IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items

Commercial House Hotel

Built in 1875, it was located across Green St. from Robert's Park.
The hotel burned to the ground in 1978.

Commercial House

Commercial House Hotel, ca early 1920

Photo of the Commercial House Hotel in Postville, ca1915-1920. The hotel was considered "THE" hotel in Northeast Iowa for many years. It was located near the railroad depot, on Green Street.

Green St. Postville, the showing the Commercial Hotel, ca1910
Commercial Hotel on Green st., ca1910

The Commercial Hotel, ca1912
Commercial Hotel , ca1912

Commercial Hotel , ca1917
Commercial Hotel , ca1917

Photo was taken from Robert's Park, across Green st. from the hotel

Commercial Hotel , ca1919
Commercial Hotel , ca1919

Commercial Hotel , ca1921
Commercial Hotel , ca1921

Photo was taken looking down Green st. toward Main st. The hotel is behind the large tree at the right.

Commercial Hotel , ca1978
Commercial Hotel , ca1978

The Commercial Hotel as it appeared about the time it burned to the ground.


Last week we promised to "write up" the new hotel in detail. Not yet being entirely completed, we are unable to give it as full and complete a showing up as we would like, but from the following description the public can gather a very good idea of the structure and its details.

To begin at the foundation, the building is 50 by 71 feet on the ground, outside, fronting north on Green street. The basement is of solid stone, and is about one-half above ground, giving ample light through a number of half windows. The basement story is nine feet in the clear, and divided into three rooms of equal size, 24 X 50 feet outside. The west or corner room is occupied by Mr. Humphrey as a billiard hall, and two of the J. M. Brunswick & Blake billiard tables, latest and best pattern, are already in position, and a splendid circular bar is to be added, with chairs and the necessary furniture, to make it the best and most tasty hall in the country.

The next room east is to be subdivided into store rooms for the two side main rooms with a cellar for the house in the center, and a commodious and convenient wash room in the rear, with a well and pump in the room, and connected with the first floor by a stairway. The east room of the basement is not yet finished, but will be finished substantially the same as the west room, and will be for rent for some business purpose. This finishes the description of the basement. It is reached by steps from the sidewalk at the east and west corners.

Ascending the steps in front to the first floor and entering through the right hand entrance, we open into a commodious hall from which the main stairway passes. The first room to the right is the sitting room, a pleasant room 16 X 24, with a bed room opening on the west, and the family rooms on the south. South of this are the kitchen pantry, closet &c., all large and conveniently arranged. To the east of the kitchen is the dining hall, 24 X 39 feet. Entering by the left hand front entrance, or through the hall at the foot of the main stairway, we are in the office, a fine room 24 feet square, which will be well furnished. Opening from the office, in the northeast corner of the building, is the sample room, and it will be a pleasant one too. The balance of this floor will be occupied by the wash room which is to be finished in marble in elegant style, and the baggage room.

Ascending the main stairway to the second floor the parlor, with bedroom attached, is on the right or in the northwest section. The balance of this floor is divided into rooms and suits of rooms, all of them light and airy and all of them commodious. Exclusive of the parlor there are 22 rooms on this floor, all of which are to be tastefully, if not elegantly furnished. A stairway leads from this story to the roof and long windows open to the veranda in front. This story, as well as the first story is 12 feet from floor to ceiling, making the rooms all high and pleasant. All the windows drop from the top with weights and raise from the bottom, with a patent fastner. A stairway also ascends to this story from the rear.

Outwardly the building is of white Clermont brick, laid around a substantial wood frame sheeted up, commonly termed "veneered" work. The mason work was done by Samuel Keiser, and we should say it was a good and tasty job. The carpenter and joiner work is by Barhans & Darling, and will compare favorably with the best work in the country. When the painter and grainer have gone over it it will present as near a perfect appearance as we ordinarily find anywhere. We should have said in the proper place that the roof is of tin, with a pitch of two feet in fifty.

This, we believe gives a general outline of the Commercial Hotel, Postville, Iowa, H. S. Humphrey proprietor, which next week will be open to the public during the Fair, and perhaps permanently, although the finishing touches of the grainers and painters will not then be all on. The bare building, exclusive of furniture and fixtures of every and any kind, will cost not far from $10,000, and it is a building of which Postville and Northern Iowa may well feel proud, as there is no such building in this section of the State. Long may it stand, a monument to the energy of the owner and his faith in the future of Postville. May it be to him a source of ample profit, as well as a "thing of beauty and a joy forever."

~Postville Review, September 1, 1875


Other news clips about the Commercial Hotel

September 1875: COM'ERCIAL HOTEL - Corner Green and Reynolds STS - Postville, Iowa. H. S. HUMPHREYS. Proprietor
This hotel has just been erected, the rooms are all large, well lighted and supplied with new furniture throughout. A good sample room for Commerical travelers, and good stabling attached. A share of patronage solicited
September 1875:
The large chromometer at the Commerical Hotel, was procured at Mr. Ferrey's jewelry store. It is one of the first class clocks, with its regular hour-dial, and dial to indicate the day of the week, the month and figures. Orders in his line promptly filled.
September 1876:
H. S. Humphrey has sold the Commercial Hotel to the Johnson Brothers, and taken two farms in exchange. The transfer of possession was made last Monday.
February 1877:
Johnson Bros. have leased the Commercial House billard room to Fred Kappes, formerly of Monona, but late of Calmar.
March 1879:
The Commercial Hotel has changed hands, Messrs. Willard & Moody retiring and Mr. Abernethy taking the helm. Mr. Abernethy has had much experience in catering to the public, and we bespeak for him a full measure of patronage.
August 1879: Mr. Abernethy has retired from the Commercial Hotel and Johnson Bros. resume control. Mr. Johnson, father of the Johnson Bros., of the Commerical restaurant, is in town. His home is in Louisville, Ky.
January 1881: The Commercial Hotel owned and run by H.S. Humphreys is a large well arranged hotel, and under its present proprietorship is run in splendid shape. Commerical Billiard Hall is in the basement of the Commercial House and does a good business.
September 1881: H. S. Humphrey has leased the Commercial Hotel to J. M. Lisher, of the Burlington House and the transfer will be made next Monday.
June 1883: Geo. Lull has purchased the Commercial Hotel of H.S. Humphreys, the consideration being $8,000.
December 1885: On Wednesday, Geo. Lull sold the Commercial Hotel to J.M. Lisher, who has been running it for several years, and making it the most popular hotel in Northern Iowa. Consideration not stated, but it is understood that Mr. Lisher got a good bargain.
January 1886: On Monday evening of last week a progressive euchre party was held in the Commercial Hotel parlors, which passed off pleasantly.
May 1888: The social party given at the Commercial Hotel on Thursday evening of last week by Ed. CORNELL and Halver LIEN was a success.
March 1921: The Commercial Hotel will serve the following menu at their Easter dinner, 75 cents per plate. Please make your reservation by Saturday night. Cream of Tomato, Celery, Olives, Radishes, Green Onions, Chicken, Dressing, Baked Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Crreamed Peas, Egg Salad, Parker House Rolls, Lemon and Cherry Pie, Fruit Sherbert, Cheese, Salted Nuts, Tea, Coffee, Milk.
January 1930: Landlord Reincke has been adding to the nice appearance of the Commercial Hotel dining room by the laying of linoleum.



The fire which destroyed the Commercial Hotel building here Saturday, March 25, has prompted an attempt to reconstruct a history of the landmark. The present owners, Richard and Jean Van Wey, furnished the Herald with the abstract of the property. Information has also been gathered from old papers and the 1913 Hancock history of Allamakee County.

The abstract of title to the Commercial Hotel building lots proved interesting. The section of land on which Postville stands was first purchased by Zeruiah Post from the United States in 1851. She was the wife of Joel Post for whom Postville is named.

In 1864 Zeruiah Haywood (formerly Zeruiah Post) sold the land in Postville to John Lawler, who platted the original part of Postville in that year. This is the year that the railroad reached Postville. No record of a date or deed were recorded, but apparently Lawler then sold the west two lots to Waren Van Hooser and wife, who in turn sold them to Thomas Osterander on May 6, 1866.

On March 16, 1867 William Collins purchased the two lots and added another to the east which was purchased from John Lawler. This must have been a speculation buy by Collins because he sold to John and Kate Kelly. One would suspect this was when the building was built, but no definite proof is available.

The Kellys also obtained the lot on the east side of the property from John T. Stoneman in August 1869. When John Kelly and his wife died their estate was left to her father, John Head, Sr., who gave it to the New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque. For some reason the east lot was then sold to J.E. Hughes, who in turn gave it to his wife, Amanda. This single lot was then owned by the Hughes, despite mortgaging it several times, until 1898 when it was sold to A.E. Cornell, who joined it with the original three lots.

An interesting sidelight to the Kelly ownership was that his will provided for the sale of two other lots he owned in Postville and the use of these funds to purchase a marble monument for he and his wife. They both died in 1874 according to probate notices. Perhaps this could still be found in the Postville cemetery.

In 1871 John Kelly and his wife sold the lots to J.A. Roe and his wife C.C., but the Kelly's kept a mortgage, which ended up with the Abbey at New Melleray. Roe and his wife kept the property only a year and sold it to H.S. Humphreys and his wife in January of 1875. September 8 1876 Matilda Johnson bought the building from Humphreys, but sold it back in January of 1880, to Humphreys.

A copy of the Postville Review of December 30, 1882, lists the proprietor of the Commercial Hotel as James M. Lisher who also operated a livery stable in connection with the hotel. Humphreys sold the hotel to George Lull in 1883, and Lull in turn sold it to James M. and Mary A. Lisher on January 2, 1886. The Lishers then operated the hotel until Sept. 19, 1891, when they sold it to A.E. and Carrie B. Cornell.

It was Cornell who then brought the four lots back together again. One might suspect that this was when the addition was made to the southeast corner of the building. Cornell had a $4,000 mortgage on the building at that time. The Cornells owned the property until 1912 when they transferred the title to F.W. Meiske and his wife, Julia, but held a mortgage for over $17,000. The Meiskes then owned the building and continued to operate as such until they sold it to Charles F. Reincke on April 15, 1925.

Reincke continued to own the property until 1948, except for a short period in 1936 when he transferred the title to his daughter and son and their spouses. They were Fred and Dorothy Groth and Delmar and Iva Reincke, January 2, 1948 saw the title pass on to Hubert C. and Thelma I. Luhman and George E. and Pearl B. Cooke.

The Cooke's didn't continue the partnership long as they sold their half interest to M. Roger and Elen Sherman in November 1949. The Shermans were in partnership only about two years before selling out to Luhman in 1952. Luhman continued the operation until June 2, 1966 when he sold the business to Ralph J. and Lois N. Schrader.

The Schraders operated it less than a year before selling it to Robert E. and Los K. Jones, in early 1967. Glen and Dorothy Schave purchased the property in October of 1973. They in turn sold it to John E. and Linda Martin in January of 1976. The Martins sold the building to Richard and Jean Van Wey in August of 1977.

The Van Weys had started a large renovation project on the building and completed most of the outside, and were working on the apartments inside. The furnace which apparently caused the fire was scheduled to be replaced this summer.

At one time the hotel had a large dining room and was the scene of many meetings, receptions, etc. Many early residents of Postville report eating and attending parties there. Apparently age and the use of motels led to the ecline of the use of the building as a hotel. Of course the dropping of the many passenger trains by the railroad had led to the original decline.

~Postville Herald, Wednesday, April 5, 1978


~page compiled by S. Ferrall
~photos from the collections of S. Ferrall & Errin Wilker

~contributor's remarks: "I have a special fondness for this old hotel because it holds many memories for my family.  Charles Reincke, my g-grandfather owned the Commercial Hotel from 1925-1948.  My grandparents, Fred Groth & Dorothy Reincke were married in the hotel.  Many family photos were taken outside this hotel...but, regretfully, I don't have any interior photos.  As a child growing up in Postville, I passed by the hotel thousands of times......but never went in. Anyone in possession of an interior photo of this grand old hotel, I would be ever grateful if you'd share a copy with me."
Sharyl Ferrall, Allamakee co. Coordinator, 2008

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