Hotel man profiled in new Sayre Quarterly

SAYRE - Robert Adam of Sayre was the proprietor of the Wilbur Hotel in the years following the Great Depression and Sayre's No. 1 Elk when he passed away in 1962. His story is told in the Winter issue of the Sayre Historical Society Quarterly.

CAPTION: Robert Adam, a prominent hotel owner in Sayre in the 1930's and 40's and a charter member of the Sayre Elks Lodge, is featured in the Winter issue of the Sayre Historical Society Quarterly. (Photo courtesy of Agnes Griffin)

Included in the 20-page booklet are numerous historic photographs of the landmark hotel located on the corner of Desmond Street and W. Packer Avenue in downtown Sayre. Built in 1880 by Robert A. Packer, the hotel has undergone numerous transformations over 137 years including a 2001 renovation by Trehab that brought the historic brick structure back to its original splendor.

It was a different scene when Adam bought a run-down establishment in 1932 and remade the hotel into one of Bradford County's largest, and next to the Ward House in Towanda, its most famous hostelry, according to a 1962 Evening Times newspaper account.

Adam also served as exalted ruler of the Sayre Elks on two occasions and was a founding member of the lodge when it was formed in 1909, according to his obituary. He served as district deputy in 1932, the first from Sayre, and was president of the Northeast District Elks Association in 1941.

Adam, one of 12 children, came to Sayre when he was five years old. His father (James Adam) was chief bill clerk for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. According to his obituary, Adam had learned the trade of boilermaker as an apprentice in the Sayre System Shops and worked for the Lackawanna Railroad before returning to Sayre. As a teenager, Adam had the distinction of being the "youngest car chalker" in the United States, his obituary stated.

In 1907, he opened the Central Cigar Store on Desmond Street and later turned to hotel management.

A number of rare photographs of Adam and the Wilbur Hotel were donated to the historical society by his daughter, Agnes Griffin of Sayre.

The Quarterly is published four times per year and is a membership benefit of the Sayre Historical Society. Individual copies are available at Carl's New Stand on Desmond Street in Sayre. Visit for more information on membership.

Other stories in the winter issue include the memories in 1937 of a 90-year-old Sayre resident by the name of Augustus P. Kremer. Mr. Kremer's recollections were included in an article from the Sayre Evening Times newspaper. The article appeared in a scrapbook of Valley items compiled by Miss Mary Frost of Waverly and recently donated to the Sayre Historical Society by Rose Lerche.

Mr. Kremer was a former freight clerk in Sayre when the town's first railroad station was located between the tracks east of the present two-story brick passenger station built in 1881. He married Carrie Bradley of Sayre in 1885. The couple had a daughter named Nora and a son, Edwin. They celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1935.

Mr. Kremer lived at 306 S. Keystone Avenue in West Sayre and described the main thoroughfare at the time as a "muddy lane" with few houses and mostly farm lands and vacant plots.

The article said Mr. Kremer remained neutral in political discussions, kept out of arguments and was reported to be in good health.

Mr. Kremer attributes his health and long life to non-use of liquor and tobacco, which, especially for the former, he says he has seen put many in their graves, according to the news account.

The center section of the booklet features a photograph of the 1962 Epiphany eighth grade graduating class. Father Francis Toolan is surrounded by 26 graduates.

Sayre's walk bridge is also highlighted in the winter issue featuring the reminiscences of Dr. Jeremy Plant who photographed the bridge starting in 1967. His recollections appeared in a 2008 issue of Milepost magazine, a publication by the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

My older brother Jeffrey was (and is) an active rail fan also, and was finishing his law studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, less than an hour away from Sayre, he said. So it was a mecca for us to visit on weekends when I could combine rail fanning with a fraternal visit.

Seven photographs showing the walk bridge or views from the walk bride are included with the article. One of the photographs showing Lehigh Valley Railroad diesel locomotives beneath the walk bridge was taken by well-known railroad photographer J. J. Young of Binghamton.

Plant, who has authored or co-authored more than 20 books on railroad subjects, referred to the landmark Sayre structure as the "Railfan Bridge." He is a professor of public policy and administration at Penn State Harrisburg.

A 1916 article from the Elmira Telegram newspaper recounts the amazing exploits of champion checker player James Adams of Sayre who defeated 15 rivals in a competition held in Elmira. The competition took place at Lagonegro's Cigar Store.

Just to make the matter binding, he sent word up from Sayre that on Thursday evening, April 20, he was not booked for a ladies sewing society or a pink tea and could drop in any decent place in Elmira and run off a couple of rounds, with the best the city afforded in the line of expert movers, fifteen at a time, the 1916 article said. The word went out, and clans from the office, meat market, factory and banks commenced to collect.

In the final tally, the Sayre checker "champeen" won 17 matches, lost 4 and had nine draws.

A postcard view of the Methodist Church in Sayre from the Marty Smith Collection is also included in the Winter issue. A program cover from the 21st Annual Banquet of the Sayre Sportsmen's Club from 1957 is also included. The back cover features a photograph of the Art Reagan Jewelers sign that graced the landmark Sayre jewelry store for many years.

The historical society, located in the Lehigh Valley Railroad passenger station in downtown Sayre, is a recipient of funds from the United Way of Bradford County. The membership-supported organization, which reopens on April 7 with "The Fight for Liberty: Sayre in World War I," also receives funds from the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.

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