The Olcott family lived in Wurtsboro, Sullivan County, New York, where they managed a hotel/summer boarding house. The Olcott House -- the name of their family-owned hotel -- was built in 1843 by George H. Olcott (1818-1897), and consisted of 50 rooms (with capacity for up to 60), a general store, a saloon, a carriage house, and a livery. Located on the corner of Old Milne Road and Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike in Wurtsboro, the Olcott House was well known as one of the oldest hotels in Eastern Sullivan County. It was renowned for its "museum" on the third floor, which displayed local Native American objects. In the hotel's saloon, there was also a glass tank filled with live poisonous rattlesnakes.
Known for its close proximity to the Catskill Mountains, and hiking and camping grounds, visitors to Wurtsboro were attracted by the rural charm of the area. Many of the hotel's patrons came from New York City, and were either vacationing during the summer or on their way to a camp site. Near the train station, the hotel was in close proximity to five lakes, and thus was advertised as "near one of the finest sporting regions in the country" (Wakefield 1970: 56). Circa 1900, the Olcotts charged $6.00-$7.00/week, and $1.50 for children, although they gave discounts to season guests.
George and his wife Julia had five children: George W., Charles F., S. Adelaide (Adalaide), John, and Sally. Adelaide (born c.1850) was the child who helped George manage the hotel. As a family, the Olcotts had their share of tribulations, some of which were only hinted at in the letters. For instance, in 1885 John and Adelaide became involved in a legal dispute over a portion of land they owned.
George died in 1897, after which Adelaide assumed full responsibility for the management of the hotel. In 1903, the museum and the adjoining carriage house caught fire, substantially damaging the third floor and other parts of the hotel. The hotel was eventually rebuilt, though only able to accommodate up to 30 guests. The museum, however, was never replaced.
The Olcott family managed the hotel for several decades before selling it to Jack Butler in 1920. It was then renamed the Butler House. Butler's management of the hotel would prove to be short-lived, however, as it was destroyed by a second fire on March 8, 1923. The hotel was never rebuilt.