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Automobiles were lined along Limestone and Main streets on the evening of January 31st , 1917, as guests arrived for the formal opening of the Hotel Shawnee. Beautifully gowned women and men in full dress suits came to enjoy the ball and show their appreciation of Springfield’s newest hotel, which was said to have brought “a touch of New York life” to Springfield. Among those greeting guests as they arrived was Burton Westcott of the Westcott Motor Car Company and owner of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House, who was involved in the hotel project. Orchestras and vaudeville performers filled the lobby and mezzanine with music and dancing throughout the night.
The forerunner of the Hotel Shawnee was a 72-room brick hotel built in 1854. This hotel would change names several times during the more than 50 years it served guests, being called the Murray House, the Willis House, Knaube Hotel, Cherry Hotel, and finally, St. James Hotel. This structure was purchased by the property investment company, Link & Link, and was demolished in 1915 to begin construction on the 225-room Hotel Shawnee. Construction of the Hotel Shawnee was completed in 1917 and came at a cost of $650,000.
The hotel was leased to the Fred Van Orman Hotel Company, which operated the Hotel Shawnee until 1937. After the lease expired, the Shawnee Hotel Company was formed to operate the hotel. In 1963, the Shawnee Hotel Company was facing foreclosure of the hotel and it was sold at auction to Colmut Properties Inc., a holding company owned by Wittenberg University. In 1965, the Hotel Shawnee was sold to National Housing Consultants and Management Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio. It was this firm that would begin the Hotel Shawnee’s transition from hotel to apartment complex by converting the 5 upper floors to suites accommodating persons over 55 who were in good health. In 1966, the Hotel Shawnee was purchased by Dayton Mayor Dave Hall, who would turn the entire building into an apartment complex, naming it the Shawnee Apartment Building. On February 2nd, 1969, the “Hotel Shawnee” sign was removed from the building as onlookers gathered to watch workmen dismantle the historic landmark.
- Ark, R. (Producer) (2010). Springfield, Ohio: A video history [DVD].
- Large crowd attends reception at Shawnee. (1917, February 1). The Springfield Daily News.
- Metropolitan air prevails as hotel opens. (1917, February 1). The Springfield Daily News.
- Firm buys Hotel Shawnee with successful $224,771.96 bid. (1963, June 2). The Springfield News Sun.
- Control of Hotel Shawnee given to three sons of Dayton mayor. (1966, September 17). Springfield News Sun
- Four-story downtown sign comes down after 52 years. (1969, February 3). The Springfield Sun.
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