By Mary Fox
The Edelweiss Lodge on the corner of Jefferson and Martha streets has been sold.
The property was purchased by Rudra Hotel/Property Management of Cheektowaga, which owns 25 hotels in the western New York and northern Pennsylvania area.
“The building’s interior will be renovated completely and the exterior freshened up,” said Jayesh Patel, president and CEO of the company. “Plans for the renovations will be formulated over the next couple of months. It will be open all year.”
The deal was closed April 11.
Former night clerk, Lyn Timon, said, “They have already started to make improvements.”
“Shuffleboard, bridge and a nap in the afternoon,” said previous owner, Bill Osbaldeston, when asked his plans now that the Edelweiss Lodge has been sold. “But, honestly,” he said, “I have nothing planned at the moment.”
Bill is presently taking a well-earned vacation in Spain but intends to return to Ellicottville where he will continue to reside.
His father, Bernie Osbaldeston, bought the property and outbuildings in 1977, and took over management of the lodge in 1991.
On Jan. 17, 2000, a devastating fire destroyed the main lodge, which made it necessary to rebuild the entire structure.
“It was not cost effective to restore it to the elegance of the original Victorian style,” said Bill.
The original owner, local resident Commodore Perry Vedder, built the house in 1861 as his home. Vedder rose from Private to Lt. Colonel during three years of service in the Civil War, after which he was active in many political offices and businesses enterprises in the state.
The house was designed to emulate Italian villa architecture, the height of architectural fashion at the time.
“The house boasted of gracious porches, with striped awnings for the summer and a large barn with cupola and elegant details inside and out. High ceilings with ornamental coving had medallions where chandeliers were suspended. There was a circular stairway with scrollwork to the second floor. A fountain on the front lawn received water from the hill behind the Parker House on Adams Street. A mounting block is still in place in the side yard,” as quoted from a 1997 article written by Mary Duszynski.
After Vedder’s death in 1910, the house was sold to Walter D. Walrath who, along with his brothers, ran a general store in town.
In the 1930s William Shearman, a superintendent at the Borden Condensery, purchased the Vedder house. His wife and son ran a tearoom there.
In the 1940s, Carl Monkhouse bought the house. A sophisticated businessman from San Francisco, he leased space in Burrell Cutlery Factory manufacturing barber scissors for jobbers in the beauty trade and surgical instruments for the U.S. Army during WWII.
Monkhouse remodeled the first floor and formed the Azalea Club, a private club which had no liquor license so members kept their bottles in lockers on the premises. There were legal slot machines.
“Pop” Monkhouse also invited British sailors whose WWII ship was in dry dock to come to Ellicottville for R&R.
In 1949, the house was sold to Leonard Grainge, who in turn sold it to Franz & Trudy Elsigan in 1957.
The Elsigans made it into a ski lodge and ran it as such until 1977. Their son, Hal Elsigan, remembers going downtown to Morlock’s Bakery early mornings to get donuts for the skier’s breakfasts.
The Vedder House has gone through an attempt to give it an alpine look, and a fire, too. It has been a popular lodge for skiers and visitors to Ellicottville for the past 57 years and a home for five different families during the 96 years before that.
When it was built, it was the most beautiful house in Ellicottville. If only it could be returned it to its original splendor.