, 1971, Page 5, Image 5 http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org
  20. Siska, G. R. (2015). “Where Everyone Knew York Name.”  Memories of Bohemia (p. 40). Bohemia, NY: Bohemia Historical Society.

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