For a long time, Keeler’s was the
hotel in Albany, even among other highly respected establishments such as The Kenmore and The Ten Eyck. As Dr. William Henry Johnson wrote in 1900, “Keeler’s Hotel, corner Broadway and Maiden lane, is one of the finest hotels in the State, complete in every particular.”
Keeler’s was on the west side of Broadway at Maiden Lane, about where the Arcade Building is today. William Henry Keeler was born in 1841. According to the Albany Rural Cemetery website, “In 1863, he opened Keeler’s Oyster
House at State and Green Streets, which soon became the most popular and famous
oyster house in upstate New York. He
sold the oyster house to his brother in 1870. In 1886, he opened a restaurant at 26
Maiden Lane. In 1890, he purchased
the property from his restaurant through to Broadway and built Keeler’s Hotel.” He died in 1918 and is buried, like any good Albanian, in the Rural Cemetery.
Possibly unique among Albany hoteliers, Keeler had his own supply of ice, a vital necessity in the days before electric refrigeration. An article from the January 1906 edition of the perhaps not widely read “Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal” reported that that winter’s prospects were “very favorable for Mr. Keeler’s filling his ice houses from his ‘Maceland Kill,’ as it is called, with from 10 to 12 inch ice. Mr. Keeler supplies a large city patronage, aside from his hotel needs. The Maceland Kill, which was formerly the chief supply of the water reservoir that for many years was utilized as the main supply of Albany’s drinking water, is situated about a mile and a half north of Albany and about 2,000 feet west of the river.” The article refers to the Maizelandt Kill (sometimes “Maiselandt”), which was indeed a part (not the chief supply) of the Albany Water Works as it was made up in 1850.
All that ice didn’t help on June 17, 1919, when Keeler’s Hotel burned spectacularly to the ground. The New York Times wrote:
“The interior of Keeler’s Hotel at Broadway and Maiden Lane, one of Albany’s landmarks and a hostelry known throughout the country, was completely destroyed by fire in less than two hours early today. The 226 patrons, all men, escaped. One fireman was buried beneath falling walls and killed. The loss is estimated at more than half a million dollars. The fire was one of the most spectacular in the city’s history. Parts of the building had stood on the present site for generations and offered fine material for the flames. The blaze, of unknown origin, was discovered soon after 3 A.M. in the cabaret, a building which adjoins the sleeping quarters on the south. For a time it was confined to this building. This gave opportunity to arouse the patrons, many of whom gathered, scantily clad, in the main lobby of the hotel, only to be driven out into the street. Others who remained in their rooms to dress were later forced to throw their suitcases from windows and make their exits by way of the fire escapes.”
As can be seen in the marvelous image of Keeler’s from the Library of Congress Collection and here reproduced very large by Shorpy.com, finding a fire escape was not a problem.
Note that right next door to Keeler’s was Cotrell and Leonard, the firm that invented the American cap and gown.