Bellefonte, PA 16823
By Dale Moore, in partnership with Bellefonte Victorian Charm
Bellefonte has a building that housed an often-forgotten hotel that provided a vital link between early Bellefonte and the Victorian era. At 221 East Bishop Street, there is an apartment building just outside of the original historic district. This building was once the Haag Hotel. To the rear of it is Jabebo (previously, Catholic Charities). This was the stable for the hotel.
During the 1800’s, much of Bishop Street was a series of empty lots. The Catholic Church was built around 1830. The old Southward School on Bishop Street at Blanchard Street was not built until 1887 and the Undine Fire Company was built in 1898.
In October of 1862, while many of our local men were off fighting in the Civil War, the Centre Democrat announced that a new elegant Hotel would open on November 1, 1862. This beautiful hotel, the Cummings House, had been built by RD “Bob” Cummings. He was the proprietor of the new hotel that would include a saloon, billiard room, hotel rooms, a dining room and a large stable for guest’s horses, carriages and buggies. Cummings had owned the large Pennsylvania Hotel in Tyrone, before coming to Bellefonte. Cummings was a middle-aged man who had run the Stage Coach lines between Tyrone, Lock Haven and Lewistown.
Cummings sold interest in the hotel to W.D. Rickard in 1866 and Rickard brought in Frank M. Lebo to run the front desk. By 1869, advertisements listed William J. “Billy“ Hosterman as the proprietor. Hosterman sold his interest to James H. Lipton in 1870. Lipton didn’t stick around too long as he sold his interest back to W.D. Rickard.
W.H. Hackett of Philadelphia bought the place in 1881. In the late 1880’s, the place was purchased and ran by Gottlieb Haag. A newspaper advertisement in November 1889 advised that Haag had taken over the Cummings House. The advertisement said he was running a first-class meat market in the basement, where the saloon had been. Haag ran into difficulty in getting a Tavern license to sell alcohol. The Centre County Women’s Christian Temperance Union was organized in 1884 and they protested every year against any tavern that had licenses coming up for renewal. It took a while, but Haag ultimately got his license and the saloon returned.
Haag retained the name Cummings House for a couple years before changing the name to the Haag Hotel. It was likely was around June of 1890 after the death of RD Cummings. During Haag’s ownership, the front porch was added in August of 1890. The newspaper reported at the time that Michael Kerstetter of Pleasant Gap, a skilled carpenter, had added a handsome verandah to the hotel.
Fred Smith Photo - Hotel Haag after 1890 when porch was installed
Haag built two new homes on the property. They are the two duplexes that still exist on South Penn Street. They are between the Catholic Church’s parking lot and Jim’s Italian Cuisine. Gottlieb Haag’s son, Harry Haag, lived in one of those houses with his wife Margaret Noll Haag. Harry and Margaret were married for over 60 years. He died in 1941 and she died in 1950. Harry was in charge of the large stables at the rear of the hotel.
Harry Haag and his brother, John C Mulfinger, were adopted by Gottlieb Haag and his wife Catherine Treyz. Gottlieb Haag had started a hotel and distillery in Pleasant Gap in 1874. He sold wholesale whiskey. John C. Mulfinger took over operations in Pleasant Gap while his father and brother went to Bellefonte to buy the hotel.
The newspaper reported in 1894 that Gottlieb Haag and his wife celebrated their 40th wedding Anniversary in their Hotel. Walter Garrity was a popular bartender at the time. In October of 1894 a fire broke out in the stables, destroying the stable building. They immediately built a new stable of brick with a slate roof.
On April 1, 1895 Daniel C Keller, the former Centre County Treasurer, took over as proprietor. Henry Haag was still running the stable.
Modern day view of stables for Haag Hotel.
In 1897 the newspaper reported that Smith and Brothers of Spring Mills was hired to furnish 11 rooms of the Hotel.
In July of 1898 it was reported that Daniel Keller was the first businessman to install a flagpole at his business. The flagpole was reported to be between 66 and 70 feet high and Mr. Haag donated the flag. In August of 1898, a second fire destroyed the stable building. It was quickly replaced with a new building. Harry Haag was present at the time of the fire.
Keller seemed to be very popular and many in the county and the hotel flourished under him. He hosted county political events at the hotel. The newspaper said the Haag Hotel was the place to be. It was so popular due to the excellent stable and yards attached. Many people attended to courthouse business. They spent the night at the Haag Hotel because of the proximity to the Courthouse as well as the excellent stables. Since people traveled by horse to the Centre County Courthouse, it was often a multiple day endeavor.
In 1899 the newspaper recounted a story from January 23, 1819 when the rear of the Haag Hotel had been the site of a hanging of Centre County’s first convicted murderer. It was reported the Centre County Sheriff John Mitchell had hung James Monk for shooting a man off a horse. The jail at the time had no yard so they used the large open lot of what became Haag’s Hotel to do the hanging.
In October, 1903 S.B. Newcomer of Bellwood became the proprietor. Daniel Keller retired to his farm in Centre Hall. In 1904, Newcomer and his son, Morris Newcomer, sold their interest to Frederick Mosebarger of Clearfield. Mosebarger hosted Mr. and Mrs. Haag’s 50th wedding anniversary that year. During the Mosebarger period of operation, he bought a brand-new bus, painted “real red” to haul passengers to and from the train station. (The first commercially sold, mass-produced automobile was the Model T in 1913 so one can assume the bus the newspaper was referring to was horse-drawn.)
In 1904, while Newcomer was the proprietor, the hotel was painted and papered as well as re-wired to provide electric lighting.
In 1906 Gottlieb Haag died. In 1906 J. Mitchell Cunningham bought out Frederick Mosebarger.
In 1907, the newspaper reported that Link Musser was continuing the horse auctions. Auctions had occurred regularly at the hotel since at least 1895. In a February 1907 auction, they talked about a splendid black Stallion weighing 1,650 pounds.
In 1908, the newspaper reported that Cunningham hired George Weaver to re-paper the office, dining room, hallways and a number of bedrooms.
In 1911 Henry Kline became the proprietor. Charlie Fry was still doing regular horse auctions as reported in the newspaper in August 1911.
In 1917 the US Calvary, Troop L, was mustered out of federal service. Some of the men stayed on to serve in the National Guard. The troop had 32 horses that were sent to the Haag Hotel Stables until a more permanent location could be found.
In November 1920, federal law enforcement authorities raided the Haag Hotel Saloon. Prohibition had taken effect in January of 1920. No results of the raid were posted.
In 1929, the newspaper reported Frank Crouse had opened a temperance hotel at the former Haag Hotel. He was selling iced cold lemonade out of the saloon.
The 18th amendment, Prohibition, had certainly been the final nail in the coffin for the hotel. Other factors where the automobile. For so many years, people traveled to Bellefonte by horse. Once cars became common, there was no reason to stay in Bellefonte, as residents could drive home after their business in town was completed. The Hotel demise was also likely aided by the Great Depression that started in 1929. By 1930 the hotel was closed and the place was converted into apartments.
According to Jean Binn Smith, Lewis Smith bought the Haag Hotel in about 1946. He remolded the place. She believes he made 13 apartments and said when it had been the Haag Hotel, each room had its own fireplace. The place continues to operate as apartments today.
Former Haag Hotel today. Dale Moore Photo
View of former Haag Hotel from the stables.
This is part of a Bellefonte history collection in collaboration with Bellefonte Victorian Charm. Check out their website and Facebook page here
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