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The History of the Showboat Hotel

Located halfway down Seneca Lake on 9 acres of beautiful greenery with 250 feet of waterfrontage. This 43-room hotel features 19 waterfront rooms, 30 boat slips available for overnight guests and boaters looking for a dock to have a drink and bite to eat as well as a swimming pool. Vending machines are available on-site for ice, snacks, and drinks under the poolside building.

With new ownership in March of 23, the property underwent many renovations and improvements. The Waterfront building provides incredible sunrise views of the lake and surrounding hillside, while the dockside building is home to the restaurant/bar, docks and entertainment allowing full immersion in the Showboat atmosphere. Our recently upgraded poolside and creekside buildings provide guests with privacy and convenient pool access with balconies for enjoying the sounds of nature with a view of Seneca Lake.                                                                  

The Showboat Motel opened in 1958, starting first with the creekside building, constructed to resemble an early 20th-century showboat. The idea to build a motel reminiscent of a Showboat came from Norma Broome. Norma and Harold Broome met in New York City where Norma worked as a Rockette. Listed on her resume was her performance in the Broadway production titled “Showboat”. Norma and Harold were originally residents of Webster NY, a suburb of Rochester. Having seen the beautiful and tranquil serenity of the Finger Lakes area, it was only a matter of time until Harold and Norma left the big city.

In late 1957, the wheels were set in motion for Harold and Norma to move back closer to their roots. Shortly after their marriage, they purchased a plot of land in Himrod NY, on Plum Point Road. The couple left the city, and headed for the Finger Lakes, but didn’t leave everything behind. Norma’s days on Broadway in “Showboat” were a fond memory. Those Broadway memories inspired Norma, and together the couple turned it into the first of four motel buildings in 1958. The creekside building was the first construction with 12 rooms and the exterior theme of a river Showboat. The poolside, dockside, and lakeside buildings followed in two-year intervals respectively in 1960, 1962, and finally 1964. Norma and Harold focused on developing the business during the latter half of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

major celebritiesThere was a time when people thought Ithaca would be the Hollywood of today. Actors and thespians spent their downtime in the Finger Lakes NY region and often looked for places to get away to. The Showboat was a favorite of the likes of Bob Keeshan ( TV’s Captain Kangaroo) and Michael Landon, who rented the entire property for a week of solitude. During that time, Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone was a regular visitor, arriving by Yacht from Sheldrake Point on Cayuga Lake. As the years passed, the Showboat became known for it’s family atmosphere. Fishermen would stop in regularly.

Several rather successful years later, the then-proud parents, Norma and Harold handed the business over to their son Raymond in 1974. Raymond met his demise in a tragic snowmobile accident in January of 1976. His wife Karen assumed ownership subsequent to Raymond’s death. In 1981, Karen decided to move on and sold the business to Jack Brown. Under the direction of Jack Brown, the Showboat developed a superb reputation centered around the restaurant. Jack decided in 1986 to move on and sold the business to Sue and Bob Halladay. The economic downturn took a toll on the property and the restaurant was closed. In 1993, a group of 4 entrepreneurs entered into a purchase agreement to take over and restore the property.

The restaurant was reopened immediately after purchase, and is currently open full time on weekends, starting in May and ending in October, and open all day between the first day of summer until Labor Day. The motel is open from late April until October. Of the original 4 partners, only 2 remain. Owners Larry Jenkins and John & Peggy Socha have taken on numerous projects to develop the business and continue to make the Showboat a more enticing destination.

showboat motel postcard showboat motel aerial

The Showboat has become known as a perfect place for weddings, reunions, parties, and special events. Since the mid-1990s, the Showboat has been home to the Powerboat Poker Runs. Off-shore powerboaters enjoy a huge weekend every year where they can show off their boats, cruise the lake, and enjoy a fun weekend at the Showboat. The event has developed over the years and attracts powerboat club members, locals and others eager to enjoy the event.  

We encourage you to visit the Showboat: relax, enjoy a meal, stay a weekend, have a great time - and participate in the ever-expanding history that is the Showboat.

water view of showboat motel

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