Johnson House (Bay Street Hotel)

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Photo of Johnson House circa 1905 courtesy of John Powell from his book “Old Postcards & Photos of Sodus Point”

I would like to thank my wonderful and hard working wife (Edith Farrington) for all of her research that went into this document.

Today we think of it as the Bay Street Hotel but from the 1850s into the mid 1900s it was known as the Johnson House and it was a major hotel of Sodus Point. Over the intervening years, it has had a number of different names. It is also one of the oldest buildings in Sodus Point.

Here is a synopsis of the evolution of the hotel and restaurant:

1844… named “American Hotel” Proprietor Sylvester P. Johnson

1858 – 1901…Renamed “Johnson House” by Sylvester Johnson’s son-in-law George H. Case

1915…Recently improved its is renamed “New Johnson House”

1919…new management Mrs. H.B. Stone of Syracuse

1930…John J. Connors, proprietor

1953…Renamed Radel’s Hotel Gus and Carrie Radel, owners

1982…Renamed “Finn’s Hotel” Ray and Phyllis Finn, owners

1984-2014…Renamed “Bay Street Hotel” Doug McLeod, owner

2015…Jerry and Deannie Newby, owners

The Johnson House was named after its proprietor Sylvester P. Johnson. We know that the structure dates back to at least 1844, because of an ad that was run in 1845:

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The above advertisement was found in “The Western Argus, Lyons, New York; Wed, Oct, 29, 1845”

Sylvester P. Johnson was a savvy businessman. He knew that if he was to have a successful hotel he would first need to get customers to his hotel and then have them stay for a few days. He hit upon the way to do it as seen in this 1845 ad:
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So now thanks to Sylvester Johnston, in 1845, Sodus Point had a regularly scheduled stage coach route which connected to Geneva and also to packet boats on the Erie Canal at Lyons! From “History of Alton” prepared by Nona McDowell, we know that as early as 1839, a two horse stagecoach brought mail from Lyons to Sodus Point.

In 1846, Sylvester P. Johnson goes from businessman to local hero as recounted in “The Pioneer History of Sodus Point (page 17).

The widow of Colonel Fitzhugh, with an invalid daughter, continued to live at Sodus Point in her residence on the North side of Troup Park and Ontario Street east. The house she first occupied was on the same spot and burned to the ground in 1846. While it was burning Mr. S. P. Johnson (owner of the Johnson House) ran upstairs and grasping the two ladies, one under each arm, carried them down and out into safety.

In 1858, it is renamed “Johnson House” by Sylvester Johnson’s son-in-law George H. Case who takes over.
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Under George Case’s ownership, the Johnson House prospered and became well known throughout the area:
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In the early 1870s some additional renovations occur as reported in the Sodus Weekly Enterprise, June 21, 1873:

Sodus Point – The Johnson House is nearly completed, and when finished it will be one of the finest houses in this part of the country.

In 1884, the Johnson House is the scene of an important historic event. In that year, E.H. Harriman receives news that the Pennsylvania Railroad company would buy his small railroad (Sodus Bay and Southern) at a considerable profit for himself. This event launches his career as the preeminent Railroad Czar of the time. This scene is recorded in Arch Merrill’s book “The Ridge”, 1944.

An old time Sodus Pointer, Matthew M. Farrell, a trim, kindly, gray little man in his 80th year, remembers Harriman well. Farrell came to Sodus Point in 1880 as a telegraph operator for the Harriman railroad. Some times he took 30 or 40 telegrams a day for the brisk young railroad man. Farrell remembers one day delivering a telegram to Harriman when the budding king of rails was playing pool in the Johnson House with his lieutenant, Ed Parrott. Harriman ripped open the envelope, read the wire, then he embraced Parrott and began dancing a jig.

By the early 1900s, The Johnson House is the place to stay in Sodus Point. Many businessmen not only frequent it but also hold meetings there.
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Photo of Johnson House circa 1905 courtesy of John Powell from his book “Old Postcards & Photos of Sodus Point”

In 1915, it is renamed the New Johnson House. In 1919, it is under new management of Mrs. H.B. Stone of Syracuse
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In 1930, John J. Conners becomes the proprietor of the New Johnson House
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In 1953, the Johnson house has new owners: Gus and Carrie Radel. They will soon rename it Radel’s Hotel.
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In 1982 Ray and Phyllis Finn become the new owners and rename it “Finn’s Hotel.
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Above photo and article taken from June 24, 1982 edition of Wayne County Star

In 1984, Doug McLeod becomes the new owner and it is renamed “Bay Street Hotel”. Under Doug, What is now a restaurant gets a reputation for the finest food in the area. People as far away as Rochester routinely drive here to taste its fine cuisine and to enjoy its Martini specialties.

In 2015, Jerry and Deannie Newby become the new owners of Bay Street Hotel. Some renovations are again made but the tradition of fine food and Martini specialties continue…..

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Photo courtesy of Edith Farrington November, 2015
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The above photos taken from August 16, 2015 edition of Times of Wayne County