After the Spencer House burned down in Jan. 1882 there was a large empty spot on the eastern end of the Charlotte beach. A sale would be made to a new owner that you wouldn’t think would want that land; New York Central Railroad. They could see that it would be a destination for people wanting to spend some time at beach. The railroad already had a line that went to the ironworks. They would only have to extend the line another mile. They started building the line and almost instantly got in legal trouble. Gen. Henry Brinker in July 1882 filed suit to stop the railroad line. He owned a rifle range that was between the ironworks and the beach. Supposedly the railroad had only gotten verbal permission but no amount had been paid for the right-of-way. In the end the railroad line did get built to end at a loop on the beach.
The railroad didn’t want to build anything themselves. Instead a new organization, Ontario Beach Improvement Company, was created and they would lease the beach property from the railroad. They started building the Hotel Ontario in spring of 1884. That large beautiful hotel was finally opened on Aug. 5th. Even at that early date the hotel had electric lights and a telephone line to Rochester. By late August every room in the hotel was filled.
That first season the hotel had the Fifty Fourth Regiment Band playing daily with a concert in the afternoon and one in the evening. One day in September along with the band was the Mænnerchor Singing Society. They were a German choir from Rochester. Other entertainment was to take a stroll on the beach or just have a good meal. They served beer but didn’t sell any Bartholomay beer. You could only get that beer at the Cottage Hotel as it was owned by Henry Bartholomay.
Present day Lake Avenue was a toll road so it easier to take the railroad than a wagon ride. Besides the railroad, you could get to Charlotte via a boat on the Genesee River from the Glen House that used to be on the river in present day Maplewood Park. There was also a ferry that ran between Charlotte, Summerville and Newport House on Irondequoit Bay. More transport options would be added in later years.
The Democrat & Chronicle of Sept. 7, 1884 said that barns and sheds associated with the Hotel Ontario were almost complete. Last day that the hotel was open that first year was Sept. 28th. The next year it would be open for the full summer season.
Next: Rides and other amusements come to the beach.