Chez Odette was another of those gems here is New Hope that had a happy and tragic story for many. I still miss this place. Chez Odette was still in full swing when I moved here...famous for many a hung over Sunday brunch. And Odette's nightly cabaret saw a who's who of performers. It 's where I saw that great Shirley Bassey perform once, and Patti Lupone. The palace was also famous for it's campy and roaring New Years Eve parties in the 60's and 70's. But I wasn't to enjoy it long, as three back to back floods in 2006 ended it's life span and the place sat vacant up till last year. And of course was another place that one could feel a strong presence.
The original stone structure was built in 1784 as an inn and tavern, eventually becoming the River House. In the late 1950's, it was purchased by French vaudeville actress Odette Myrtil. Odette was a story in herself. Mme. Myrtil may not have been a huge star, but she showed up in over two dozen movies directed by such venerable talents as William Wyler, Preston Sturges, Alfred Hitchcock, Jules Dassin, and George Cukor. One reason that those filmmakers chose to use her was that she could lend a trace of her sophistication to American films, and provide an intriguing contrast to the heroines she so often helped, tempted, and guided through their personal dramas. In her own time she was a favorite on stage, screen and cabaret stages on two continents for many decades. She often appeared in studio era films as the quintessential pragmatic Frenchwoman. Myrtil's success in cabarets and theaters in France and Britain soon led her to work on both sides of the Atlantic, beginning in 1914 when the sixteen-year-old was engaged for two editions of the famed Ziegfeld Follies in New York.
Eventually, after several more small triumphs on stage, including replacing Juanita Hall in the part of Bloody Mary in the original New York company of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, Myrtil, was finally able to build her nest in the countryside she loved so much. It was probably from Oscar Hammerstein she came here, as he too had a residence outside New Hope. In the late 1950s, the actress found a cozy berth in the town of New Hope. Odette first took over management of the Playhouse Inn, now the infamous Bucks County Playhouse, where Broadway shows tried out, and high quality theatrical productions had flourished since the 1930s, attracting famous actors and their well-heeled audiences to the spot, not far from Philadelphia and New York. Bringing her flair for food and fashion to play, Odette featured jazz and dancing nightly, creating a bistro atmosphere in the dining room of Chez Odette, which was decorated with Mme. Myrtil's memorabilia from a lifetime of performing. Sometimes Odette even introduced her patrons to new and different performers, including Nina Simone in 1957, the unique and sometimes eccentric singer, found herself surprisingly at home in the night spot, here in New Hope.
Mme. Odette passed away at 80 in 1975,in her Doylestown home where she also spent much time... and had sold Chez Odette three years before her death, . Many who worked there and years after her death, said no question, Odette still frequented the place. Her perfume could also be smelled in the parts of Odettes she spent time in, her office door to her suite would often lock, and many workers and guest heard the piano play. One guest remarked at the beautiful playing she heard in her room. The worker didn't mention to the guest though that there was no piano player, that afternoon. They always assumed it was Odette tickling the ivories.
Guest and workers have also felt a presence on the third floor, where Odette would often stay overnight instead of driving home, and guests had heard their names being called out, by a male voice. A psychic couple also identified the ghost of a woman, many had seen, who was murdered in the bar area and gets upset when someone sits in her favorite seat. Cocktails were known to slide down the bar. Many have said they also have seen the ghost of actor George C. Scott, who also loved New Hope and was often a guest of Odette, he is said to haunt both locations. Then there’s the tragic story of pioneering female newscaster Jessica Savitch.
On October 23, 1983, after having dinner at Chez Odette, Savitch and male friend, Martin Fischbein, vice president of the New York Post, somehow had a mishap during heavy rainstorm and drove off the parking lot and into the canal upside down. Both were trapped in the car and drowned, as did Savitch’s dog, Chewy. It’s said that all three are still wondering the area and there have been many sightings of the blond new anchor standing late at night, watching the river, and many others hear Chewy haunts the site of their deaths near the restaurant. Many others claim to hear a dog barking, while others walking dogs pass the site, say their dogs start acting agitated and barking for no reason.
Investors purchased the historic building two years ago, and spent years obtaining the proper permissions to move Chez Odette. The site has now been turned into The Riverhouse at Odette’s. The old building was literarily picked up and moved about 2,000 feet down the street and converted it into a haunted French museum and French boutique hotel.
Do ghosts stick with their paranormal residence if it’s moved? That would seem to make sense if they’re attached to events in the building rather than being buried beneath it. Odette, Jessica and the others may decide to roam a drier location. Then again, the new complex sounds pretty nice. Could the murdered ghost find happiness and peace in elegant new bar? Guests and patrons of The Riverhouse at Odette’s will find out soon as it just opened four weeks ago. A friend of mine is working there and sent this picture. It was so cool to see they still incorporated her name and it's history and have a whole wing of Odette Mytle's portraits hanging in her honor.
This incidentally is also the same company that bought my home away from home the Raven. This is Odette's today.