Skip to main content

Town of Hunter Tidbits: Wayside Inn, the present day park and gazebo in Haines Falls

Wayside Inn
July 11, 2018 11:36 am Updated: July 11, 2018 11:57 am


A little history on the park owned by Haines Falls Fire District and built in the year 2001, by the People of Haines Falls. The PEOPLE OF HAINES FALLS, a grassroots organization was formed initially in the 1970s. Its residents were (and remain) proud of their community and fully supported the organization. The People of Haines Falls later re-organized and maintain the same community pride and involvement.

Wayside Inn Park was built for the enjoyment of its residents, and for visitors stopping in their hamlet. It is a bright welcome to tourists as they enter the Town of Hunter.

Webster’s dictionary defines wayside as “a side of the road.” A second meaning is “a rest area.” How appropriate.

The Wayside Inn Park, located at 5498 Route 23A, is at the intersection of State Road 23A and County Route 25. Its history dates to the 1870s, with some records showing a building at that site in 1834.

Below is a history of the park property as told by longtime past historian, Justine Legg Hommel. She explained:

“According to the map in BEERS ATLAS OF GREENE COUNTY (1867) and Samuel Rusk’s map of 1879, a building stood on or near the present park which was owned by James Haines. The 1884 HISTORY OF GREENE COUNTY states the premise was that of Uriah Haines.

It was initially a tavern, built 50 years ago, (1834) by James Haines, and among the earliest of the framed houses. James Haines died in 1879, since which his son, Uriah, has controlled it. Capacity 20 guests.

I (Justine Legg Hommel) remember a barn on the north side of the property where I played with Muriel Ayers who lived on the west side of the property. It was old, and weather-beaten then in the 1930s.

It eventually came under the ownership of “Aunt Betsy Burroughs Lewis” whose picture is shown in Leah Wiltse’s book, PIONEER DAYS IN THE CATSKILL HIGH PEAKS. The caption under her picture indicates she was a local celebrity, at least according to a NEW YORK WORLD article which said, “She ran the Wayside Inn and sold soft drinks and cigars and sugar candy on her front porch in Haines Falls. She was photographed with twin cub bears she had named ‘Jack’ and ‘Miss Bruno’ which she brought home in her apron. According to her great-nephew, George Edwin Burroughs, she and her husband, (Mr. Burroughs), went west to homestead. In time she came back without Mr. Burroughs and ran the Wayside Inn. No one ever knew what happened to him and she offered no explanation of his absence.

Sometime in the late ‘20s or early ‘30s, a ruddy-faced Irishman named Tom Coughlin and his wife became the proprietors of the Wayside Inn. Like most such establishments during prohibition, it became a dance hall and speakeasy. Did Jack “Legs” Diamond hand out there? Probably, since he supplied most of the mountain roadhouses with liquor. Tom Coughlin became one of his own best customers. He (Coughlin) also made the New York papers when he decided to shoot at some tourists one summer. He failed to cause any serious injury but was hauled off to jail and told to stay out of Haines Falls. And he did.

I (Justine Hommel) seem to remember that Herb O’Hara, another local character, ran it for a short time with his second wife whom he always referred to as “the Missus.” Their marriage was a source of interest locally because of their many fights and reunions, but it lasted longer than their proprietorship of the Wayside Inn.

One day in the fall of perhaps 1937 or 1938, my brother (Burton) and his friend got off at the bus stop in front of the then-vacant Wayside Inn, and because it was raining, they stood on the porch waiting for it to subside. The man who held the mortgage on the building came along carrying a kerosene can. He told them to get off the porch, or he would cut off their ears. Later that same night it burned to the ground.”

Written by Historian Justine L. Hommel

In researching the date of its inception using the name Wayside Inn, a reference in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper July 21, 1915, refers to the building as the Wayside Inn.

Historically, it is interesting to note that many places throughout New York were named Wayside Inn, or Hotel. Shortly before the name became popular, the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute Drama Club performed the play, The Wayside Inn, in 1899. There were also famous paintings titled Wayside Inn, painted in that period.

Here is the follow-up to Coughlin’s arrest, found in a 1944 Brooklyn Eagle newspaper. The Brooklyn Eagle reported Coughlin was arrested and convicted of shooting three people with a 12-gauge shotgun. Joe Doyle, retired baseball player, was one of the injured along with two vacationing women. It stated that all were struck in the face and body by many pellets. The injuries proved to be non-life threating. Coughlin was deemed incompetent and committed to the Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie. If an indictment was returned Coughlin was expected to be transferred to the Mattawan State Institution for the criminally insane. No record of the final court record was found.

The park is maintained by volunteers and the public is to be commended for honoring “carrying it in, carrying it out.”

Thank you for reading. Any comments or concerns, please contact or 518-589-4130. Have a really good day.

Until next week, take care, be thankful and be kind. You never know how your act of kindness may change someone’s life.