LIMA — The Manhattan Hotel was a spot of commerce whose history was steeped in both passion and peculiarity. Crafted in excellence in 1903, The Manhattan Hotel instantly became a landmark of higher living in the still-growing city of Lima.
It was a man named J.H. Williams who ordered the construction of this establishment, and it was also he who served as the hotel’s first official proprietor. Williams was a hard-working man originally from South Carolina who possessed a keen eye for business. As such, he noted the lucrative potential profits that were to be made by starting a high-class hotel in Lima.
At this time, hotels were far different than how we think of them today. Instead of simply being buildings where one could rent a room for the night and scarf down a subpar complimentary breakfast in the morning, hotels back then were businesses with numerous commercial functions. The Manhattan Hotel, like most others of its kind and caliber, was equipped with not only a restaurant open to all, but also a fully-stocked bar. As such, visitors and locals alike would make use of the hotel, making it a hotspot of the town’s well-to-do figures.
The hotel’s restaurant in particular was highly popular to the point that The Lima Times-Democrat on Dec. 16, 1905, dedicated an entire article to its success. “It must be stated that the Hotel Manhattan continues to be the leading resort for those whose tastes demand the best and whose purses demand reasonableness.” Numerous local chefs were employed to work at the Hotel preparing all manner of delights from appetizer to dessert.
The first years of business established the ownership of the founder J.H. Williams, who was much beloved by the community. Articles from newspapers of the time chronicle the success of his Christmas pig-roasts to which the entire town of Lima was invited. Unfortunately, Williams died not long after the opening of his hotel. The Lima Times-Democrat captured the bizarre nature of his passing in their obituary, “Mr. Williams was stricken with an attack of cramps of the stomach on Thursday of last week. And the ailment seemed to have been precipitated by his having eaten half a dozen raw oysters that were cold and indigestible.”
As the property passed into the hands of Williams’ widow, she was quick to sell it to yet another successful entrepreneur. This new owner was a businessman much like the late Williams, and was a fellow named George Tipton. Tipton and his son, Willard, had plans to further renovate the hotel to make it a true gem of Lima commerce. For years, the two succeeded in living up to the legacy of their predecessors until family troubles began to interfere with the hotel’s operation in dramatic ways.
The first incident was carried out in 1906 when George Tipton officially announced he was training his son to take sole proprietorship over the hotel. Through matters undocumented, Willard Tipton shortly after had a drastic change of heart which not only caused him to forsake becoming the successor of his father as the hotel’s head, but also caused him to forsake the hotel altogether.
The next incident was so bizarre that George Tipton never quite recovered from it. While he was away on business in the year 1908, Tipton entrusted temporary control over the hotel to his wife until he returned. He was hardly out the door before she attempted to overturn nearly every aspect of managing the hotel which her husband had established.
The Lima Daily News from May 5, 1908, details the result, “In (George Tipton’s) absence, his better half took charge of things and ran them to suit herself, much to the dissatisfaction of those employed there. The results were that many were discharged and other(s) quit, and the business was not progressing as it should.”
From there, Mrs. Tipton attempted to secure all of the cash on hand from the hotel’s clerk. After receiving telegraphed communications from George Tipton, the clerk refused to hand them over. Hearing of the horrendous state-of-affairs, George Tipton returned posthaste to right the wrongs done in his absence. He and his wife separated shortly after.
The hotel passed hands shortly after until it was purchased by A.B. Conway in 1910. Conway renovated the hotel yet again in hopes of attracting exclusively bourgeois clientele, which was quite beneficial in the short term but detrimental in the long term. While the hotel continued to be successful throughout the 1910s and 1920s, the Great Depression hit hard.
Due to the stock market crash of 1929, Lima residents of the day no longer had the funds to go about purchasing lavish dinners. The passage of Prohibition also ensured the profits the hotel earned from selling liquor dried up.
The Manhattan Hotel from this point forward was not by any means a money maker. As such, it was eventually decided to be torn down and converted into a simple parking lot along West High Street, right across the street from Mulligan’s.
Reach Drew Ewry at email@example.com.