Historian Larry Cenotto has noted that “On its site, at the corner of Main and Lafayette Streets, the Leger and its predecessors have provided room, board, brandy and more since circa 1851.” (Hotel Leger Annals, in Logan’s Alley, Vol II. 1999: p 176).
The physical stone building that we eat and drink in today, however, was built in stages. The northernmost two-story portion was built in 1854 and served as the County Court House from 1855 -1866. This is the current Hotel’s oldest section.
The first restaurant building on this spot -- the northeast corner of Main and Lafayette Streets -- was established in 1851 as the Hotel de France by Alexis Yocht and Jean Ducouytres. Likely a tent structure, it was soon replaced by a frame building. In 1853, George Leger bought into this business, soon becoming the sole proprietor. This building – along with most of the town -- burned in the fire of 1854. Leger rebuilt with a stone, one-story structure constructed at the same time as the adjoining County Court House (they, in fact, share a common wall). The County would only permit Leger to build a one-story building to ensure that the Court House’s second-story windows would not be blocked.
In 1862, the Court House added an extension on to the back of the building - “the Annex” – made possible by a back-yard lot-line adjustment with Leger. At this time the jail was moved to the Court House basement. By the next year, 1863, George Leger added the second story of rhyolite to his hotel. Perhaps he got the County to waive the prohibition on a second story by giving up land for the Annex.
When the County Seat moved to San Andreas in 1866, the government’s Court House was purchased by local merchants George and William P. Peek. They operated a saloon and office on the ground floor and a hall in the old upstairs Court Room.
In 1874, another devastating fire swept through Moke Hill, completely destroying the Leger Hotel. George Leger rebuilt, reconstructing the stone, two-story building. He also bought into the adjacent Court House building, which had survived the fire, expanding his hotel business into the second story. Stores continued to occupy the ground level of the Court House until about 1927.
So, technically, the northern Court House portion of the Hotel dates to 1854 while the southern structure dates to 1874 (except for some original footings). However, it is also true that the restaurant/saloon business at this location have, as historian Cenotto said, “provided room, board, brandy and more since circa 1851.”
by Julia Costello