August 15, 2012
LIMA — When Bernard “Bernie” Halloran was being raised on the north side and eventually raised up Lima to be a top spot in baseball, his uncle was busy on the south side.
And to make matters more complicated and interesting, this branch of the family spelled their name Holleran.
Why Patrick J. Holleran decided to spell his name differently than his father — Halloran — is likely lost to history. But one of Patrick’s brothers did the same.
The newspapers first catch up with Patrick J. Holleran in 1900.
“P.J. Holleran has added extensive improvements to his hotel, 953 S. Main St. He has added a large addition to the house, added a new lunch and dining room, refitted and refurbished it. The place now presents a very neat and up-to-date appearance,” a story from May 14, 1900, reported.
According to his wife’s obituary, the hotel was established in 1898. (Elizabeth Holleran, 70, died at her residence at the hotel in 1942.)
The hotel was built just north of the major railroad intersection, and it catered to the working class. A newspaper item published Sept. 30, 1917, reported laborer Joseph Etrophet was rooming at the Holleran Hotel. He reported to police that his paycheck was taken from his room as he slept. His week’s wages were $12.35. The thief woke him up while robbing him, and Etrophet gave chase but lost the man as he ran through the rail yards.
Another incident at about the same time period reported roomer Joe Shocke said a gold watch, chain and other jewelry went missing. The police believed the thief walks in boldfaced and acts like he belongs there, a June 3, 1917, story reported.
In December 1917, a group of bricklayers were arrested at the Holleran Hotel for fighting.
Patrick J. Holleran ran the hotel only for a short time. He died in 1913, and the operations passed first to his widow and then their daughter and her husband, Mary Elizabeth “Mae” and Edward Mihlbaugh.
An advertisement published Aug. 18, 1920, lists E.P. Mihlbaugh has having a real estate agency at the hotel’s address.
And then came some real excitement. George “Red” McGahan and his gang held up a Huntertown, Ind., bank for $30,000 among other such capers and decided to come to Lima and hide out at the Holleran. Police soon took notice and raided the place — but it quickly fell apart into a gun battle and chase with hundreds of shots ringing out, according to an Oct. 10, 1948, story. The criminals scattered, with some being apprehended years later.
After Mihlbaugh’s death, management passed to his son, Edward P. Mihlbaugh Jr. He is listed in an ad published Feb. 7, 1943, extending “his personal invitation for you to meet your acquaintances and friends at the landmark of Lima.” The Holleran Hotel and Bar was “especially known for being the home of high-grade whiskies, fine mixed drinks, cocktails and bottled beers.”
The next week, the 25-year-old man announced he was running for mayor. The papers reported he was associated in business with his mother in running the hotel. He was defeated in the race and his life came to a premature end in 1945. He was shot after getting into an argument about a fraternal organization in Ottoville. He lived 11 1/2 days at St. Rita’s after being shot twice with a .22 caliber handgun.
His aunt, Helen English, then became associated with the hotel. She was also a daughter of Patrick J. Holleran.
And then at Christmas time 1959, another tragedy: Fire.
Six men died Dec. 20, 1959, when fire swept through the second floor. It apparently started in a lounge on the first floor and spread. The 108-year-old hotel building was badly damaged.
“The hotel catered to railroaders and old-age pensioners,” a Dec. 21, 1959, story reported.
One of the roomers, Thomas O’Day, 89, ran through the halls trying to rouse people to safety. One resident made escape by going through his room’s window, over the roof and down a tree. Six men, including O’Day, died.
“One elderly man asked me, ‘Did Patty Moran get out?’ When I shook my head no, tears sprang to his eyes and he stumbled away before I could learn who he was,” the reporter wrote in his story, obviously moved by the scene.
In the coming days, more details would emerge. Thurman Pugh, 72, was in the lounge reading the funny papers.
“I put the paper down and saw flames shooting up in the corner. I went to grab a washpan full of water to put it out, but by the time I was halfway across the room the flames were as high as the ceiling,” Pugh said in a Dec. 22, 1959, story. There were building materials there in that corner, as the place was being remodeled. He ran to the front and told English to call for help, which she did.
But soon, the story took another turn.
“Fire Chief Walter Hydaker today charged two exits of the Holleran Hotel were padlocked Sunday night when fire broke out, claiming six lives. Three of the fire victims were found near the exits,” a Dec. 23, 1959, story reported. He said his men had to break down two doors to gain entrance to fight the fire.
After a state investigation, officials said there wasn’t enough evidence for criminal prosecution, but the Holloran Hotel had come to an end.