Scottsville’s Iconic Oatka Restaurant Set to Auction

A photo of The Oatka circa 1950s is shown above. Photo courtesy of the Wheatland Town Historian’s office.
The building as it stands today complete with iconic sign is shown below. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Crowley.

BY JENNIFER CROWLEY
On Thursday, August 16th at 5:00 PM, the building located at 17 Main Street, Scottsville, commonly known as “The Oatka” will be auctioned off.

The building was originally constructed in 1824 by a man named James Brown (though probably not the singer). He called his public house the “American Hotel,” a name the establishment would retain for 50 years and across multiple owners. From Brown the next owner was Elijah Miller, patriarch of a prominent family that was involved with a number of local causes. Most notably, the family helped the Free Library assume its current home, Windom Hall.

From 1874-190s the hotel was re-named the “Robinson House,” and next was called the “McVean” House until 1920. From that point in the 20th century and onward, building owners began to recognize the potential lure of the Oatka Creek flowing behind the property and renamed the business accordingly. Variations included The Oatka Hotel, The Oatka Inn, The Oatka Restaurant and Lounge, and most recently (as in the mid-2000s), Oatka Steak & Seafood. The building has been largely dormant since Oatka Steak & Seafood closed about ten years ago.

In May 2012 the building was seriously damaged in a fire. According to an article entitled “Historic Scottsville Hotel Damaged In Fire,” which appeared on May 20, 2012 in the Genesee Sun, “The hotel ran for many years as a public house and each generation of Scottsvillians and others cherish memories of dinners, dancing and imbibing. Recent years have not been kind to the business as a series of owners have attempted renovations and new operating plans. None have been successful.”

Many Scottsville and Wheatland residents have fond memories of working in the kitchen (a first job for many) or having “the best” Friday night fish fry. The most sought-after seats in the house overlooked the flowing creek below. At its peak in popularity during the 1960s and 1970s under the ownership of Frank and Carol Wardynski, the restaurant could seat up to 180 people banquet-style and offered wooden coins as bar currency. Rumor even has it that a secret room was discovered in the basement during a renovation project, conjuring images of a speakeasy during the prohibition era.

Residents new and old to Scottsville and surrounding areas are hopeful that the building will be renovated with its tremendous history in mind to once again become a draw to Main Street or another option for a night out.

The auctioneer’s description of the property states that the 12,950 square foot building has a new roof and upper windows. The current assessment is $83,700 and bids must start at $25,000 (with a $5,000 deposit required to bid). Anyone interested in touring the building can attend an open house on Saturday the 11th at 10:00 AM or Tuesday the 14th at 12:00 PM.

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