The hotel and tavern built by William McKown c. 1796-9, situated to
take advantage of the traffic created upon construction
1799-1804 of the Great Western Turnpike; the eastern section
of this road passing McKown's front door was opened in 1800.
This picture probably taken in the winter of 1916-17.
[in the files of the Guilderland Historical Society; also in the W.
Mohr archive at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve].
This establishment was for all of the 19th century the center of the
hamlet of McKownville, and William McKown
(1763-1843) is the man from whom the settlement gets its name.
His son John McKown (1787-1870) inherited the business when his
father died. John McKown's younger son James F McKown (1818-1880)
became the first postmaster in 1862, and the hotel contained the McKownville
post office until that was closed in 1905. The hotel appears
to have been occupied and managed by others from before 1850, the
McKown's living then in their farmhouse
on McKown Road. John McKown in 1864 sold the hotel and the
~184 acres of the Hotel Farm to his eldest son William J McKown
(1811-1879). In 1884, William H Witbeck leased the hotel from the
heirs of William J McKown and later, in 1907, purchased it and the
McKown Hotel Farm land adjoining it on both sides of the Turnpike.
The hotel was known as Witbeck's after this purchase, until it burnt
down one night in early October 1917. Lists published in the
local paper for the town tax collector holding sessions at Witbeck's
hotel, in years after this event, refer to a nearby
converted barn that escaped the flames; the main hotel and
tavern was never rebuilt.
Eventually a gasoline and auto service station was constructed where
the hotel was located, on the part of the site closest to the Fuller
Road/Western Avenue intersection, which remained until about 1980,
when it was replaced by a burger drive-through. Other parts of the
site, farther east along Western Avenue, are now occupied by another
restaurant, and a bank. No trace remains of the tavern and hotel,
and the associated
barns and stables, nor of the McKown family burial plot
behind, from which the gravestones and remains were taken in 1865 to
Prospect Hill Cemetery. The old gravestones did not quite complete
this journey, being
discovered in 1973 flooring the basement of an old house near
The system to supply water to this hotel and tavern, and the stables
and stockyards nearby, consisted
of pine log pipes from a dam and pond on the Krumkill stream
across the Turnpike to the west.
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