Commerical Hotel
A Postville Landmark

I have a special fondness for this old hotel because it holds many memories for my family.  Charles Reincke, my g-grandfather owned the Hotel from 1925-1948.  My grandparents, Fred Groth & Dorothy Reincke were married in the Hotel.  Many family photos were taken outside this Hotel...regretfully, I don't have any interior photos.  As a child growing up in Postville, I passed by the Hotel thousands of times......but never went in......
Commerical Hotel
The red was hand-colored in this picture, the building was not red.
The fire which destroyed the Commercial Hotel building here Saturday, March 25, has prompted an attempt to reconstruct a history of the landmark.  The present owners, Richard and Jean Van Wey, furnished the Herald with the abstract of the property.  Information has also been gathered from old papers and the 1913 Hancock history of Allamakee County.

The abstract of title to the Commercial Hotel building lots proved interesting.  The section of land on which Postville stands was first purchased by Zeruiah Post from the United States in 1851. She was the wife of Joel Post for whom Postville is named.

In 1864 Zeruiah Haywood (formerly Zeruiah Post) sold the land in Postville to John Lawler, who platted the original part of Postville in that year.  This is the year that the railroad reached Postville.  No record of a date or deed were recorded, but apparently Lawler then sold the west two lots to Waren Van Hooser and wife, who in turn sold them to Thomas Osterander on May 6, 1866.

On March 16, 1867 William Collins purchased the two lots and added another to the east which was purchased from John Lawler.  This must have been a speculation buy by Collins because he sold to John and Kate Kelly.  One would suspect this was when the building was built, but no definite proof is available.

The Kellys also obtained the lot on the east side of the property from John T. Stoneman in August 1869.  When John Kelly and his wife died their estate was left to her father, John Head, Sr., who gave it to the New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque.  For some reason the east lot was then sold to J.E. Hughes, who in turn gave it to his wife, Amanda.  This single lot was then owned by the Hughes, despite mortgaging it several times, until 1898 when it was sold to A.E. Cornell, who joined it with the original three lots.

An interesting sidelight to the Kelly ownership was that his will provided for the sale of two other lots he owned in Postville and the use of these funds to purchase a marble monument for he and his wife.  They both died in 1874 according to probate notices.  Perhaps this could still be found in the Postville cemetery.

In 1871 John Kelly and his wife sold the lots to J.A. Roe and this [sic] wife C.C., but the Kelly's kept a mortgage, which ended up with the Abbey at New Melleray.  Roe and his wife kept the property only a year and sold it to H.S. Humphreys and his wife in January of 1875.  September 8 1876 Matilda Johnson bought the building from Humphreys, but sold it back in January of 1880, to Humphreys.

A copy of the Postville
Review of December 30, 1882, lists the proprietor of the Commercial Hotel as James M. Lisher who also operated a livery stable in connection with the hotel.  Humphreys sold the hotel to George Lull in 1883, and Lull in turn sold it to James M. and Mary A. Lisher on January 2, 1886.  The Lishers then operated the hotel until Sept. 19, 1891, when they sold it to A.E. and Carrie B. Cornell.

It was Cornell who then brought the four lots back together again.  One might suspect that this was when the addition was made to the southeast corner of the building.  Cornell had a $4,000 mortgage on the building at that time.  The Cornells owned the property until 1912 when they transferred the title to F.W. Meiske and his wife, Julia, but held a mortgage for over $17,000.  The Meiskes then owned the building and continued to operate as such until they sold it to
Charles F. Reincke on April 15, 1925.

Reincke continued to own the property until 1948, except for a short period in 1936 when he transferred the title to his daughter and son and their spouses.  They were Fred and Dorothy Groth and Delmar and Iva Reincke, January 2, 1948 saw the title pass on to Hubert C. and Thelma I. Luhman and George E. and Pearl B. Cooke. 

The Cookes didn't continue the partnership long as they sold their half interest to M. Roger and Ellen Sherman in November 1949.  The Shermans were in partnership only about two years before selling out to Luhman in 1952.  Luhman continued the operation until June 2, 1966 when he sold the business to Ralph J. and Lois N. Schrader.

The Schraders operated it less than a year before selling it to Robert E. and Los K. Jones, in early 1967.  Glen and Dorothy Schave purchased the property in October of 1973.  They in turn sold it to John E. and Linda Martin in January of 1976.  The Martins sold the building to Richard and Jean Van Wey in August of 1977.

The Van Weys had started a large renovation project on the building and completed most of the outside, and were working on the apartments inside.  The furnace which apparently caused the fire was scheduled to be replaced this summer.

At one time the hotel had a large dining room and was the scene of many meetings, receptions, etc.  Many early residents of Postville report eating and attending parties there.  Apparently age and the use of motels led to the decline of the use of the building as a hotel.  Of course the dropping of the many passenger trains by the railroad had led to the original decline.
A history of the Commerical Hotel
Transcribed from the Postville Herald, Wednesday, April 5, 1978
Surname -- Given name -- Age -- Relation -- Marital -- Occupation -- Birthplace
to head      status         (if given)
Humphreys, Hiram 44; married; keeping hotel; b. OH
Humphreys, Prifia* 38; wife; land-lady; b. OH
Humphreys, Ida 16; daughter; b. IA
Humphreys, Levi 14; son; at school; b. IA
Humphreys, Jesse 5; son; b. IA
Humphreys, Hiram 2; son; b. IA
Jackson, Andrew 34; boarder; married; selling musical instruments; b. MI
Jackson, Ellen 21; boarder; married; b.WI
McDonald, Bron 24; boarder; single; book-keeper; b. IA
Schultz, Henry 20; boarder; single; clerk in dry goods store; b. IA
McGhee, John 21; boarder; single; selling ??; b. IA
Meyers, Martin L. 26; clerk; single; Hotel clerk; b. IA
Keeley, Catherina 40; servant; widow; Kitchen girl; b. Ireland
Foley, Mary 22; servant; single; cook; b. Ireland
Crenau*, Mary 26; servant; single; laundry woman; b. ?
Mylau*, Louisa 21; servant; single; dining room girl; b. WI
Wiggins, George 24; boarder; single; blacksmith; b. IA

Lisher, James 36; married; keeping hotel; b. IN
Lisher, Mary 35; wife; land-lady; b. Ireland
Lisher, Floyd 9; son; b. IA
Lisher, Myrtle 3; daughter; b. IA
Keinwery*, Almus* 30; boarder; single; grain buyer; b. PA
Burton, Fred 29; boarder; single; works in elevator; b. RI
Leithold, Chris 30; boarder; single; selling farm machinery; b. Bavaria
Baird, Selden 23; boarder; single; telegraph operator; b. WI
W??ser*, Frank 21; boarder; single; telegraph operator; b. OH
Haus, George 25; boarder; single; Dentist; b. NJ
Konig, Theodore 21; boarder; single; harness maker; b. Germany
Cauderhog*, William 24; clerk; single; clerk in hotel; b. MA
Wells, Henry 20; servant; single; hostter*; b. IA
Sheehy, Margaret 21; servant; single; dining room girl; b. IA
Peterson, Elizabeth 16; servant; single; chamber maid; b. IA
Coats, Mary 26; servant; single; cook; b. WI
Cimtura*, Anna 18; servant; single; laundry woman; b. Bohemia
Sauhore*, Rosa 17; servant; single; laundry woman; b. Bohemia

*very difficult to read, may be incorrect
1880 Federal Census, IA, Allamakee Co., incorporated village of Postville, enumerator Ellison Orr.
Green Street
Census Records:
I thought it would be interesting, and possibly of some value to transcribe the census records showing who was staying in the  local Postville hotels. 
I believe the following records are for 2 hotels, apparently adjacent to one another on Green St., but am not sure.
Additional information about the
Commerical Hotel is welcomed....

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Allamakee Co. Pioneers
copyright 2001 & 2002 Sharyl Groth-Ferrall