Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lafayette Hotel, Marietta

Here's the history of this historic hotel straight from the inn's website:

While all evidence of the palisades and the black houses of Picketed Point have been effaced in the advance of progress and time, this important chapter of the early history of Marietta and Ohio will never be forgotten, nor will the romance of the past ever dim or fade.

Here on the banks of the Ohio River today, you can view the same magic beauty that fascinated early settlers in 1788, as evidenced by inscriptions in the letters of Rufus Putnam, "a country of the most pleasant climate and of the rarest beauty and enduring charm."

The Lafayette Hotel draws its name from the visit in 1825 of the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution. Lafayette landed at the "point" on a boat named Herold. The towns people did not know of his plan to visit here and were unprepared for his arrival. A prominent early Marietta citizen, Nahum Ward, entertained him at his home. Lafayette continued from Marietta through several communities to his final destination of Boston, Massachusetts. A plaque near the Hotel marks the spot where Lafayette came ashore in Marietta and today the locals boast that the first tourist to visit Marietta was the Marquis de Lafayette.

The Bellvue Hotel was built in 1892 where the Lafayette Hotel stands today. It was 4 stories tall, had 55 steam heated rooms, a bar, a call bell system in every room and advertised hot and cold baths. The rate was $2.00 or $3.00 American Style. The Bellvue was destroyed by fire on April 26, 1916, at 5:40 p.m. Pictures of the fire are on display in the vestibule by the Lafayette's Gun Room Restaurant.

The Lafayette Hotel, built by Marietta businessmen, opened on July 1, 1918, and was incorporated as the Marietta Hotel Co. which owned the original building, additions, and real estate. Reno G. Hoag was hired as manager with a salary of $150 per month plus room and board for his family.

When Mr. Hoag was named manager in 1918 his eighteen year old son, S. Durward Hoag, also began working for the hotel. He helped unpack furniture and fixtures which came by boat from Cincinnati on the river packet, Liberty, a week before the opening on April 26. Eventually, Reno Hoag purchased the contents of the hotel for $25,000. For a number of years, Reno and Durward began buying stock as it was offered to them and in 1924, incorporated. Together they operated the Lafayette, making improvements and changes as the times dictated. The old Mansion House, which was built in 1835, was purchased by the hotel from Thomas McCurdy and Christina McCuley. The house stood directly behind the Lafayette and was demolished to build a 30 room addition to the original hotel, The Hoag Addition.

Reno Hoag died on March 4, 1944, and S. Durward Hoag continued to run the hotel until he sold the Lafayette on December 17, 1973, to local businessman, Harry J. Robinson.

Mr. Robinson saw a need for larger facilities to accommodate meetings and banquets. He also had a passion for the preservation of big bands and ballroom dancing. In 1978, the Sternwheel Ballroom was added at a cost of $650,000. Mr. Robinson's business insight continues to benefit the Hotel and the local community by allowing the hotel to attract small and medium-sized conventions from around the state. The Grand Ballroom still plays host to big band music and ballroom dancing. Harry Robinson operated the Lafayette Hotel until May 30, 1984.

From June 1984 to July 1989, the Lafayette Hotel was operated by a limited partnership comprised mostly of out of town investors. During this period, the property suffered extreme financial set backs and remodeling over runs and was eventually turned over to the mortgage holder, Bank One, Columbus. Bank One continued to operated the property in receivership until a buyer could be found.

In May 1991, the Lin Family from Columbus, Ohio, formed the Lafayette Hotel, Inc., and purchased the property. Since then, guest rooms, the lobby and the Grand Ballroom have been redecorated and major improvements have been made to heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. More importantly, the property has been linked to Historic Hotels of America through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Ghost Stories, as found in Susan Sheppherd's Cry of the Banshee and the Forgotten Ohio website:
The ghost of Mr. Durward Hoag is said to still be watching over his hotel, and is most active on the third floor, where a wing named in his honor is found.  Mr. Hoag likes to make his presence known mainly by flickering and exploding light bulbs.  He is also said to manifest by flashes of bright light, not unlike a camera flash firing.  Several employees are hesitant to enter the third floor of the hotel alone, although a malevolent haunting has never been reported at the hotel. 
Mr. Hoag also likes to make his presence known throughout the third floor hallways, but also by operating the elevator.  The elevator will often operate on its own accord, frequently stopping at the roof level.  Employees have caught glimpses of him out of the corner of their eyes, and have even heard him whisper words of advice and encouragement, especially late-working accountants.  Papers and small objects are often found rearranged.
  Mr. Hoag died in 1982, and was instrumental in improving the hotel, adding additional guest rooms and the cocktail lounge, all while actually living in the hotel itself during his tenure.

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