Proper food and drinks made by slightly improper folks
The newly renovated and reimagined Boyer's Tavern, formerly Boyer's Cafe, is excited to return to business under new leadership in Rexmont, PA. The tavern, complete with expanded parking and new outdoor deck, is serving the Lebanon community and beyond. Come see us for thirst-quenching drinks and delicious food; a perfect spot for families, friends, and colleagues to gather and enjoy. We look forward seeing you soon!
Today, what most people recall as the former Boyer’s Café, or even from an earlier time – the Rexmont Hotel, see the large structure as a single large, imposing building with a series of adjoining structures composed of interesting, yet non-conforming lines of architecture, all situated on a single plot of ground. That has not always been the case. In fact, a little over a century ago, a narrow 11-foot wide alley separated the two very different structures.
In 1887, Frederick Carpenter, a one-time sheriff of Lebanon County, built a 31⁄2-story hotel on the eastern tract of land he had purchased from his brother, John. Eight years later, Frederick sold his establishment, the Carpenter Hotel, back to his brother. Upon the sudden death of John in 1897, the hotel was leased to Oliver Hoke, while John’s widow, Mary, held the deed to the property.
Two years later, in 1899, Mr. Hoke moved his family to Manheim, Lancaster County, and Reuben Carpenter, a brother to Frederick and John, moved into the hotel with his wife and children. The latest ‘brood” of the Carpenters ran the hotel for another two years when the hotel and adjoining tract of land with its one and one half- story structures, were sold to George Trafford. Trafford was not a newcomer to the hotel business. After all, he had successfully operated the Franklin House, located on Schaefferstown’s busy market square. However, Trafford had his interests on another well-established tavern – the Golden Key Hotel, located along the Cornwall Pike. Therefore, within that same year, the “Rexmont House” was once again sold, briefly, to Fred Ehrhorn. Clinton Smith, proprietor of the Oswego House, and his wife, Laura, relocated to Rexmont from the City of Lebanon and began leasing the property from Ehrhorn in 1906 before purchasing it outright in 1907.
The Smith’s changed the name of their new enterprise to the “Rexmont Hotel.” The latest proprietors of the hotel struggled, at first, running the establishment. The entire real estate and its contents were sold back and forth through a series of complicated transactions, from the Smiths to William L. Donmoyer, trading as the “New Lebanon Brewing Company,” and back to the Smiths, all in a matter of a few years.
While Prohibition restricted the sale of alcoholic beverages, meals and ice cream concoctions were served in Snyder’s restaurant and Bender’s confectionary store, respectively. By 1925, rooms were no longer rented out to weary travelers but accommodations were provided for long-term guests. The Knights of the Mystic Chain, Patriotic Oder Sons of America, and Golden Eagle Band, three of the town’s fraternal and musical organizations, held their weekly meetings or rehearsal sessions on the top floor of the establishment. The hotel was a busy place. Traveling medicine shows would frequently stop here, allowing the carnival-like barkers to sell their “cure-all” concoctions. Politicians used the site as a backdrop to deliver promising campaign speeches at the wildly popular political rallies. The selling of “shoats, breeding sows, and boars” as well as shooting matches of chickens, geese, and ducks took place on site. It was a popular place, for not only the usual bar room brawls, but for the locals to catch up on the
day’s events or converse on local or distant news over “spirited libations.” In the adjoining one and a half story structure, legal matters were discussed with John D. Boger, the town’s justice of the peace. Mail was received and delivered in the small, but tidy post office. News could be delivered in minutes across town or around the world by using one of the town’s “public” telephones. And, until the formation of Cornwall Borough in 1926, citizens cast their votes for candidates seeking a spot at all levels of government. In the latter years of the twentieth century, “Wink’s Snack Shack” a popular hangout for the local youth, replaced Ray Dishong’s barbershop. Mr. Dishong hadn’t been the first to operate a barber shop here. In the latter years of the nineteenth and early years of the twentieth century, Charles Yeager, Charles Clemens, and later to Harry Clemens along with his assistant, Frank Petry, conducted their “tonsorial” shop in the farthest adjoining structure from the hotel.
The hotel would eventually became one of the most well-known establishments in the area and surrounding communities. Throughout most of the twentieth century, Clinton and Laura Smith, along with their four children, Clarence, Rhea, Kathryn, and Lottie, all assisted in some way or another to help run the family business. By 1965, Kathryn Smith, postmaster and the sole owner of the establishment sold the popular business and its one and one half acre plot of ground to Robert L. Boyer and his wife, Joan. Like the Smiths, the Boyers and their five children assisted in running the business throughout the waning years of the twentieth century. And, in 2014, after nearly fifty years of dedication and the death of Mr. Boyer, Joan sold the aging structure and all its contents to Arden A. Snook and his wife, Tina M. Snook. The Snooks, with a passion for work and preservation, are bringing new life to what is probably one of the town’s most admired structures.
History researched and written by local historian, Michael A. Trump