Mimi Chol Smith was planning to leave money in her will for a gathering of her extended family at the Fauchère Hotel in Milford, founded by her great-great-grandfather, Louis Fauchère. But the event looked like fun, so when Fauchere owner Sean Strub invited Smith, from Mount Dora, Fla., For a visit, she arranged to go in the flesh to meet his family there, rather than just a spirit and ashes.
As a result, four generations of Fauchère descendants descended on the hotel for two days recently to reconnect with each other and the place, which, Strub says, the Fauchère family ruled for 124 years, 1852-1976. They noticed the hotel’s elegant restoration, as they gathered on the veranda to tell their stories
Smith showed a passport photo of Louis Fauchere, documenting his arrival from Switzerland in 1846. He described him as 20 years old, 5’6 “tall, with brown hair and eyes and the beginnings of a beard. His profession was a “cook,” a chef, and quickly became chef at the famous Delmonico’s Restaurant in Manhattan, New York’s premier restaurant.
Opened by two Swiss brothers in 1827, they served French cuisine and the menu included squab, hare, quail, pheasant, grouse, venison, wild duck and later, the famous Delmonico steak, according to “Appetite City”, by William Grimes. Fauchere may have cooked for clients such as Charles Dickens and Abraham Lincoln, who preferred mashed potatoes topped with cheese and breadcrumbs, according to Grimes.
Strub showed Fauchère’s offspring a letter that Louis cleverly wrote to his wife in French describing the scene in New York after Lincoln’s assassination, as the buildings were adorned with black banners. But Fauchère had interests beyond New York.
“He wanted to buy a place in the countryside where the wealthy could take their families on vacation,” Smith said. “The husbands worked in New York during the week and took the train to Port Jervis on the weekends.”
He then bought back what would become the Fauchère, which also attracted celebrities. He opened it in 1852 as a saloon and inn, stagecoach stop, Smith says. After being set on fire, it was rebuilt with Italian-style architecture in 1880. Over 100 years later, the hotel was still run by the descendants of Louis, as his will required.
The late Louis Fauchere Chol Jr., who helped set up the Four Seasons in Manhattan, was its manager. He married a ballet dancer from the Ballet Russe Monte Carlo, Michelle, who was among those gathered.
“It was miraculous to watch,” she said. “Suddenly he was having 18 separate omelets prepared. “
She recalled how he had transformed the “bar for men” in the basement into a Hare and a Snail, with live music on weekends.
Smith spent his summers there. As her mom made salads and desserts, she said, “I entertained rocker ladies on the porch in my pink dress.”
But in the late 1970s, the Fauchère fell into disuse because of a family dispute over the management of the hotel, said Michelle Chol. The ancients wanted to preserve; their children wanted modernization.
The money earned by the hotel was not reinvested in maintenance. The hotel was auctioned off and turned into an office building for a while, then sat nearly empty until Strub and Richard Snyder bought it in 2001, Smith says. Bess Ann Kubli, her cousin, worked for lawyer Sandy Beecher across the street.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “I was afraid it would burn.”
The descendants of Fauchère followed their own path. Smith found weaving, from clothes to wall hangings, although she later became an oncology nurse. Her daughter, Amy Fauchere Neal, from Lebanon, Ohio, got into landscaping and now works with her husband, Greg, a potter, whom she married in La Fauchere. She also gave up the food of her inheritance. As an animal lover who trains dogs during a rescue, she went vegan. Quinoa and hummus are his must-haves.
However, Smith’s son Stanley Cooper of Clermont, Florida remembers going back to his roots.
“I traveled from place to place after high school. But what could I do to get out of it?
He turned to the kitchen – French style. He has been a chef all his life and teaches culinary arts.
“I love it,” he said.
And the family continues to name the boys Louis, including Louis III and IV, says Michelle Chol. “We are going to skip Louis XVI.”