History of Piqua Plaza Hotel Can Be Seen in Old Postcards
By Judy Deeter
PIQUA - For generations, a majestic old hotel has stood at the heart of downtown Piqua. The building—no longer a hotel—is now is home to the Piqua Public Library, a community hall and a dining area. The two postcards seen on this page (and how it looks today) show it as it was during two points in its history: in its very early years and in the 1930s. They are from the post card collection of The Troy Historical Society.
The hotel opened in 1891, but the story of how it came to exist is reported to have started many years earlier. Some sources say that it started with the decades-long rivalry with Troy over which town should be the county seat of Miami County. After Troy was chosen by the state of Ohio to be the county seat in the 1884 and a new county courthouse opened there in 1888, Piqua residents decided that a building just as magnificent (or better than) the Miami County Courthouse should be built in Piqua.
In May 1890, William P. Orr and Samuel K. Statler purchased land on the northwest side of the Piqua Public Square from the heirs of John M. Brown for $24,000. On that downtown lot, they constructed a beautiful hotel. Columbus architect Joseph W. Yost designed the building in what is known as Richardson Romanesque style. He had designed the Miami County Courthouse, several courthouses in other parts of Ohio, and other buildings in Miami County.
Former Piqua Public Library Director James C. Oda wrote a history of the hotel in his book AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIQUA, OHIO (2007). Oda said, “The new structure would use over 800,000 bricks and contain five stories and a basement with a 115-foot-high corner tower, one-hundred guest rooms, and a grand two-story high dining room on the fourth floor. The final structure cost was roughly $125,000.” It should be noted that the names of Orr and Statler are carved into the building stone near the southeast corner roofline. There is says “Orr & Statler Block.”
The hotel opened on October 22, 1891. The Miami Union newspaper excitedly published a story on that date. It says, “We are in receipt of a handsome engraved invitation to the formal opening of the Hotel Plaza at Piqua this evening. This is expected to be the great social event of the season and the public spirit and liberal enterprise of Messrs. Orr & Statler will be celebrated, as they deserve at the hands of their grateful fellow-citizens.
Piqua is to be congratulated upon her magnificent hotel as well as upon the possession of such citizens as the builders.”
On October 29, 1891 the Miami Union reported, “The formal opening of the Hotel Plaza at Piqua on Thursday evening last was a brilliant affair…The house was in gala attire and dazzling with its hundreds of electric lamps. The handsome and costly furnishing was a fit setting for the lovely costumes of the fair guests. Nearly five hundred people were assembled to do honor to the builders of the beautiful hostelry….”
The oldest of the two post cards, is thought to have been published sometime in the early 1900s. The back of the card says it was “published expressly for the F.W. Woolworth Co.” The F.W. Woolworth Co. was a well-known American variety store during the late 19th and most of the 20th centuries. Also printed on the back of the post card are the words “C.T. Photochrom.” The “C.T.” refers to a man named Curt Teich, who came to Chicago from Germany in 1895 and started a printing business in Chicago in 1898. He began printing post cards in 1908.
This postcard was probably printed some time between 1908 and 1914. In 1914, Piqua businessman Stanhope Boal purchased the hotel from Samuel K. Statler and re-named it the Hotel Favorite. In later hotel pictures, the name Hotel Favorite can be seen on a sign outside the front entrance. This post card does not show such as sign.
The post card picture scene is referred to as “Market Square, Piqua, Ohio.” Vehicles in front of the hotel are horse drawn carriages. Some may be vendor vehicles. This view is certainly before the automobile era.
The second postcard has a handwritten date of November 17, 1937. It was sent to Pearl and Harry Mellinger of Springfield, Ohio. It seems to have been sent by two people, but due to damage on the post card, only a sender name of Bill can be seen. An arrow has been made on the post card picture pointing to at the front of the building. In the message area on the back of the card one of the senders has written, “Here is where we talked to you a little while ago.”
James Oda listed the changes of hotel ownership in his book. He notes that the name the Hotel Favorite remained in effect until 1946. Oda wrote, “In 1946, the Packard Hotel chain purchased the hotel and changed the name to the Hotel Fort Piqua. By the late 1980’s, the hotel operations were closed down by owner William Supinger. The hotel was purchased in the 1990’s and donated to the Piqua Improvement Corporation for private development. The City of Piqua and the public library joined together and began renovating the structure in 2007-2008 for use as a Library with a community center on the fourth floor.”
The website Grow Piqua Now notes that many famous people have visited the hotel. These include United States Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. Other well-known guests are magician Harry Houdini and musician John Phillips Sousa.
The hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 (#74001576). In 2009, the building received an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The building has been known as a “Poem in Stone.”
Though changes have taken place to the plaza area in front of the hotel, visitors to downtown Piqua today can see the same lovely building skyline that people saw in the 1890s. The skyline has remained the same through wars, floods and an economic depression. It is the same in both these old postcards and today.