Roadhouse Characters

Theodore Faatz





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Theodore Faatz

The Early Years
The Faatz family of Syracuse came from Weedsport, NY. Their parents were born in Germany but I believe that all the children were born in Weedsport. Jay Faatz came to fame early, during his career as a baseball player and later as a manager in the International League. He settled in Syracuse after his retirement from baseball and for a
while he sold insurance and managed the Syracuse Stars. It hasn’t been determined exactly what his brother Theodore did prior to 1900 other than run a hotel at 201 Walnut Ave. with Jay.


During their time in Syracuse it was Theodore that generated the more notorious headlines in the local newspapers. Syracuse had a large German population, especially on the north side. The breweries naturally followed this group of avid beer drinkers and by 1880 there were about 40 breweries in the city of Syracuse. [Ensminger] Needless to say there were a large number of saloons in which that beer was being consumed and that led to problems. The Raines Law, that went into affect in April 30, 1896, drove 303 of these establishments out of business. In 1897 there were 415 establishments in Onondaga County that were licensed to sell alcohol by the glass. The Raines investigating committee visited Syracuse in January 1897 and was not pleased with what they found. A member of the committee, Senator John H. Ford, expressed their displeasure, “Syracuse is wallowing in a slough of vice and crime and is glorying in it. A most deplorable state of affairs exists and the apathy shown by the city officers toward the [Raines] law is disheartening.” [1897-01-18]

The Faatz Brothers' Saloon
For a while, just before the turn of the century, the Faatz brothers ran a saloon at 201 Walnut Avenue. They also ran a hotel across the street at 1201 East Washington Street for a while. On January 5, 1900, in a short item on Theodore Faatz’s divorce from his wife Clara, it stated: (Theodore) Faatz formerly conducted a place in (1201) East
Washington St. (with his brother Jay). The 1900 census showed that Jay, their uncle William and their father Jacob were living at the East Washington St. establishment. [1900 Census]

Theodore Faatz Takes Over The Watering Trough Saloon
On September 26, 1899 Theodore Faatz and Daniel T. Evans signed a one-year lease with Anna Switzer on her late husband, Jacob Switzer’s hotel, at the Watering Trough. [1901-09-25] This was a one-year lease that could be extended to five years. This hotel was located on the east side of the Cicero Plank road between the railroad tracks and Ley Creek. They called the hotel the Plankingdon House/Hotel and it was sometimes referred to as Faatz’s Hotel. Faatz and Evans dissolved their partnership on March 12, 1900. [1901-09-25] The first appearance of the name the “Faatz Hotel,” on the Cicero plank road, occurred in the Syracuse Post Standard on February 6, 1902.


Around the fall of 1903 an opportunity to take over the new Rose Lawn hotel developed. Faatz got his ex-partner (Evans) to take over the Switzer hotel, to finish out that lease, so he could move on the Rose Lawn opportunity. The original lease would have run out in September 1904. By February 1904, Evans was back as proprietor of the Plankingdon hotel. [1904-02-23] By March 1905, Evans was gone and a new proprietor, named John L. Wall, had taken over. [1905-03-20] These events are consistent with Evans helping out his old friend, Theodore Faatz.


Rose Lawn Destroyed by Fire

After the destruction of Lizzie Gannon’s roadhouse on February 24, 1899, Hattie Hallock purchased the site as an investment and had her husband's construction company build a replacement roadhouse. In 1901, she leased the place to Harry Jeffs who operated for about a year as The Central Hotel. George Shimer bought the Rose Lawn property from Hattie Hallock on April 18, 1903 [1903 - Deed] and became the new proprietor and owner of the hotel.  


Faatz Moves Up the Plank Road
At some point in late 1904 or early 1905 Faatz had left the hotel he leased from Anna Switzer and moved up the road to the hotel that replaced the old Baum residence. Circumstantial evidence shows he leased the property from George Shimer. 


Another Fire At The Rose Lawn Site

On February 15, 1907, at about 8 o’clock in the evening, a fire broke out in the barn behind the Rural Inn on the Cicero plank road. Theodore Faatz, the proprietor of the inn, and two of his employees were engaged in trying to confine the fire to the barn. The fire was spreading quickly and it appeared there was every chance that it would reach the  hotel. At about 8:25 the members of a bible class from the city of Syracuse, on a sleigh ride outing, were approaching the hotel and saw the fire. They stopped and began organizing a bucket brigade. “A ladder was placed against the rear of the hotel and three of the boys mounted to the roof of the building. Two others remained on the ladder and passed up pails of water as rapidly as they were brought from a nearby well.” [1907-02-16a], [1907-02-16b]  They continued for the next half hour until the hotel was past its greatest danger. After rendering assistance the bible class continued on their way to Cicero where they dined at the Parker House. The roof of the hotel was scorched in a couple places but otherwise suffered no harm.

The Change in Ownership

The article describing the February 1907 barn fire at the Rural Inn stated that George Shimer was the owner of the barn. This was the evidence that showed that Shimer was leasing the Rural Inn to Theodore Faatz. Therefore Shimer was still the owner of the property in early 1907. At some point George Gronau and his wife Mary came into possession of the Rose Lawn property. The Gronaus sold the property to Theodore Faatz on September 30, 1914, and that transaction was recorded in the Clerk’s Office at the Onondaga County Courthouse, in Syracuse, NY. [1914 – Deed] Some speculation on how the Gronau's came to own the property can be found here.


The Raids Continue
Even though Faatz later said he had sold his interest in the hotel back in 1916, he was arrested on May 29, 1917 and pleaded not guilty to running a disorderly house (i.e. running a brothel). The next month he went on trial and on June 27th he received a suspended sentence.

On March 8, 1919 a raid was conducted on the Faatz Hotel, where James Wheeler was then the proprietor. Theodore Faatz still owned the property but he had stepped back from the operation of the hotel. Wheeler escaped the arm of the law on the night of the raid but turned himself in on March 20th. Wheeler had been indicted on charges of “allowing his premises to become disorderly” and violating the excise laws. [1919-05-02] At the conclusion of his trial on May 2nd Wheeler was sentenced to four months in the penitentiary.


Faatz Kills Young Girl In Auto Accident
An unfortunate accident occurred on September 30, 1919, while Theodore Faatz was driving his automobile behind a trolley car on Wolf Street. Faatz hit young Margaret Fuller, with his car, as she exited the trolley on Wolf St. near 3rd North St. Faatz placed the injured girl in his car and raced her to the hospital. He then went to police headquarters to report the accident. Margaret Fuller died later that day in the hospital. Faatz had actually hit two young girls but the other one bounced of his car and was not seriously injured. Theodore Faatz was arrested and the case went before the Grand Jury. For the next seven weeks the newspapers were filled with the coverage of this evolving story. Faatz was indicted for manslaughter in the second degree. The trial started in Syracuse on November 17th with jury selection and ended three days later on the 20th with a verdict of acquittal. [1919-11-20]

During his trial, in November of that year, Theodore Faatz took the stand in his own defense. The questioning touched on the subject of his hotel on the Cicero plank road. He was asked what his interest in the business was at that time. Faatz testified that he had sold his interest in the hotel three years ago. (
Actually, Theodore Faatz sold his property to Delphine A. Brown in 1923.)


Halloween Shoot Out At Faatz Hotel
Probably the most exciting thing to ever happen at the Faatz hotel happened when Theodore Faatz was not present. It was Halloween day in 1921 and the enforcement of the prohibition laws was still in its infancy. A well known local bootlegger, named Bruno Nestico, had previously sold two barrels of water to a customer for $600 while telling
him they were filled with whiskey. The dissatisfied customer decided to set a trap to get even with the bootlegger. He had a friend place an order with the bootlegger for two barrels of whiskey for $1000. The delivery was set for about 7 o’clock that evening at the rear of the Faatz hotel. After the trap had been set the dissatisfied customer sought out two prohibition officers and they in turn recruited two city policeman to back them up. William Corry was the proprietor of the Faatz hotel at the time and the prohibition officers told him that his place had been selected for the scene of this trap. Since Corry was at that time still on probation for a violation of the liquor laws, from back in May of that year, the prohibition officers might have used that fact to solicit his cooperation. When the truck arrived at the hotel it contained “two barrels of water, with two quarts of raw spirits, near the bungs.” [1921-11-01] In this way, when the contents were sampled, the potential customer would sample whiskey even though the barrel contained mostly water. More information on the Shoot Out can be found here.


When the truck stopped behind the hotel the two prohibition officers stepped out from their hiding places and with flashlights shining on the two suspects in the truck, told them to get out of the truck with their hands up. The driver obeyed but the bootlegger approached one of the officers, shots were fired and the bootlegger went down. This all caused quite a problem in law enforcement circles. “The killing of a bootlegger last night in the Cicero road threatened today to shake government and city police organizations with investigations of dry enforcement operations.” For several days no one could “remember” who had shot Bruno Nestico, the bootlegger. The two city police officers that had helped out on the trap were operating a couple miles outside the city, the limit of their jurisdiction. The ramifications of that little operation echoed through the law enforcement organizations for a couple years. [1923-05-24]

Theodore Faatz Retired From The Saloon Business
After that, things were quiet out on the old Cicero plank road. At some point in 1923 Theodore Faatz sold the Rose Lawn property to Delphine A. Brown. At the time of his brother Jay’s death, on April 10, 1923, Theodore was still in Syracuse. By June 16, 1926 Theodore H. Faatz had moved to Alton, NY. That was a small village just east of Sodus, in Wayne County. On September 2, 1927 there was a Mrs. Theodore Faatz mentioned in the social columns of the local paper, The Lyons Republican. From that point on, the trail of Theodore Faatz goes cold and so far no obituary has been found for him. 



[Ensminger] - Brewing in Syracuse... from 1804 to the Middle Ages, by Peter A. Ensminger - Link no longer works 05-24-18

[1897-01-18] - The Raines Law, Syracuse Daily Standard, Syracuse, NY, January 18, 1897.

[1900 Census] - NY, Onondaga, Syracuse WD17, T623\1138\15A.

[1901-09-25] - "Faatz Wanted Water - Sues for $1000 Because He Didn’t Get It," The Syracuse
Journal, Syracuse, NY, September 25, 1901.

[1903 - Deed] - Hattie Hallock to George Shimer, Deed Book 355, Pg 328, Onondaga County Clerk's Office, Syracuse, NY.

[1904-02-23] - Mr. D. T. Evans, Proprietor of the Plankingdon House, The Syracuse Herald,
Syracuse, NY, February, 23, 1904.

[1905-03-20] - The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, March 20, 1905.

[1907-02-16a] - "Bible Class Fights Fire," The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, February 16, 1907.

[1907-02-16b] - "Bible Class Saves Fire Doomed Hotel," Syracuse Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, February 16, 1907.

[1914 – Deed] – George amd Mary Gronau to Theodore Faatz, Deed Book 444, Pg 11, Rec. September 30, 1914, Onondaga County Clerk’s Office, Syracuse, NY.

[1919-05-02] - Hotel Proprietor Is Given 4 Months, Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, May 2, 1919.

[1919-11-20] - Faatz Freed on Charge of Killing Girl, Syracuse Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, November 20, 1919.

[1921-11-01] - Bootlegger Slaying Involves Officials, The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, November 1, 1921

[1923-05-24] - Dry Agents’ Guns For Defense Only, The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, May 24, 1923