The old canal town of Hawley, Pennsylvania has had a rich history of lodging accommodations, from boarding tenement house to fine, commodious hotels. The legacy continues today with three hotels in its midst. One of the old timers was the Cold Spring Hotel, in Hawley’s “waterfront district.”

HAWLEY - The old canal town of Hawley, Pennsylvania has had a rich history of lodging accommodations, from boarding tenement house to fine, commodious hotels. The legacy continues today with three hotels in its midst. One of the old timers was the Cold Spring Hotel, in Hawley’s “waterfront district.”

Later known as the Hawley House, it met a sad, fiery end but was the cause for heroic action to save those trapped inside.

A picture of the streetscape shows the hotel.

Another feature story detailed this so-called waterfront district, but here it is in relative briefness.

In the heyday of the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal, what we know and love as Hudson Street (PA Route 590) was known as the Plank Road, for its rough wooden board surface, and later referred to as 1st Street. It became Hudson Street in honor of the canal, in the early 1900’s.

This was one of the first thoroughfares in the area, part of the main road linking Honesdale and Hawley and established around the time of the building of the D&H Canal in the mid-1820’s. Hawley was known as Paupack Eddy at the time. The Plank Road became Hawley’s first commercial district.

In 1849, the canal basin was built along the western section of this street; after the canal’s closure in 1898, it soon became a ball park, and is today the northern half of Bingham Park. This was a huge basin of water where canal boats parked.

A picture, probably taken in the 1880’s, shows a path leading up from the basin to the street, in front of the hotel.

The Pa. Coal Company built the basin, where it coal cars would arrive on its gravity railroad, to transfer the coal to waiting boats. Canal boats were also constructed alongside the basin.

First Street became a bustling center for arriving canal crews and families, lodging overnight, looking for food, supplies, places to socialize and of course to quench their thirst. The growing town of Hawley also patronized its many shops and services, along the “board walk” with a gorgeous view of the basin crowded with boats, and the amazing roller coaster of the gravity rail system. On Sunday afternoons, canal boats could even be rented for excursions.

Roaring infernos, however, claimed many of its buildings in 1864 and 1897.

Cold Spring Hotel

Patrick Carr built a large a boarding house about half way down the strip facing the basin. There were stables attached. His son Peter ran the inn for may years, and was a popular social center for canal boatmen arriving from out of town. It was called the Cold Spring Hotel. Peter Carr’s name was found on list of liquor license holders for 1853 in Palmyra Township (Hawley).

The place is located on the 1860 map of Hawley, with the hotel name shown.

The building either escaped the conflagration in 1864 or it was repaired or rebuilt.

Research of census and other records found little else about the Carr family. In 1859, Peter Carr was elected as an inspector for Palmyra Township, Wayne County (which until 1884, included Hawley).
The 1870 census, however, lists an Annie Carr, age 60, living in Hawley. She was a housekeeper; with her was Ella Carr, 19; Lizzie Jourden, 17 and a baby, Peter Carr, age nine months. It appears they lived on the same street (which in 1870 was not recorded in the census), judging by who were their neighbors. The 1872 map of Hawley labels the property as the “P. Carl [Carr] Estate.”

Imagine the scene

Stop and imagine what might have been a typical summer night scene.
Picture the lantern lights glowing bright in the windows from certain businesses, their light shimmering in the basin water, dimly illuminating the tied-up boats. Lively piano or band music wafts through the air and there is the sound of feet stomping to a dance, and not a few loud voices. Some customers who may have had far too much whiskey, stagger down the plank street, with an occasional, unexpected bath in the canal as they came too near the embankment. Lads and lasses stroll down the street arm in arm on a Saturday night.

Sunday, we have relative quiet save for church bells; the Presbyterian church at the time was directly behind this street, on what we know as Prospect Street at a higher elevation. Stores are closed; business activity is almost halted. The grocer’s cat is seen sniffing about. Dogs are barking. Boys come out with their fishing poles. Girls jump rope down the plank pavement.

On work days, the noisy assemblage of merchants, horse-drawn wagons and carriages and boatmen occupy Hawley’s commercial zone.

Neary takes over

By the time of the 1872 map, the Cold Spring Hotel is closed. Patrick Bohan’s general store is next door, on the right. The 1875 Hawley business directory gives no mention of the hotel.

At some point, a local Irish immigrant, Patrick J. Neary, became the owner, and the hotel was known as Hawley House. The Herald newspaper in Honesdale published annual lists in the 1880’s of hotels and saloons where license applications had been made, and Neary’s name was among them for Hawley. The earliest date that was found was from 1884.

The fire

Fire broke out in the Hawley House at about 4 a.m., Saturday morning, July 2, 1887. “The fire broke through the roof and the inmates of the building knew nothing of their danger until the alarm was given from without,” The Evening Gazette of Port Jervis reported, in a front page story in their July 5th edition. Accounts were also found in the editions of The Wayne Independent and Honesdale Citizen, which came out five days after the blaze.

Besides the family, there were a number of boarders inside.
Part of this account is from William L. McLaughlin, when in his 90’s, recalled the fire in a lengthy story on his memories of Hawley, published in 1958 in The Pike Wayne Eagle.

After the fire was burning fiercely, it was found that one of the boarders, James Flanagan, a stone cutter from Pond Eddy, was missing and presumed still inside.

McLaughlin recalled that there were a number of light boats (empty canal boats) in the basin. A boat captain named Peter Duffy was active trying to rescue people from the burning hotel. McLaughlin said there were two men trapped in a room on the second floor, Dick Mannie and Flanagan (who McLaughlin referred to as Tom Flanagan). Duffy rescued Mannie, but Flanagan perished.

Flanagan’s charred remains were discovered around 11 a.m., once the fire had died out.

“It is supposed that the man was sleeping soundly and did not know of his danger until too late to save himself so he perished in the flames,” the Port Jervis newspaper added.

A young man by the last name of O’Rourke was badly burned and was also injured from jumping from a window. He landed on the roof of the piazza. O’Rourke died the following Tuesday from serious head injuries.

Another man leaped, and suffered a dislocated hip.

The blaze soon spread to the building to the east. owned by Patrick Bohan. The first floor was used for his furniture and undertaking business, and Bohan resided upstairs. This building also was destroyed, as well as a large barn owned by Mr. Bohan.

The cause of the fire was an exploding lamp, according to the Honesdale Citizen.

The total loss of the hotel building was about $1,800 (nearly $45,000 in 2017 dollars) and on contents, $1,200 (or about $30,000 in 2017 dollars). About $300 worth of liquors (around $7,500 in 2017 dollars) and $200 in money (close to $5,000 in 2017 dollars) were lost in the fire. Neary had the the hotel insured through Baumann’s agency for $1,000 and the furrier in an Easton-based agency for $600. Neary’s losses, however, were much greater than his insurance coverage.

Bohan was also covered for $1,000, which was also inadequate. Bohan, however, was able to save nearly all his stock as well as his household goods. A portion of the hotel’s contents were also carried to safety.

It would be another 10 years and several more fires before the Hawley Fire Department would be organized. A call went out as early as 1876 in the Hawley Times, to create a fire company. There was no reference to a fire bucket brigade in the accounts of the hotel fire in 1887.

Both of these buildings were very old. The Hawley House was a large building, and was erected about the time the canal was built, in the mid-1820’s.

Patrick Neary

Census information and other records about Patrick Neary are unclear. It appears there were others by the same name in the region.

The 1860 census lists a Neary family living in Honesdale Borough. Patrick Neary, 55, worked as a coal laborer; he was born in County Sligo, Ireland. He and his wife Catherine had five children at home, Hugh, Ellen, Patrick, Thomas and John. The family arrived from Ireland in 1857.

The younger Patrick Neary was 13 - born about 1847, and was working as a [canal] boatman. In 1870, this family lived in Texas Township (which is just beyond Honesdale); the younger Patrick was 21 and still working as a boatman.

1880 census records show who may be the same younger man, Patrick Neary, 33, living in Hudson, NJ. He and his wife Lizzie, 28, had three children, John, 5 years old; Patrick J., 3 years old and Lizzie, 9 months. Neary was working for the railroad.

Assuming this is the same family, within a few years they had settled in Hawley and acquired the old Cold Spring Hotel.

Later records- from the 1890’s - show Patrick Neary and his wife Elizabeth, lived in Texas Township, Wayne County; they had seven children.

Another record shows a third Patrick Neary, who was born in Hawley on February 21, 1887; his father was Patrick Neary, and his mother’s maiden name appears to have been Elizabeth (Jordan) Neary. This Patrick Neary served in the 1st World War in France. He died, February 26, 1934.

It may be that his father was the same one that operated the Hawley House. If it was, their baby son Patrick was born a little more than four months before the fire. (His reported birth year, however, is off by 10 years from the child listed in the 1880 census.)

Although not confirmed it is the same man as the former hotel owner, a local newspaper story in 1892, told of the death of Patrick Neary in Honesdale on October 7. He was 48.

A news brief from 1894, reported the death on November 15 of Mrs. Elizabeth (Jordan) Neary. She lived in Texas Township and had been ill. She “spent her early life in Hawley during its most prosperous days.” She was described as a “devoted wife and mother” who would be sadly missed by the seven young children who survived her.

Main Sources:
Wayne County Historical Society newspaper archives
Old newspapers at
Census data from
History of Hawley, Pa. (1927) by Michael J. McAndrew.