Roadhouse Characters

Thomas & William Leahy





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Thomas and William Leahy



This is a picture of the Greenpoint Hotel as it appeared in 1912. The original hotel, operated by Thomas Leahy, was damaged by a fire early in the morning of November 27, 1893. This replacement structure was erected soon after the fire, since Leahy was once again running a roadhouse in 1896.


The Earliest Greenpoint Roadhouse

The earliest mention of Thomas Leahy in connection with a roadhouse at Greenpoint was in 1893 when it burned to the ground [1893-11-27]. A detailed search of the newspaper archive for saloons, hotels, inns or roadhouses, over the period 1865 to 1893, didn’t come up with any hits for an operation located at the four corners in Greenpoint. He was better known as a farmer who raised hops.

Leahy’s obituary [1934-03-19] claimed that he was the proprietor of Leahey’s hotel at 7th North Street and Buckley Road for 40 years. Since Leahy was out by 1900, he would have had to start the hotel in 1860. Leahy was born in Ireland in November 1849 and came to the US with his parents in 1855 or 1856. Twenty years old would be a young age for someone to start a hotel and Thomas wouldn’t hit that milestone until 1870. If he had started a hotel at that time he would have barely racked up only 30 years by the time William White was in charge of the Greenpoint hotel in 1900. When looking back at past events associated with these roadhouses there seemed to be a tendency with the newspaper writers of bygone years to forget the bad, to enhance the good and to assign a longevity that usually never exited.

May Leahy WILL and then WILL NOT marry a baseball player

On June 22, 1906 the Syracuse Herald ran a story [1906-06-22], that supposedly was told to a Herald reporter by Miss May Leahy herself. As she told the story, she and Frank Schulte, a baseball player for Chicago in the National League, were to be married at the end of the baseball season. This took Miss Laehy’s friends by surprise. According to the article Schulte “when in the city, was a frequent visitor at the Leahy hotel in Green Point.”

The Herald story contained three large errors:  (1) Father had died, (2) Five children, (3) May and her mother were running the Greenpoint Roadhouse

Mary and Thomas Leahy only had two children: a son named William and a daughter named May. Thomas, May’s father, lived to be 90 (actually only 83) and finally passed away in March 1934. However, her mother had died recently. Mary A. Leahy died in St. Joseph’s Hospital, on December 26, 1904, after a two year long illness [1904-12-27]. Therefore her mother could not have been helping to run the Greenpoint Roadhouse in 1906. In early June 1906, new proprietors, Snyder and Fadt, announced a grand opening of the Green Point Hotel [1906-06-09].

The following morning a denial from Miss Leahy was reported in the Post Standard [1906-06-23].  She “denied that she had given verification of the reported coming marriage to a reporter for an afternoon paper.” Since there were so many other errors in the story and then the main thrust of the story had been invalidated it causes one to wonder what passed for reporting in those days.

William Leahy

In 1900 William Leahy was living at home with his parents at their farm at the Four Corners in Greenpoint (the intersection of 7th North Street and Buckley Road). William White was running Thomas Leahy’s former Green Point Hotel and William Leahy was employed as a bartender according to the census – perhaps in White’s employ.

By 1909 William Leahy was conducting business at Pard Orton’s old roadhouse that he was leasing from the new owner, Robert R. Flynn. At the time of the 1910 census William and his wife Julia were the proprietors of Orton old roadhouse and were also living in the associated hotel. Living with William was his father Thomas and his sister May.

Transportation Ages Collide

As the age of the automobile began it had to share the roadways with the horses, carriages, buggies and wagons of the receding horse age. Collisions between the two modes of transportation became more common as the automobiles on the roads increased in number. William Leahy and his wife had their own personal collision in the fall of 1910. An automobile skidded at the corner of West Genesee and Wallace Streets, in the city of Syracuse, and struck the Leahy’s carriage, throwing both passengers out of the carriage. William Leahy suffered only a few bruises. Mrs. Julia Leahy, who was already an invalid, was taken to St. Joseph’s hospital where no injuries were found [1910-09-13].   


The Dangerous Railroad Overpass

In 1874 the freight rails were diverted from passing through the city and sent on an arcing pathway through Dewitt and Salina, reconnecting with the straight through path on the west side of the city. This gave the town of Salina their railroad overpass on the Cicero Plank Road and simultaneously created a region filled with danger, death and criminal activity. The Watering Trough Roadhouse had preceded the railroad tracks but Orton’s place that arrived in the 1880s and Eller’s place that followed in the 1890s. The fact that there were roadhouses on both sides of these tracks can be thought of as a cause or as a result of this activity, depending on one’s point of view.


On a quiet summer afternoon in August 1911, nine-year old Frank Stanton, of 7th North Street, and his friends, went down the plank road to play near the railroad overpass. Stanton saw one of the older boys jump from the New York Central bridge to the ground. It was a distance of about 18 feet but Frank decided to try his hand at duplicating the old boy’s feat. After jumping he must have had second thoughts because he grabbed a wire on his way down. Unfortunately the wire belonged to the Syracuse Lighting Company and it was carrying electricity. The insulation had been worn away in the section of the wire that little Frank had grabbed and he was severely burned and became unconscious and then fell to the ground. Several of his friends ran back up the plank road to Orton’s roadhouse to seek help for their friend. They found Stephen Sullivan, William Leahy and Michael Heinze [Heinze and his two brothers would be central figures the following year at a big fight at the Greenpoint Hotel, Leahy’s father’s former roadhouse.]. The men ran down the plank road and were picked up by a lady driving a carriage and they all raced to the scene of the accident. They arrived at the overpass, but before the men could do anything, the well dressed women dashed to the little boy’s side and picked him up. She placed him in her carriage and took him to his home. He was later taken to the hospital in serious condition. Frank Stanton  seems to have recovered from his experience because no obituaries were found in the papers [1911-08-09].       


A Family Tragedy

In 1912 Talbot and Loomis were leasing the Orton Hotel but Leahy was back by April of 1914. Tragedy struck the Leahy family in the Spring of 1915. Florence Leahy was the daughter of William Leahy’s uncle, Walter Leahy, who lived in Warner, NY. She was a music student and sometimes, after her lesson in the city, she would stay with her cousin William ran at the corner of 7th North and Wolf Streets. That evening she retired to her room to do some reading before she went to sleep. Sometime during the evening she must have dozed off, while propped up and reading in bed, and she hadn’t notice that a breeze from her open window had blown out her gas light. When they attempted to awaken her in the morning the girl was dead in her bed and the room was filled with gas from the open jet. The coroner ruled that her death was from gas poisoning as a result of the wind blowing out her light. She was only 23 years old [1915-04-23].


William Leahy’s Final Years

According to his obituary, Thomas Leahy moved to Hastings, FL in 1907 and went into the potato business. Hastings proclaims itself as the Potato Capital of Florida. By 1915 he and his brother Edward were both living in Hastings. Thomas returned to Syracuse 22 years later in 1929. He died at his home at 218 Park Street on Monday, March 19, 1934, after battling pneumonia for two weeks [1934-03-19].



Hastings Fl, the Potato Capital of Florida -,_Florida

It was settled in 1890 and incorporated in 1909. It is located in St. Johns County, which borders the Atlantic Ocean, in the far northern eastern corner of the state, almost in Georgia. Hastings is located 18 miles southwest of St. Augustine.

Hastings Historical Web Site, with pictures and newspaper stories, covers 1890 to 1970

[1893-11-27] – “Tom Leahey’s Road House Burns At Midnight While His Family Sleep,” The Daily Standard, Syracuse, NY, November 27, 1893.

[1904-12-27] – “Dead Of A Day,” The Evening Telegram, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, December 27, 1904.

[1906-06-09]“Opening – Green Point Hotel To-Night,” The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, June 9, 1906.

[1906-06-22] – “Schulte Is To Wed – Miss May Leahey of Greenpoint Will Be His Bride,” The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, Friday, June 22, 1906.

[1906-06-23] – “Miss Leahy Enters Denial,” The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, June 23, 1906.

[1910-09-13] – “Auto Skids, Runs Into Carriage; Injures Two,” The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, September 13, 1910.

[1911-08-09] – “Boy Swings In Air On Electric Wire,” The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, August, 9, 1911.

[1915-04-23] – “Young Music Student Asphyxiated By Gas,” The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Friday, April 23, 1915. This report incorrectly identifies Florence Leahy as William Leahy’s niece when in fact she was his 1st cousin.

[1934-03-19] – “Thomas Leahey, Hop Growing Pioneer, Dies, “ The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Monday, March 19, 1934.