LIMA — For over two centuries a hotel has stood on the same site in the heart of a historic community.
Lima's American Hotel got its start in 1790 as a wooden structure that gave a weary traveler shelter and a hot meal.
The present American Hotel is made of brick, and after two fires in the 1850s it was rebuilt in 1861. Taylor and Finucane were owners of the historic hotel until 1920 when a young man from Ireland needed a fresh start.
John K. Reynolds had begun his new journey after his sister told him that the American Hotel was in need of a new owner. William Shanley partnered with Reynolds and together they made a go of it during the famous Prohibition. Two years after that the hotel was strictly owned by the Reynolds Family.
After nearly a century the family still owns and operates the hotel. Siblings Pat and Rose Reynolds took over in 1992.
The American Hotel has been well-known for Rose’s famous homemade soups. There are three cookbooks with several soup recipes and family history available at the gift shop.
Pat said the hotel that stands the test of time today was built in 1840. It suffered two fires in the 1850s, and was rebuilt in 1861.
“This has always been a hotel and restaurant since the time it first opened,” he said. “Before the original hotel was built here in 1790 this was the site of a blacksmith shop.”
Pat said that what the family has created over the past 100 years has been a great legacy.
“This hotel is not just a business to my sister and I. It is a way of life for us the way a farm is to a farmer," he said. "Our family has always lived on the third floor of the hotel since my grandfather bought it. We are the third generation to own this hotel.”
On Nov. 1987 the American Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pat said that the hotel is safe from anything the town could do to make changes to the street they rest on.
Rose has made about 60 soups for the restaurant for many decades. She wanted to share them and her family’s story with guests and customers. The three cookbooks paint a picture of the Reynolds Family over the years, but also of the town of Lima and the hotel itself. One story in particular is that of The Depression Era.
“In 1937 a man came to this hotel, and after his stay he admitted he had no money. After being presented with the bill he told my grandfather he had no money. This man painted murals on the walls instead. I always thought they were dark in this room,” she said. “The great grandson said that his grandfather went on to do a lot more paintings, and even did the last painting of Grandma Moses. His name is Higgins, and we have his paintings on our dining room walls.”
Rose said she has worked on keeping the rooms and ceilings looking nice for many years, and after an accident she counted on the kindness of her customers to help keep it going.
“I have washed and painted these rooms for many years,” she said. “One day I was working on the ceiling and I fell off the ladder. I hurt myself and spent time at Strong Memorial Hospital. It was at that time many of my friends and customers came to help me. I am very thankful to all of them.”
The family came from Leitrim, Ireland to New York City in the late 1800s. It was in the early 1900s that they made their names known in the American Hotel. They have gone on to win several awards including Trip Advisor and Livingston County.
A young man from Ireland created a legacy for his wife and children. John F. Reynolds, the son of John K., went on to keep the legacy alive after his parents got to ill to keep up with the hotel. He in turn left that legacy to his seven children.
John F. Reynolds married Aretha Costello of Livonia Center in 1940 and took over management of the business from his father in 1946. At this time, during World War II, the dinner business dropped off and the menu was shortened to just lunches. Between 1941 and 1953, Junior and Aretha were too busy parenting seven children to run a full restaurant, bar, and hotel. In July 1979 at the age of 68, Junior Reynolds died and an era came to an end.
In 1971, Terry Reynolds – the youngest of the seven children – came from Michigan State to help his ailing Dad run the hotel. Pat returned from the Navy in 1974 to pitch in. And finally in 1983, Rose re-settled in Lima after various careers that took her from San Francisco to New Hampshire. Thus the third generation of Reynolds’ “came of age” and helped their mother in the daily running of the hotel. Terry left the business in 1987 and moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he was a sou-chef for 17 years in a French restaurant. He passed away in September 2004 at age 50.
In 1992, Aretha Reynolds passed away and Pat became the owner and continues to have the assistance of his sister Rose.
Many special one-of-a-kind gems can be found at the American Hotel: a framed late 1800s ads poster in the office, several special wedding gift paintings, the famous Higgins wall murals, Rose’s homemade soups, and stories of a family that made this place their home.
For many the stories of American Hotel come in generations of family meals or hotel stays. Some think the hotel has spirits lurking about. A few believe that this town has wrapped itself around the memory of a long time tradition.
Whether you fancy a stay in a historic allegedly haunted hotel or just a nice bite to eat, the family-friendly atmosphere of an American treasure lives on in the walls, bricks, windows, and paintings.
American Hotel is located at 7304 East Main Street in Lima. It is open Sunday noon to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., (food not served 3 to 5 p.m.), and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. They can be reached at 585-624-9464. For more information on hotel rooms and a menu visit https://americanhoteloflima.com