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Local History: Run-down Hotel In Carbondale Had A Storied History

February 25, 2018

Most people passing the former Hotel Chellino in Carbondale see it only as an eyesore.

The hulk of a building on River Street and Sixth Avenue has long been eyed for demolition, most recently as part of a project to replace the decrepit Sixth Avenue bridge.

But dismissing the Chellino as just another crumbling building ignores its history. Built by Sam Chellino Sr. in 1913, the 90-room apartment house-turned-hotel boasted the city’s first liquor license and “opened a bar in 1933 when prohibition was repealed,” according to a June 30, 1972, Scranton Times story tracing its history.

Over the years, the hotel grew and a fourth floor was added. It remained in the Chellino family for more than 50 years, passing to Chellino’s three sons when the patriarch died. One son, Sam Chellino Jr., bought out his brothers Frank and Jerry in 1956 and continued to run the hotel until 1972.

Sam Chellino told The Scranton Times he began working at the hotel when he was 9. He decided to sell the property to Joseph P. Price of the Price Insurance Agency for $110,000 so he could “retire and take an active interest in Carbondale because the people of the city have been so good to me,” he said.

Under the deal, Chellino, 59 at the time, and his wife, the former Elizabeth McDermott of Jermyn, would continue to live at the hotel. He died in 1993, according to a Times-

Tribune obituary.

The new owner’s plans included opening a small restaurant at the hotel and bring live entertainment to the cocktail area already there, according to the newspaper. His brother-in-law, James J. Moore, managed the Chellino. Moore also served as a Carbondale Area School Board member.

“Mr. Price doesn’t intend to alter much of the Chellino atmosphere, but he noted some additions will take place,” the newspaper reported in the June 30, 1972, article.

Less than a decade later, John and Marjorie Spedding bought the Chellino from Price for $125,000, according to a May 29, 1980, Scranton Times article. At that time, the hotel had 21 rooms, according to the article.

A small fire broke out at the hotel on Nov. 20, 1987, sending 35-year-old Harry Foxworth of Carbondale to the hospital for smoke inhalation and burns.

“Guests were awakened about 5:55 a.m. by the hotel’s alarm system,” the newspaper story reported that afternoon. The story noted that the Speddings had added “smoke alarms, fire lights and extinguishers on all floors. Firefighters credited that system with alerting guests. The hotel also had fire escapes at the front and rear of the building.”

The hotel ceased operations around the time of the fire. Then, in 1989, a New Jersey man who owned property in nearby Jermyn proposed turning the old hotel into a personal care home. The city’s zoning hearing board rejected the proposal, saying the property was in a “floodway district” and a personal care home wasn’t a permitted use.

At the time, the building owned by Pioneer American Bank had been for sale for years. Squatters sometimes used the building, according to police.

In May 1990, another fire ripped through the Chellino. Then-Carbondale Fire Chief William Burrell said the fire began in the rear of the second floor and quickly spread to the floors above.

Fred Aileo, a firefighter at Columbia Hose Co., less than 100 feet from the old hotel, reported smelling smoke as he arrived for his shift at 5:20 that morning. He tried to located the source of the smell, but didn’t see any smoke.

Shortly after 6 a.m., the firefighters Columbia Hose saw smoke pouring from the building and quickly got to work.

“Fighting choking smoke, firefighters donned airpacks to enter the four-story brick building,” a May 2, 1990 Scranton Times article reported. “Entering the building from fire escapes, firefighters were able to contain the blaze by 8:45 this morning. Damage was confined to the interior of the building.”

The hotel never really bounced back. By the mid-1990s and into the early 2000s, discussions about repairing or replacing the Sixth Avenue Bridge mentioned the possibility of demolishing the Chellino. An April 2017 Times-Tribune story mentions plans to tear down the Chellino as part of the bridge project, with work slated to begin as early as this spring.

ERIN L. NISSLEY is an assistant metro editor at The Times-Tribune. She has lived in the area for more than a decade.

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