Goodman Kelleher — what a life!
This is the third column on Goodman Kelleher — in his own words. He had no formal education — “his report card was blank” — he bought a lunch wagon when he was age 16, became a renowned chef, then owned the classy Majestic Restaurant and the St. Moritz Hotel in Lake Placid and the Clearwater Beach Hotel in Clearwater, Florida.
1932 Olympics and the Majestic
The Majestic is obviously where Kelleher made the big money — he tells about the business growing so fast that he had to keep adding staff and borrowing money, but when he sold the Majestic in 1944 to John Theodore and William Tallion he said, “It was perhaps the greatest one [sale] I ever made in my life.”
The 1932 Olympic Winter Games, the first held in North America, put Lake Placid and the Majestic on the map. Kelleher tells about getting ready for the Games:
“Since the Majestic was located [233 Main St. — the Majestic advertisements then reading, “500 feet below the Olympic Arena”] directly across from the school campus where most of the attractions were to be held, it would be necessary for me to put my place in good shape for winter business.
“Mr. William Hovey, a boy from my home town of Ft. Edward, N.Y., was connected with the Lake Placid Hardware as partner with Luke Perkins, now Mayor of Lake Placid, and they were the ones who favored me with credit to put in the heating plant. They were especially kind to me and drew up some slow notes to put in the Bank of Lake Placid. I proceeded to get a heating plant for the restaurant, on credit from the Lake Placid Hardware Company and they took a note.
“Other changes were made at the place to make it even more attractive and get it ready to accommodate the multitudes of people that would be coming to Lake Placid. In a small barbershop building that was adjacent to mine I made arrangements to sell hot-dog sandwiches and other small tasty foods to help care for the crowds coming to Lake Placid for the big ten days in February.
“During the ten days of the games, there were so many people to be fed that I had to lock my restaurant doors and let them into the place as I had seats for them.
“I took in so much money that it was necessary to have the New York State Troopers go to the bank with me.
“Following the winter of 1932, my place became famous and traveling men from near and far met there to have good food. The meals were always good and prices ranged from 35 cents to one dollar for a full course dinner. The number of my employees increased at one time, from 28 to 78 to be paid off in a week.”
The St. Moritz Hotel
“In April, 1943, I purchased the St. Moritz Hotel from Willis Wells, Supervisor of the Town of North Elba, Essex County, also a bond holder of the former owners of the hotel. The place was well run down as it had been leased each year to those who didn’t want to see it kept up. I had a small bond interest in the hotel so decided to take it over. All the furniture had to be newly upholstered and many pieces replaced.
“Furniture was at a premium at that time, so I bought the Whiteface Mountain House at Wilmington, from the Frank E. Everest estate controlled by Mr. Jonah Calhoun of AuSable Forks, N.Y.; he was glad to see me get the property. I brought the furniture to the St. Moritz, thus making the hotel and the annex rooms the best furnished in any hotel in Lake Placid.
“The hotel was in such rough shape at one time that a newspaper correspondent from the ‘P.M.’ was sent there to investigate. Everyone was eager to buy a copy of the newspaper but it seems that the people running the hotel at the time ordered all copies brought to the hotel so the people in the surrounding communities and the guests of the summer season wouldn’t get the low down on the condition of the hotel.
“But the ‘P.M.’ article didn’t give the St. Moritz a ‘black eye’, in fact the publicity served as advertising and aroused the curiosity of the public. The residents of Lake Placid seem to be pleased that I own the hotel and put it back in A-1 shape.”
Sold at auction
The St. Moritz was sold at auction to Charles Vosburgh in 1964. I told that auction story of the St. Moritz in this column on Jan. 7, 2017. Quoting from that column:
“The famous St. Moritz Hotel, a Lake Placid landmark, built in 1926 has a great history in this village. [Editor’s note: Actually, it dates to 1900 as The Pines Inn, but the six-story brick addition and the St. Moritz name date to 1926.] If the cars in the parking lot are an indication it is a bustling business today.
“The St. Moritz was never a more popular spot than when it was owned by my friends, entrepreneurs Glen Cameron and Jim LaFountain. They purchased the hotel in 1986 and operated it for many years.”
Mr. Kelleher was married to Agnes Mumford, who became ill with tuberculosis. She died of the disease at Ray Brook state tuberculosis hospital. Kelleher said following his wife’s death he spent a long, sad, cold stormy winter in Saranac Lake.
He was a widower for many years before marrying Helen Bennett of his hometown, Fort Edward, who had come to work as a waitress at the Majestic Restaurant.
We will finally get to the Clearwater Beach Hotel in Florida next week — an unprecedented No. 4 for this precious space.