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The Erie House of Port Byron

If you were traveling through Port Byron in 1900 on the Erie Canal,

you would have come upon a clapboard bu ilding with a tall , narrow, storefront facade.

Two large windows looked out over the canal towpath which passed by the fro nt door.

A sign perched high above the entrance proc laimed in fancy lettering that you had arri ved at Erie House,

a famili ar and well-frequented canal-side saloon and hotel.

Erie House was a respectable establishment owned and operated by Peter Van Detto an Italian immigrant who,

with his brother Salvatore, made his way to America and central New York in the 1880s.

Mr. Van Detto built Erie House in 1894 and opened its doors as a public emporium for the serving of spirits, dining and lodging.

Mr. Yan Detto could not have chosen a better spot. One hundred yards west of the Erie House,

Lock 52 passed boats night and day while, just across the canal,

Tanner’s Drydock operated as a facility for the construction and repair of canal vessels.

 Guests of the Erie House included canal boatmen, travelers passing through town and local habitues of the saloon.

At Erie House, customs of the day prevailed, and only men were allowed to enter the barroom.

Ladies were welcome but entered a back dining room through an entrance on the side porch.

An antlered deer head advertising Buck’s Beer stared out over the barroom at patrons who could sit on benches made by Mr. Yan Detto.

The guest rooms upstairs were small, comfortable and clean. Each was appointed with an iron bed, a dresser and a wash basin.

It is difficult today to imagine a full registerof guests, the Yan Detto family and a dog named Maude all under one roof.

Peter Yan Detto’s business was a success.

He later opened a stable, blacksmith shop and ice-house to compliment his saloon and hotel.

In 1903, however, Port Byron’s days as a canal town were numbered. The people of New York voted to approve funds for the construction of the Barge Canal System.

The Barge Canal System replaced the antiquated 19th-century canals and towpaths with

a state of the art inland waterway which followed “canalized” natural water courses for much of its length.

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