It’s amazing how rapidly things can change. I have a few old postcards that show Court Street in Auburn looking toward the bridge. At the left, there’s no mistaking the Elm Hotel, its curbside lined with the stately trees for which it was named.

There’s a trolley in that scene, which no longer exists today. Otherwise, it’s much the same view I remember when I had a brief high school job as a bellhop in that hotel. By that time, it was a dark and deteriorating building; within a few days, I decided I needed some other kind of summer job.

Lately, my research has shown me another side of the Elm Hotel, formerly the Elm House, which stood near where Norway Savings Bank is today. The hotel had a rich history, dating back to the Civil War era. It also had a remarkable manager in those early years.

At the time of his death 100 years ago at the age of 80, Albert S. Young was said to have been associated with the hotel business longer than anyone else in the state. He once told a Lewiston Evening Journal reporter, “I was connected off and on with the Elm House for half a century and have seen its ups and downs.”

Born in North Turner, he was a farmer in his early years. He first came to the Elm House in 1861 when his uncle, William S. Young, was landlord. His uncle was running the stage to Livermore, as well as running the hotel, and he needed help with the booming business.

Young decided he would come to Auburn to help his uncle that first winter, but intended to go back to the farm in the spring.

“I never returned,” he said.

The war was just commencing and men were constantly coming in to enlist at the nearby Court House.

“The house was more than full all the time,” Young said. “As many as ten or fifteen would sleep on the office and parlor floors every night.” 

The early Elm House clientele “didn’t expect as much style then as they do today, and we always put the food on the table in bulk, and everyone helped himself,” he said.

That early Elm House was a much different establishment than the one I knew in the mid 1950s. The first building had two rooms on the front, separated by a hallway. The hotel was three stories high and had a total of about 15 rooms.

Within a short time, Albert Young decided the accommodations were not sufficient for the rapidly expanding city of Auburn, so he added a wing which nearly doubled its capacity.

Young also established the hotel’s reputation as a strict temperance house.

“Under no circumstances would he permit a drop of liquor to be sold or even drunk on the premises,” the news story said.

Through the years, the Elm House had many distinguished guests, including Hannibal Hamlin of Paris Hill in Oxford County, who later became Abraham Lincoln’s vice president. Many prominent judges and lawyers also were frequent guests, as well as James G. Blaine, the noted U.S. senator from Maine, Speaker of the House of Representatives and twice U.S. Secretary of State.

Young recalled the days when the horse railroad was running and there was a lot of friction between the horse railroad managers and the people of Auburn.

“They would shovel the snow from the tracks out on each side so as to completely block the street,” Young said. “On one occasion, after there had been a terrific snowstorm, they put on the old ‘Storm King,’ as the snowplow was called, and when I came downstairs, I found the entire front of the house completely blocked.”

Young was furious. He asked a judge, who was a hotel guest, if he had the right to shovel the snow back.

“Undoubtedly, you have, Albert,” the judge said.

“I hired a lot of men and shoveled the snow back on the track and then turned the hose on it and saturated the snow with water,” Young said. “In one hour, it was a mass of solid ice and the horse railroad didn’t run anymore that winter.”

In 1892, the original building was torn down and a more modern structure was erected. It continued as an important hotel and location for many community meetings and banquets through the middle of the last century.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to [email protected]


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