The Chambers Hotel was constructed in 1889 by a citizens group headed by Sheriff James H. Chambers, and was opened to the public in 1890 as the Chambers House. The elegant hotel was built on the corner of First Street and Warren Avenue in the business center of town. It was considered a brick structure of “modern style and finish” and inside its arrangements were “up to the highest standard of comfort and elegance, with natural gas heating and water and electrical bells on every floor” according to advertisements of the day.
In 1912, the building was bought by Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Hartman who changed the name to the Hartman House. The name was changed back to the Chambers Hotel in memory of Private Eugene L. Chambers of Apollo who was killed on December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The hotel was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Maraffi when the fourth floor caught on fire on September 25, 1948. The Hartman House, as it was then known, was severely damaged in the fire. Approximately 50 persons were left homeless. Flames, which followed an explosion swept the entire fourth floor of the huge structure and caused damage estimated at close to $100,000. The explosion echoed through the building at 1:45 a.m. and soon flames were pouring through the roof. Forty two permanent guests and several transient were quickly hurried from the structure. No one was injured. Four engine companies from Apollo, N. Apollo, Oklahoma, and Vandergrift battled the blaze throughout the night and were still working into the next morning, long after dawn. Quick work by the firemen kept the flames centered on the top floor, but water damage was reported throughout the hotel and in the drug store owned by W.E. Pauly, which has been located in the west corner of the hotel for more than 50 years. Owner and proprietor of the hotel, Joseph Maraffi had purchased the structure in 1946. He and his wife was in their second floor bedroom when the explosion rocked the building. She said the blast blew her off the bed. Mrs. Robert Walker and three children who lived on the fourth floor lost their entire personal possessions as they hurried from the building. Many families were able to carry some of their belongings with them, but much personal property was lost. A hotel employee, Mrs. C.M. Free, who lives across Warren Avenue, had her home piled with personal belongings of guests of the hotel. Many stayed with her until other quarters were found. Only one injury was reported to a volunteer firefighter from Leechburg. The fourth floor was so badly damaged that no attempt was made to restore it. The floor was removed and a roof was built over the ceiling of the third floor according to the Apollo News-Record, September 1948.
Frank and Mary DeMeno bought the hotel in 1953. On August 14, 1976, fire again swept through the building. Frank and Mary DeMeno had owned the building for about 23 years. According to the Apollo News-Record of August 18, 1976, the first call was made to Rainbow Control at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday, August 14 to report the fire. When the first trucks from the Apollo companies arrived, smoke and flames were coming from around the false ceiling on the third floor. The first two companies were primarily concerned with the evacuation of the building. The hotel residents, who were not able to save their belongings, made arrangements to stay with relatives or through the Vandergrift Salvation Army. Firemen were hampered by the wind blowing across the roof and by the dense, heavy smoke. The fire was brought under control shortly after 6 p.m. No other structures in the business district were damaged.
The Apollo Fire Companies were assisted by Kiski Twp. Vandergrift, N. Apollo, Oklahoma, State police, Lower Kiski and Avonmore Ambulance Services. The losses were estimated at $200,000.
The Chambers Hotel had a side apartment where Mr. W.F. Pauley opened his drug store. His sons, William J. who was also a registered pharmacist, and Franklin worked in the store and continued to operate it until 1964.
|The Chambers Hotel Milestones|
1889 The Chambers Hotel was built.
1912 Mr. & Mrs. C.A. Hartman bought the building & changed the name to Hartman House.
1942 Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Maraffi bought the building.
1948 Fire destroys fourth floor.
1950 Name changed back to Chambers Hotel by the American Legion to honor Eugene Chambers.
1953 Frank & Mary DeMeno bought the building.
1976 Fire again causes much damage to the building.
1987 Jim & Maryanne Minnick bought the building.
2020 Walter & Jennifer Seniow bought the building.
Visit our 2018 Cemetery Tour to learn more about Eugene Chambers and his family.