Travelers to this area were first accommodated in a tavern built near this site in 1820 by Andrew McCaslin. Another early hotel was later built across the river in what was referred to as "West Emlenton." Both catered to river travelers such as raftsmen, lumbermen on their way to southern markets, prospective settlers, and land developers.
Within the 1867 extension of the Allegheny Valley Railroad (a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad), and subsequent oil and gas developments, a need was created for expanded accommodations. At one time four hotels thrived within walking distance of the station.
The St. Cloud Hotel replaced the Exchange Hotel (built in 1848 by James S. Hagerty as the Hagerty Hotel) which burned in 1879. A fire leveled the St. Cloud in 1973.
The Crawford House, Main & 6th St. was built in 1867 by Alexander B. Crawford. In 1876, under new management, it became the Grand Central Hotel. It burned to the ground later that year. Within two months a new three-story brick structure was opened to the public. The Grand Central became the hotel of choice for visiting salesmen (known as drummers), builders, and oil men. Later, it became a residence hotel. In 1930 the building was purchased by the Sterling Oil Co. and the site was cleared with plans for a new service station. Instead, the Emlen Theater building was erected there in 1938.