For The News-Chronicle
Tucked into a clearing along a wooded stretch of
County R in the town of Cooperstown, stands an
abandoned landmark known throughout the region for its
history and legend.
skeleton of its former self, the Maribel Caves Hotel
has withstood the test of time and the elements, as
well as a blaze that gutted most of the former hotel's
interior in 1985.
ongoing rash of vandalism on the private property has
left neighbors concerned and town board members
wondering what should become of the 103-year-old
historic hotel. One possibility, Town Chairman C. Ross
Johnson said, is to raze the building, removing the
three-story limestone structure and leaving behind
only the folklore that surrounds it.
of that folklore places interesting clientele there in
the late 1920s, including prostitutes, bootleggers and
infamous gangsters. Rumors of ghosts living within the
walls give the empty hotel a sense of mystique.
to Denmark Press archives, the hotel was designed by
Charles Steinbrecker, who moved to America from
Austria in the late 1800s.
who designed it to resemble health spas he saw in
Innsbruck, never saw the building and died in 1892.
son, Francis, an ordained priest with his first parish
at St. James Church in Cooperstown, turned his
father's dream into reality. In May 1900, he hired 40
stone masons from Kaukauna and, under the direction of
William Ditter, the hotel opened its doors four months
vacation spot and health spa went through a number of
owners after the death of the younger Steinbrecker in
1927. That year the hotel was rented to Chicago-area
residents, according to an excerpt from a letter
written by current owner Robert Lyman published in the
Oct. 31, 2002, issue of the Manitowoc Herald Times
hotel experienced a radical change in clientele which
included moonshiners, prostitutes and reportedly John
Dillinger and Al Capone," the letter said.
Denmark Press contacted the Lyman family for further
explanation, but they declined to comment.
1932, the hotel was sold to Adolph Cherney and the
remodeled bar became the building's lone operation
after the hotel was closed. Cherney's daughter, Alice
Kornely owned the hotel in 1972.
other individuals and one group owned the bar through
mid-1980s, when an early morning fire on June 4, 1985,
gutted the structure. The cause was never determined.
mystique of the bygone building has brought spectators
to the site, despite "no trespassing" signs
strewn across the property. One visitor, Terry Fisk, a
paranormal investigator from Eau Claire who first
visited Maribel early this summer, has chronicled fact
and myths about the Caves Hotel.
read about the Maribel Caves on the Internet and drove
over there when I was checking out other places in the
area," Fisk said. "I didn't have much
information about the caves and I went to Maribel on a
Saturday and everything was closed so I didn't have
anybody to talk to."
information, located at www.chadlewis.com,
chronicles some of the urban legends surrounding the
caves, and contrasts them with substantiated facts.
my first sight of it, the hotel was just awesome. I
couldn't believe it," he said.
of the more popular myths is that Chicago mob boss Al
Capone once owned the hotel.
legend of the hotel has made it more difficult for
Cooperstown to decide whether to raze it, although the
best option would be if a developer opened it again.
last thing I want to see is that place taken
down," he said. "I think there are a lot of
business prospects that may come forward if it is
restored, but how do you go about getting the money to
want to bring it up, see if (the Lyman family) is
willing to do anything with it or start with
procedures to condemn it," Johnson said.
hate to see it get torn down but it's something we
have to fix."
Cooperstown Town Board will discuss the issue at 7
sure hope they don't tear it down," Fisk said.
"When I saw it I was hoping that somebody would
restore it. I would love to see that."
Caves Hotel: Fact vs. fiction
compiled by Terry Fisk and located at www.chadlewis.com/files_spectrology/maribel_hotel_hell.html
The building burned three times, each time on the
exact same date. In one fire, everyone died in their
sleep. Skeletal remains can still be found.
The hotel burned once, June 4, 1985 and no one was
injured in the blaze.
A mass homicide occurred within the hotel.
There is no evidence of any homicides.
The hotel was used by Hollywood stars in the late
The hotel was built in 1900 and was used by priests
Al Capone once owned the hotel
While both Capone and John Dillinger may have visited
the hotel, neither were among the hotel's many owners.
There are also no underground passageways, reportedly
used by the mobsters.