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BEMUS POINT, NY (WNY News Now) – A historic hotel on Chautauqua Lake has been sold, ending an era for one Bemus Point family who opened the establishment nearly a century and a half ago.
Hotel Lenhart is one of only two grand hotels left in Chautauqua County. It has been family owned and operated for 142-years since its founding in 1880.
Now, co-owners and siblings Bebe Johnston and John Lenhart Johnston, Jr. are selling the Bemus Point business to a Pittsburgh couple. The reason? Hardships with age and pandemic impacts.
“I’m over 70, and Bebe’s 69, so it’s time to retire,“ explained John Johnston. “It’s been a long struggle over the past couple of years, after COVID, it’s time to relax.”
Hotel Lenhart is known for its rustic aesthetic, allowing guests to live in a past era. The owners assure patrons that new management will keep the icon’s history alive.
“When we tell people we’re fixing things, or making changes, they warn us, don’t change it,“ said John Johnston. “So we just keep it fixed up the way it was probably back at the turn of the century and people enjoy that, and to our understanding the new owners want to continue that process also.”
The hotel itself was built in 1882 and has been passed down through the family for four generations. While it is possible to keep the hotel going into a fifth generation, John Johnston would not like to pass the burden onto others.
“The only heirs we have would be my two daughters,“ explained John Johnston. “But they both have successful careers outside of the area here. One was interested, but things changed.”
In the end, Hotel Lenhart has always been a big part of Bemus Point, and with the sale, will continue to be a staple for generations to come.
“We just enjoy this community, we have a lot of friends here,“ stated John Johnston. “People love the hotel, we love the people, that’s what brings us back. What we most enjoy about running the hotel is meeting the people, primarily the tri-state area, but we have people from Texas, Virginia, California that all come here for the summer.”
“And they’ve all been coming generation after generation,” explained Bebe Johnston. “So we grew up with them, and they grew up with us.”
At this time there is no set date of acquisition, but Hotel Lenhart is expected to officially change hands sometime in the upcoming 2022-2023 off season.
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