The walls are talking…Old hotel secrets revealed in Denver

By on February 15, 2017
Irvin  Redcay  displays  cigars  from  one  of  the two boxes of 100-year-old cigars found while cleaning out the former Denver House. Photo by Alice Hummer

Irvin Redcay displays cigars from one of the two boxes of 100-year-old cigars found while cleaning out the former Denver House. Photo by Alice Hummer

Volunteers have worked diligently each Saturday since October to remove everything on all three floors of the former Denver House, 240 Main St., and they’ve uncovered some curious artifacts.

Most unusual were two century-old unopened boxes containing 12 perfectly preserved cigars. Each box was dated 1917. The cigars are shorter and smaller in circumference than today’s cigars.

“They’re 100 years old now,” said Irvin Redcay, a volunteer who’s not missed a weekend working on this project.

Asked if anyone had tried to smoke any of the cigars, Irvin said “no.”

“I don’t think old cigars are very good,” said his son Rodney Redcay, Real Life Community Services president and Denver mayor. Real Life has assumed ownership of the building.

Rod Redcay, also never a smoker, noted the rather dried-out appearance of the Hector Co. cigars in both boxes.

“The cigars were manufactured in York, Pennsylvania, by United Cigar Manufacturing Company,” he said. “In 1917 it became the General Cigar Co. Hector was Troy’s greatest fighter in the Trojan War.”

Irvin, 76, is employed by Leola Produce Auction, and doesn’t like to sit still. If he’s not working, he’s helping to clean out the Denver House so construction can begin.

“Have you ever seen silver pennies?” Irvin asked.

He had a bag to show for his efforts in sifting through what first appeared to be soil, and turned out to be sand underneath. It had trapped the pennies, as well as other old coins, such as wheat pennies, Indian head nickels, and a 1904 silver one-cent piece.

Rod Redcay said his father “spent many hours on his stomach” searching the ground-level behind a cabinet with shelves at one end of the bar.

“You can imagine a shorter person trying to reach one of the higher shelves and whatever was on them was accidently pushed off the back of the shelf,” Rod Redcay said.

“People would pitch pennies across the bar and try to get them to land on a shelf,” he said. “Obviously lots of things, including the two boxes of cigars, which were found standing on their narrow sides on the ground level behind the cabinet, were among items which slid off the shelves.”

Another interesting find was a thick, aqua-colored glass beer bottle from the George A. Kiehl Co. It’s about seven inches high and three inches in diameter at the base.

The Denver House, a former restaurant, bar and hotel, was architecturally and commercially a gem for its beauty and robust business. Situated downtown, steps from the former railroad station, the hotel enjoyed a bustling business from 1869 through the 1940s when people’s reliance on train transportation diminished.

The deteriorating building was purchased by REAL Life Community Services in partnership with Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership on Oct. 28, 2016.

Welsh Mountain Medical Clinic, with medical, dental and behavioral health services available to all on a sliding scale, will be on the first floor of the refurbished building. Additional first-floor retail space will also be available for lease.

Upper floors will house affordable apartments. These will have long-term leases and not be transient housing.

Volunteers dismantling the interior are recycling all possible materials.

“Fifteen tons of scrap metal were recycled. Forty radiators weighed 200 pounds each,” said Irvin Redcay, who has done the hauling for salvage and general debris.

“We also hauled 17 containers, at 30 yards a piece, of debris out already.”

Anyone interested in volunteering on a Saturday morning should report at 8 a.m. to the Youth Ministry building across the street from the Denver House. This phase of the work will continue through March.




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