GENESEO – The Big Tree Inn, a Main Street landmark for more than 130 years, has officially gone on the market.
The asking price: $1.1 million.
“I think there’s a very good match out there, and maybe more than one. It’s a landmark, and pretty much move-in ready,” said Realtor Mike Smith of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, Geneseo, which has the listing.
Smith said the property, which had several showings in the first week it was listed, could have appeal as a boutique hotel or an in and event center. The property is being sold with its furniture and kitchen equipment. The kitchen had been renovated in recent years to be more efficient, he said.
“A new owner will just need to hire staff, get inventory and apply for a liquor license,” Smith said.
Prospective buyers will need to completed a sealed bid as part of the process. The deadline for submitting bids is March 21. The bids will be reviewed and some discussion with the prospects may follow with hopes of settling on a buyer by mid-April.
“The college talked about the process of finding the best buyers and doing due diligence on financials. They recognize they may be neighbors a long time and want to make sure it is a compatible business,” Smith said.
The Big Tree Inn, 46 Main St., is being sold by Campus Auxiliary Services, a non-profit that runs SUNY Geneseo’s dining facilities and provides other services to the college community. CAS has owned the building since 1998.
“With our higher education mission, the property is not directly related to our core services,” Mathew Felthousen, executive director of CAS, said in an email to the County News.
The Big Tree Inn has been closed since December 2020 following a temporary closure that had begun in August 2020 with the suspension of restaurant and tavern operations due to COVID. Though hotel and events continued for a time, those were later stopped and the entire operation shut done due to ongoing strains on the hospitality industry.
In October 2021, CAS announced its intent to sell the property, citing pandemic and other fiscal challenges. Some of the fiscal challenges went back more than a decade and under different management teams, according to an email sent to Felthousen at the time to college staff.
The property was listed for sale on Feb 18.
SUNY Geneseo worked with CAS on establishing sought-after criteria as part of the bidding process for the anticipated sale of the property. An evaluation committee of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members will review the proposals, Felthousen said in a March 1 email to The Livingston County News.
“We are hopeful that new owners will help Main Street thrive, and that the campus community retains a cooperative and beneficial relationship with the purchasers,” he said.
CAS will continue to focus on providing core services to SUNY Geneseo, Felthousen said.
While CAS is most familiar for the dining program, it also provides catering, laundry, vending, identification, refuse and recycling, and fiscal agent services for campus organizations.
The Big Tree Inn began as the residence of Allen Ayrault and his wife, Bethia, and their two daughters, in 1833. They property was called “The Big Tree Lodge.”
The Ayraults were prominent and influential citizens of Geneseo, with Mr. Ayrault president of Livingston County Bank and credited with making Geneseo the county’s center for commerce. After his death in 1861, Mrs. Ayrault continued to live there until her death at age 93 in 1885, according to a history of the property compiled by the Association for the Preservation of Geneseo.
The property was purchased by James W. Wadsworth, who enlarged the building with a two-story brick addition to the north. He opened the property as a hotel in 1886, with William Nash as proprietor, who bought the building that same year.
The third story for sleeping quarters was added in 1895, and a wide stoop was built across the front in 1896, according to the APOG history.
If a sale of The Big Tree Inn is completed, it would be the second property divested by SUNY Geneseo in less than a year. McClellan House on Main Street, which had been used as an art gallery and other offices, was sold Nov. 17, 2021. It is being used as a private residence.
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