Ellicottville and The Inn’s Beginnings….


The village of Ellicottville, the geographical center of the county, was chosen as the county seat when Cattaraugus County was formed in 1808. Ellicottville was named for the Holland Land Company’s chief surveyor and resident land-agent, Joseph Ellicott. By 1817, the Holland Land Company chose Ellicottville for the southern regional land office and the village began to take shape with a grid street plan. The Holland Land Company was a group of Dutch bankers and land speculators who bought approximately 3.6 million acres of unsettled territory in Western New York in 1792, and Joseph Ellicott subdivided its holdings into towns each a six mile square.The two lots that presently have our Inn at 3 Jefferson and the corner house at 1 Jefferson plus the house next door on Park Square were on two lots which were later severed in 1886 and 1932. According to the deed, lots 15 and 16 were sold by one group, presumably some business persons from The Netherlands, and then to another group of four men in November 1835 for $41.85. A year later in November 1836 that group sold the same lots to Issac Curry for $50. When Robert Shankland bought the land in November, 1837 for $700 it was to begin the history.In Decemeber 1886 a lot was severed that was 37-foot in width and two chains wide on Elizabeth Street for Eliza Shankland.

1837 to 1890 (Shankland)

In 1835, when Robert Shankland was 21 years old, he came to Ellicottville and purchased The Republican, a weekly newspaper for $200. The newspaper, then called the Cattaraugus Republican, was a source of state and national news and given that the area was sparsely settled, and mail poor, it was an important source of news. Robert was active in the democratic party at all levels serving in various capacities including Supervisor of Ellicottville.Robert had one son, Robert who lived and worked in this area and with his second wife he had three children. Palmer was the editor of the Jamestown newspaper, Rachel (McVean) resided in Michigan. Eliza never married and lived next door in a house built on the property and deeded to her in December,1886. Eliza Shankland was evidently a painter of some ability.Robert’s obituary dated November 6, 1889, stated, “He died in the old home where he had lived continuously for the past 54 years.”

In the deed there is continuous mention of Eliza Shankland holding a mortgage from 1890 to 1932 but no record of a deed from Eliza to the McMahons in 1890.

It was mentioned in one history that the addition was added in 1889 which is interesting considering that Robert died in late 1889. For whom was it built and why?

When the County seat moved to Little Valley in 1868, the logging and wood products industries became the major economic force.

1890-1898 (McMahon)

The ownership goes from James W. McMahon and his wife Tillie and Daniel P. McMahon and his wife Rose to James G. McMahon September 2, 1890, with mention of $2,200. And there is a record of mortgage to Eliza Shankland for $1000 dated August 26, 1890. Then in January 21, 1893, the house was deeded from James to Rose. Rose McMahon was on the deed until when it was sold in 1898. The house was doubled in size and perhaps the two couples lived in it until only Rose was left. Or maybe it was just an investment for eight years.It is difficult to find people who knew the McMahons but one village resident has stated that there was a General Store owned by Hickey and McMahon that was located where the present DJ Restaurant and the Real Estate offices are now on Washington at Monroe.

1898 – 1932 (Hickey)

The Hickey family owned this home, minus Eliza Shankland’s cottage on the corner for two generations. First there was Mary Hickey to whom Rose McMahon sold the property July 25, 1898, then when she died intestate on June 28, 1907, the house was left to her husband Eugene and their four sons, Niel (Cornelius) full age, Thomas Eugene, full age, James, age 17 and Robert, age 15. Eugene’s second wife, Elizabeth had one daughter, Alice. When Eugene died April 7, 1926, there is mention of quit claims from Cornelius, James and Robert to Thomas Eugene April 14, 1926, and then on August 10, 1928, from Thomas Eugene to his stepmother, Elizabeth Hickey who remained owning the house until September 1932.According to an issue of The Villager, the sons of Mary Hickey did not remain at home when they were grown up: Niel never married, Jim married Dorothy Walrath (Walrath’s owned where the Edelweiss is now) but they had no children and (Thomas) Eugene had a daughter who moved to California. Bob had two daughters, Mary Ellen of California and Anne of Missouri. Alice, Elizabeth’s daughter went to college in New Jersey and worked at teaching and then returned to the Jamestown area as a Social Worker. Alice was born 11/17/13 and died 10/11/88 and was buried from the O’Rourke Funeral Home where she had been born almost 75 years before. The Hickey’s must have built the house on Park Square because it is only mentioned in the sale to the Fraser’s. It was thought to have been used by servants or tenants.Another story is told that the Victorian Porch was removed by Eugene Hickey and that it is said to duplicate the one at the summer home of President Woodrow Wilson at Seagirt, N.J. If anyone knows about that house we would be interested to locate that Seagirt home.

1932 – 1956 (Fraser)

Nellie Fraser purchased the house and there is mention of $1,500 and a $4,300 mortgage… Many villagers remember the Fraser’s who came from Scotland and eventually had a hardware store in the village. Their daughter, Violet, taught piano lessons to many of our local people. “My parents were both born in Scotland and grew up together from childhood. My father was a Marine engineer and … my parents were married in New York City. My mother’s brother came to Ellicottville expecting to raise sheep on the hills but the climate was too cold for the sheep and they all died of TB. He had persuaded my father to help him in this business, but when it failed, my father started a hardware business which grew over the years until he sold in 1956…..I (Violet) graduated from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and received my Master’s Degree and taught in Florida until returning to Ellicottville to start my own piano classes.”When the property changed hands in 1932 there is mention of the property being severed on the west side (111×37) to be kept by Elizabeth Hickey for her heirs. This property faces Park Square.During the 1940’s skiing began modestly and Holiday Valley started in 1957 and HoliMont in 1964.


1956 – 1994 (O’Rourke)

In 1956, the house was purchased from the Fraser’s by Mary A. O’Rourke and Edward (Ned) O’Rourke.An apartment on the second story portion of the building was refurbished from existing bedrooms, and that is where Mary O’Rourke lived until her death in 1985.The first story of the building was used by the O’Rourke Funeral Home until the sale of the building in 1994.In 1960, an addition was added on the Elizabeth Street side of the premises to accommodate a selection room.

1994 to 2006

Jim Buchanan and his wife, Donna Gushue purchased the home February 1994, renovated & opened with five bedrooms in December 1, 1994. They maintained the Victorian woodwork and general spaciousness of the home while adding ten bathrooms and upgrading all the utilities and other comfort measures.The Inn was an immediate success for the traveler wanting a quiet, romantic get-away but there was a need for a different type of accommodation. In the summer of 1997 they made two efficiency units to provide accommodations for their guests traveling with small children or with their family dog. These units began to attract the business person who wanted their own TV’s so these were added to those units in 1998.By the spring of 1999 the need for a luxury suite became apparent and two rooms upstairs were combined to give a bedroom plus a living room complete with fireplace and TV/DVD.In 2002, a hot tub was added to the back deck.

2006 to Present

In August 2006, the Inn was purchased by Jean Kirsch. Jean had always planned on retiring early and opening a B&B. After nearly 25 years in financial services based in New York City and London, England, the plan became a reality. Jean grew up in West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo so she was very familiar with Ellicottville and all it had to offer. In May 2007, Jean moved to Ellicottville full time to run the Inn. Shortly after moving to Ellicottville, Ellie arrived, a golden retriever puppy. Ellie, named after Ellie-cottville can be found roaming the lawn and gardens or wherever there is a guest to pet her!Many renovations have taken place at the Inn since 2006. The entire interior was refurbished and redecorated with antiques and antique reproductions. Comfortable porch rockers and tables and chairs were added to all the porches.The result is a traditional but comfortable home away from home!