Put-in-Bay Hotel History

The Put-in-Bay Hotel Commodore

After the War of 1812 no visitors were allowed to stay on Put-In-Bay island overnight. It wasn’t until 50 years later that the first ever of the Put-in-Bay Hotels were thought about, by a man named Frederick Cooper. He sought out an opportunity for business and added more rooms to a house near the boat landing sometime in the early 1860s. As time went on, the demand for more space grew and so did Frederick’s property. After managing and growing his property for several years, he took on a partner named Andrew Decker, it was then that the property got its name, The Island Home. Over the next few years, the property grew and so did business. Frederick and Andrew added a bowling alley, a bar, a beer garden, and some stables. It wasn’t soon after that, that they sold the property to a guy named Henry Beebe who then renamed the property the Perry House. Once Beebe took over the hotel just kept growing. He soon added a ballroom, a three-story wing, and an ice cream parlor. In the year of 1910, the Perry House was sold and renamed the Hotel Commodore. A few short years after the Schlitz Brewing Company bought the house it sadly caught fire on the date of August 23, 1932, burning it to the ground. Shocked islanders couldn’t believe this beloved island landmark was gone.

The Put-in-Bay Hotel Victory

In the year 1886, the Hotel Victory was sought and The Feick Construction Company of Sandusky built the frame and structure, laying the cornerstone in September. The Hotel Victory consisted of one main building, another building with dining rooms and servant quarters, as well as a Natatorium. The main building housed the 625 guest rooms, 80 of which were suites with a bath. Other features of the main building included three elevators, bellboy stations on every floor, steam heating, and incandescent lights. This hotel was once one of the largest hotels in America, but then on August 14, 1919, a fire began in the hotel. The flames originated in a cupola and quickly spread to the entire third floor. People in the hotel were notified by a phone call coming from outside of the building. As the structure burned, thieves took to removing the furniture, furnishings, and guest’s personal belongings, which later led everyone to believe the Island was cursed.


The Put-In-Bay House

The Put-In-Bay House came about while the first hotel was developing and changing. A man by the name Joseph W. Gray purchased the Put-In-Bay “White House.” He turned this landmark into a rooming house. On August 30th, 1878 a gala was held to benefit the victims of Yellow Fever in the Southern United States. Shortly before 6 in the evening a fire ignited in the cupola of the structure and the building quickly burned to the ground as there was no fire department on the island at the time.  Despite residents efforts to slow the fire with a bucket brigade, the structure was a total loss and burnt to the foundation. It was rumored that 4 men smoking in the area may have been the cause of the tragic fire but it was never proven.

The Put-In-Bay Harriet House

The original house on Put-in-Bay was built in 1878 by John and Mary Esselbach. Only five other women have owned Harriet’s House since 1878: Edna Esselbach, Harriet Tanchon, Linda Rectenwald, and now Linda’s daughters, Tiffany Alexander and Tara Nilson. What began as a little retirement venture for Linda and Denny in the Spring of 2002 has quietly become a complete hospitality operation.

In the Spring of 2005, the Island Suites were constructed to add accommodations for an additional 24 guest. Demand for lodging continued on Put-in-Bay, and especially downtown Put-in-Bay, which prompted the development in 2010 of a 6000 sq ft building holding 3 Townhouses and 5 Bungalows which serves the needs of 40 guests in luxury surroundings.

The Colonial Hotel

On June 16th, 1906 the Colonial House opened its doors to great fanfare, People from everywhere came out to commemorate the joyous occasion. During the first few decades, the Colonial House was a remarkable place to visit and stay. Many people came and celebrated many occasions such as dances held in the grand hall. Children, teens, and adults could all find fun things to do in this massive space. This past Memorial Day weekend in 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the Colonial Fire.






The Hunker House

Mr. Hunker’s father, Andrew Holland Hunker, was a wealthy businessman from Toledo. He built the Hunker House, which was the first hotel at Put-in-Bay. The Steamboat Gothic home changed owners few times, and many of its original furnishings are still inside. Cincinnati businessman Frank Miller purchased Inselruhe in 1937 with the original furniture, collectibles, antiques, and Hunker family documents still inside. Mr. Miller and his wife, Ruth, kept the house in pristine condition.

The Park Hotel

The Deutsches Hotel, now known as the Park Hotel, was built in the 1870s with 26 rooms. The hotel was the first one on the island to offer beds with spring mattresses rather than traditional straw filled beds; quite a luxury during this era. Local historians believe that the hotel was built by George F. Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt was also an early owner of the Roundhouse Bar which is adjacent to the hotel. An 1888 newspaper article named one of the first owners as both Smith and Schmidt in the same paragraph. It is claimed that a woman, nicknamed the “governess” by the proprietors, passed away in the Park Hotel. The woman is reported to have fallen down the stairs leading from the second floor down to the lobby. Certain residents who had frequently stayed at the hotel as children report having been watched over by the Governess as they played at the bottom of the lobby stairway. Some residents in the area say that one of the early owners of  the hotel committed suicide at this hotel. Legend has it the man hanged himself from the third floor stairway rail. His body was supposedly found dangling on the second floor between the third and second floor stair rails.

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