The headline of the April 11, 1924 Clare Sentinel read,
“NEW HOTEL DOHERTY NOW OPEN TO PUBLIC.”
At the crossroads of US-10 and US-127, the late Senator Alfred James Doherty I, friend of Henry Ford, was convinced that the automobile would eventually become the transportation of choice, and therefore, he decided to build in the center of Clare instead of near the railroads, which was very insightful for that era, and, eventually, proved to be very profitable. Soon thereafter, Clare became known as “The Crossroads of Michigan” as the Pere Marquette Railroad and the Ann Arbor Railroad intercepted in this small town. Thanks to these two railroads, Clare became a popular stopping place for tourists and commercial travelers, and the new Hotel Doherty was there to accommodate.
The original hotel contained sixty rooms, each having hot and cold running water. Thirty-six of those rooms contained either a tub or a shower bath. The ground floor housed the Clare Public Library, a coffee shop, the lobby, a large dining room called the Wedgewood Room, a soda fountain shop, a barbershop, the kitchen, pantry, refrigerator room, and Senator Doherty’s office. There were also two sample rooms east of Doherty’s office with a separate entrance to Fifth Street, which provided commercial travelers an opportunity to display their wares.
Senator Doherty made a point to please each guest with clean rooms, great food, and pleasantness. His perfectionist nature, popularity, and sincere hospitality helped to ensure the hotel’s success.
“The Ox Yoke”
In the 1800’s, Mr. Doherty had business dealings with E.L. Pratt, a river driver of the seventies, and Thomas Pickard, of Mt. Pleasant, who were partners. Pratt and Pickard purchased large orders of hardware from Mr. Doherty, paying their bills when they made settlement with the lumber company.
The lumber company’s business misfortunes and losses in the lumbering industry caused Pratt and Pickard to enter voluntary bankruptcy. They were unable to pay the bills at Doherty’s hardware, which at the time amounted to $10,000. As compensation, Mr. Doherty received notes for this amount.
In the meantime, Pratt and Pickard went to Ontario to engage in lumbering operations. When the notes came due and were still unpaid, Mr. Doherty went to see them about the account. Pratt and Pickard claimed to have no money, but seemed willing to give their creditor their property. This property consisted of several teams of horses with harnesses and several pair of oxen.
Although Mr. Doherty was obliged to take the horses and oxen, it was difficult to dispose of them in the early 1890’s due to the onset of hard times. However, the oxen were finally sold for just enough to pay for their care and feed during the time they were in Mr. Doherty’s possession. He kept one ox yoke as a souvenir and paid off the $10,000 in notes with interest, which then amounted to $1,000.
The yoke was in Mr. Doherty’s office until the hotel was built in 1924, at which time it was placed in the lobby. Mr. Doherty said it was expensive but he learned some valuable lessons from the experience.
Mob Shooting In Clare
The most infamous happening at the Doherty Hotel was on May 14, 1938 when Central Michigan oil promoter, Carl Jack Livingston, shot and killed Isaiah Leebove in the Tap Room of the hotel.
On the main floor of the hotel, in the Leprechaun Lounge, a story appears on every wall. In the 1930’s a less fortunate man, who could not afford a home, traded his talent for a place to stay. The painted story begins with a leprechaun village beggining to make their ale. We see every step involved in completing their task, and at the end, we see the villagers celebrate their completion.
While the Doherty Hotel began with the build in 1924, four short years after the Calkins House burnt down, many changes and renovations were made to get to where it is today. The major renovations and additions began in 1930, when cottages were constructed behind the original structure and consisted of 9 small one-bedroom cabins. The cottages thrived for twenty-eight years until the automobile industry boomed and the idea of a motor hotel, or motel, took the reins.
In 1958, the cottages were torn down and a new motel was built featuring an outdoor pool. The motel consisted of 20 rooms split between two levels.
Like the cottages, the motel thrived.
Reflecting on the success, The Hotel Doherty became The Doherty Motor Hotel.
In 1969, Alfred James Doherty III, “A.J.”, grandson to Senator Doherty, took the helm of the hotel. At that time the hotel consisted of 60 guest rooms and two small banquet rooms. He continued to ensure a quality experience for locals and travelers, but now wanted to push the hotel into an innovative marketplace on the horizon – meetings and conferences.
Again, as his forefathers had imagined, A.J. saw the opportunity to utilize the hotel’s location in central Michigan, at the crossroads of US-127 and US-10, to further its success. In 1979, the two conference rooms, the Wedgewood Room and the Fifth Avenue Room, turned into five rooms, almost doubling in size. Seven years later, in 1986, A.J.’s son Richard ‘Dean’ Doherty, returned home from college to assist with the hotel while another son, James ‘Jim’ Doherty, also returned in 1990. With the help of his sons, A.J. added to the hotel a beautiful back lobby, a South Wing, which contained an additional 24 rooms, and two small conference rooms. Also, during this construction period, the pool was enclosed and the surrounding area remodeled, ending the motel era.
Over the course of the next few years, A.J. slowly stepped into the shadows of the hotel’s management, allowing his sons to step to the forefront. Together in 1996, Dean and Jim renovated the old motel, adding fireplaces to several of the rooms and upgrading their furnishings and interior décor. In 2001, the renovations continued with the addition of the west wing and expansion of the north (old motel) and south wings. This renovation added three new meeting rooms and 66 new guest rooms, for a total of 157
overnight accommodations. While 157 rooms seemed to be enough to withhold the never ending tourists and travelers, the front of the hotel needed a touch. In 2012, the renovations started with re-decorating the front lobby and completely renovating the dining room to include a custom salad bar/buffet and gas fireplace. Also included in the renovations, were a new banquet/meeting room, MacGillycuddy Corner, and an outdoor patio for al fresco dining. In 2013, Jim decided to retire from the hotel business. Together, Dean and Ann set a new goal for the hotel: “not to make the hotel bigger, but to make it better”. Future plans include a renovation of the original, 1924 hotel rooms, outside façade, and bar.
Unique Things about The Doherty Hotel’s Location
The Doherty Hotel Sits at the intersection of three major roadways including: US-10, M-115, and US-127.
There are three different parks surrounding the Hotel perfect for an evening walk with no charge!
Clare, MI is halfway to everywhere in the Lower Peninsula.
Clare also has the perfect location for its’ nickname “Gateway to the North”.
The Hotel is located across the street from the nationally known Cops & Doughnuts.
The Doherty is conveniently located near the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail Pathway.
Clare is also known for its huge population of the Amish and is filled with tons of Amish stores, markets, and services.
The Doherty’s attribute the hotel’s century-spanning success, partly, to its location in the center of Michigan. Clare still offers an abundance of nostalgic downtown charm. The Doherty family and their staff hope to keep The Doherty Hotel a familiar destination for locals and traveling visitors for generations to come.