Buffalo House Business Ledger

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The “Buffalo House” in Lily Lake was opened by John A. and Michael L. Worts as a combination tavern and hotel in 1901. Michael L. Worts took the lead in deciding to build the tavern/hotel to supplement the family’s farm income. Lily Lake, itself, was a Chicago destination for fishermen in the 1890s. In 1897 Michael Worts married Katherine Boley, a daughter of Gottlieb and Josephine Boley. Gottlieb Boley owned the McHenry Brewery which produced a beer called “Buffalo.” Having married into the Boley family, Michael made certain to sell only “Buffalo Beer” at his new roadhouse; the reason why the establishment was called the “Buffalo House.” Michael sold his share of his business to his brother, John, in late 1905.

In the late 1920s, Otto Broecker purchased the property and renamed the tavern as the “Lily Lake Hotel.” It was a popular spot for Chicago fishermen and hunters to stay. After passing through the hands of various owners, Floyd and Mary Lee purchased the property and made extensive changes in the building. The building was torn down in the late 1990s.

Content: The 6 x 15 inch business ledger is left to tell its story and the story of many other such establishments in early 20th century McHenry County. The ledger dates from the early 1900s and kept track of the tavern’s patron’s drink bills. Conservation: The oversize ledger is stained and the first page is in pieces. The front and back cover are loose. Treatment includes mending for stabilization purposes, surface cleaning, hinging on loose page, rebacking the original boards with Japanese tissue, stabilizing the cracks in the board with Japanese tissue, and reattaching the case to the text block.

Adopted by Teresa Williams