The fate of Fenton, Michigan was literally in the hands of a poker game. On August 24, 1834, William Fenton played high stakes poker with Robert Leroy and Benjamin Rockwell, winning the right to name the village. A full house allowed Fenton the right to name the city. The main business street was named Leroy and the principal residential street was called Rockwell. The Vermont House was built and owned by Seed and Flint with Mr. Seed being the first landlord.
In 1868, Abner Roberts was owned the hotel, which was renamed the Fenton House. After many changes in ownership, D.W. DeNio purchased it in 1882 and renamed it once again the DeNio House. DeNio underwent major changes in furnishings including a billiard room, bar and sample room along with barn accommodations for 100 horses and a hall 30 by 80 feet in size for public parties. A grand opening party was provided under the management of the Carpediem Club, a social group composed of the town’s leading Citizens. Nearly 200 guests danced the mazy waltz on a canvassed floor in time to the excellent music furnished by an orchestra from Owosso and ate food prepared by DeNio's wife. The Denio House were among the first to subscribe to the telephone in 1883.
The hotel ownership changed hands a couple of more times and around 1916, T.J. Dumanois who owned the Linden Hotel, purchased the Fenton Hotel. Prohibition caused a decline in hotel business, but it was the Great Depression that forced the hotel to temporarily close. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the hotel reopened under the management of Arthur (T.J.’son) and his wife Margaret Dumanois. The Fenton Hotel is believed to have received the first liquor license in Genesee County after prohibition.
Ray and Ann O’Reilly purchased the Hotel Fenton in 1946, and maintained its reputation for Roadhouse dinners. Hotel Fenton was owned by the O’Reilly’s until the early 1970’s. The next 25 years brought many different owners to the hotel until Nick and Peggy Sorise purchased it in 1997. Then named The Fenton Hotel, the Sorise’s continued to operate it as a white table clothed fine dinning restaurant. In 2006, the hotel went through another round of renovations and a name change as it celebrated its 150th birthday. Today, Fenton Hotel Tavern & Grille contains all the original tin ceilings in the dining room, and the foyer looks much as it did back in stagecoach days. Experience the second story's glory days in its tile-floor ballroom, the communal men's and women's bathrooms and the dingy corner room once reserved for the hotel's longtime custodian, Emery.
Some say Emery still roams throughout the hotel. People have reported hearing Emery walking around in his former upstairs digs, his footsteps reverberating in the tin ceiling. Sometimes he thumps on the walls after customers leave to push the hotel staff along. It's believed he is not the only one hanging around the establishment after death. The hotel staff claim a ghost sometimes gropes the arms or buttocks of unsuspecting waitresses. In the bar area, wine glasses hanging by its stem from a slotted nook have been known to suddenly fly off its perch and sail across the bar, crashing and breaking.
There is a recurring case of the mysterious man at table 32. He sits at the table and orders a shot of Jack Daniels on the rocks. The bartender pours the drink, but upon attempting to serve it to the "customer," finds no one sitting at the table. Some believe the ghostly customer is "dying" to have the drink but never has the cash to pay for it much less the physical ability to drink it. Waitresses have spotted a phantom black cat roaming the dining room. Other reports include shutters opening and closing on their own, footsteps, lights flickering and ghostly voices. These are among the many ghostly accounts that can be found at the Fenton Hotel Tavern & Grille.