LIMA — In 1897, J. Hayes Baker married Minnie Smith and set up a household at the corner of Jameson Avenue and West Wayne Street. He started running the Waldo Hotel bar downtown.
Just a few years later, a residence was built in the new Conderman addition at the corner of West Elm and Metcalf streets.
It would take a while, but a connection would be made between those two events — but it took a “tragedy” to make it happen.
Everything, or so it appears, was going fine for Baker. The newspapers were quiet. There were no front-page stories of domestic unrest in his home, although it’s known they were childless. The little bar in the Waldo was apparently a relatively quiet place, as there were no screaming headlines about raids or fighting.
But a shocker came in 1916: Baker was shot in the head by a man who turned and took his own life almost immediately.
“A double tragedy, the motive of which is still unsolved, although numerous theories have been advanced, was enacted at 2:15 o’clock this morning in Lima’s west side residence district when Harry Carnes, 35, scion of the historic Carnes family of Lima, and who was well known as ‘Jigger,’ shot and killed Hayes Baker, 37, saloonist, and then fired a bullet into his brain, ending his own life in front of his residence at 124 N. Cole St,” The Lima Daily News reported April 6, 1916.
It was a shocking crime, and people scrambled to find a motive. But first, they had to piece together what Baker, 35, and Carnes, 37, had been up to that day.
Baker was at the Waldo, doing his job. Carnes’ wife told authorities that he had put $100 in cash in his pocket earlier that day and said he was going downtown to pay bills. She didn’t find this terribly unusual. He ran a gas station, located in front of his house, and had formerly run a cigar store. He handled the business.
Carnes showed up at the Waldo at about 3 p.m., according to a story published April 6, 1915, in The Lima Times-Democrat. After the bar closed at 10 p.m., Carnes and Baker went upstairs to the room rented by N.O. Staley, a traveling salesman from Detroit. Staley had bottled beer. They continued to drink — but by all accounts weren’t sloppy drunk — and bet a little on craps upstairs. Only $20 changed hands during that exchange, however, and Carnes wasn’t even the biggest loser of the night.
About midnight, Carnes and Baker came back downstairs and decided to share a cab ride home, as they only lived about two blocks apart.
“The two, apparently in good spirits, climbed into the taxicab together, and according to the driver, did not quarrel on the way,” an April 6, 1916, Lima Daily News story reported.
They first went to the Carnes home, 124 N. Cole St., but then directed the cabbie to the Baker home, Wayne and Jameson. They got out of the cab and were talking on the sidewalk, Baker’s wife reported. She was nervous because she didn’t recognize Carnes, and she knew her husband had a habit of carrying the receipts from the bar home with him after he closed. She was made doubly nervous because she saw by Carnes’ obvious limp that he only had one leg, and she thought him to be a vagrant. She called the cab company, who assured her all was well and explained the situation.
The men were arguing mildly about Carnes using the cab to take him home, which Carnes apparently wasn’t keen on, and the cabbie left after it became clear the two men weren’t going to be quick about this decision. The two started walking toward Cole Street, Mrs. Baker reported, which would have been in the direction of the Carnes house.
Piecing this together, Mrs. Carnes was next to hear the men. They arrived in front of her home and continued to talk — until Carnes came in and got his gun.
“I never heard of Baker,’ said Mrs. Carnes. ‘When my husband came into the house, I thought little of it. He often took his revolver out when he heard prowlers around the house. Just before he came in, I thought I heard someone at the side of the house and supposed he was looking for him,” she told the Republican Gazette for a story published April 6, 1915.
She turned on the porch light, which also switched on the lights to the gas station in front of the house. Suddenly, three shots boomed. She arrived on the porch just in time to see her husband fall to the ground.
“Baker was shot in the right temple and in the left breast,” a Lima Times-Democrat story published April 6, 1915, reported. “Clutched in his hand was an opened match box and he had evidently been in the act of lighting a cigarette when shot. He had his overcoat over his arm and all signs would indicate that he was absolutely unaware of the intention of his companion.”
Carnes barely paused before putting the gun in his mouth, according to witnesses who heard the three shots. The gun was still in his hand as he lay dead. Neighbors, one of whom was the coroner, rushed to the scene.
Police found six Buffalo nickels in Carnes’ pockets. Baker had about $50 in cash, his bar receipts.
More investigation found Carnes to be in debt. Neighbors reported he was “hot headed,” also.
“Carnes had a civil suit pending in the courts in which he was being sued for a sum of money,” a Lima Times-Democrat story reported. “It is considered as possible that this, coupled with the large gasoline bill due today and the loss of his money last night, may have temporarily unbalanced Carnes.”
Carnes, survived by his wife and 5-year-old son James, was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. Baker, survived by his wife Minnie, was buried in the same cemetery. Visitation for each was packed, according to the papers, who carried this story on their front pages.
Blame was laid on gambling habits, but there was no real proof. Minnie Baker sold the bar to Samuel Croft, of Wapakoneta, as “she did not care to assume any responsibility for the conduct of the place,” an April 14, 1915, story reported.
The story faded, quickly, as the next big story happened in short order. The papers reported on April 15, 1915, that a 16-year-old girl was found beaten to death and dumped in south Lima. A 25-year-old man had been courting her but dumped her, and she was essentially stalking him. He grew weary of that and lost his temper. Lima soon forgot all about the Carnes-Baker case.
Free now to do what she pleased, in 1926 Minnie Baker moved to the residence at the corner of West Elm and Metcalf streets and opened the Castle Tea Room. An ad published Sept. 5, 1926, promoted a “special table d’hote dinner.” That indicates a set price for a limited menu, as opposed to ordering a la carte. It included iced canteloupe, fruit cocktail, chicken broth with rice, hot rolls, India relish, fried spring chicken, porterhouse steak, baked ham, creamed potatoes, corn on the cob, pear salad, butterscotch pie, pineapple sundae and cake, fruit Jell-o with whipped cream, coffee, tea and milk for $1 per plate.
Minnie Baker would continue to run a restaurant and let furnished rooms through the mid 1940s at that address.
Next, Ralph and Lena Godfrey opened a photo studio for a short time at the residence. They sold it soon after. It went through several owners until Byron Mundhenk and J. Dean Courtad, optometrists, opened offices there. That business continued into the 1970s.
It was a short-lived shelter and real estate office until 1982, when Tom Cullen turned it into the Victorian Corner and offered stained glass art. He still owns it today.