Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of Novels and Hotels and Farms

In 1951, John O'Hara published a novella--The Farmers Hotel--that involves some travelers and passers-by stranded by a blizzard in a small hotel that was just in the process of opening.  I liked the book when I read it some months ago.  It's an unpretentious tale of love and ambition and race and how circumstances often alter our well-planned lives.

I had read in some of the biographical material that the building O'Hara had in mind (not an exact duplicate of the cover art) was on Beckville Road near the small town of Cressona, PA, not far from his boyhood home in Pottsville.  The O'Haras also had a farm they used for a summer getaway on Panther Valley Road, which intersects with Beckville Road.  When the O'Haras went out to their farm, they would have passed right by the building.

former home of Katherine Delaney,
mother of John O'Hara
Lykens, PA
Well ... even with MapQuest and GPS and a very smart woman beside me, I sometimes, uh, don't exactly end up where I thought I was.  We were coming from Lykens, PA, where O'Hara's mother had grown up (we found her house) and where his parents were married (we found it, too--and a kind secretary showed us the sanctuary, somewhat altered from the days of the 1903 marriage between Katherine Delaney and Dr. Patrick O'Hara--Dad was an M.D.).

Panther Valley
We eventually found Panther Valley Road and drove its lovely length--a narrow winding road among the hills, some old farms (which was theirs?) sitting here and there.

But we had failed to find the old hotel on our trip into town, and I was preparing to head back up PA 901 to a building I'd thought might be it when we entered town.  But when we turned left onto 901 from Panther Valley Road, we almost immediately saw the building--somewhat changed, now a private home--but still very clearly the place that had once been the Farmers Hotel of O'Hara's novel.

the "Farmers Hotel" near Cressona, PA
I wrenched the wheel, parking across Beckville Road (some annoyed drivers behind me--farmers in search of a hotel?--honked derisively; there may have been some unhappy words and sign language as well), came to a stop.  I hopped out of the car and fired off a few pictures.

And off we drove to our hotel in Pottsville (a Ramada, not a Farmers), feeling that euphoria we've felt for years, driving country roads together, searching for something we love, in company with someone we love.


  1. My great aunt used to own this building and my dad spent much of his childhood here. I am not sure who owns it now as it was sold several years ago. My folks still have some of the original furniture and I have copies of the old menu from the hotel kitchen.

    1. Lynn--What a great story! I would love to have a photocopy of that menu (I'm making a presentation about O'Hara in April). Also ... any photos of the inside/outside? You can reach me at danieldyer44@gmail.com

      Thanks so much for this information.