John Sheils was the original proprietor of the Sheils Hotel, also known as the Lackawack House. He and brother Thomas had come from Ireland in the early 19th century. Thomas was an alderman in Brooklyn, but he owned property in Montela and operated a horse farm there. He would train his famous horses at the Grand View Farm racetrack, then race them at the Harlem River Speedway. After John passed away in 1901, his son James D. Sheils took over the business, assisted by his sisters. Uncle Thomas continued to bring his Tammany Hall associates to be wined and dined at the Lackawack House. It became known as the "Summer Tammany Hall."
Interviewed by the New York World Telegram in 1938 at his new residence on Hermance Street in Ellenville (seated in the photo), James Sheils reminisces about the old days at Lackawack House. The hotel was known from Baltimore to Boston for its lavish fare and opulent accomodations. At a gala grand opening in 1899 celebrating the hotel expansion, the meal was "on the house," but drinks had to be paid for. The band played dinner music, followed by dance music through the night. "They were still dancing when the roosters on the farms nearby started crowing," recalled Sheils.
There were several "morning after" drinks served at Lackawack House to help with guests' hangovers. One popular drink was called the "Jimmy D" after Sheils himself:
Juice of one orange, juice of one lime, twist of lemon peel, dash of Angostura, sugar to taste, jigger of brandy, jigger of New England rum. "You must shake this well with cracked ice and serve it in an eight-ounce glass," said Jim. "Serve it with a sprig of mint, but don't crush the mint. Let the ice draw the flavor out slowly."