Building’s display a step back in time

On the way back from a recent lunch meeting, I had a few spare minutes, so I strolled into the Shawnee Place Apartments building, which dates back to 1916.

What first caught my attention was a display of several items relating to when the building was the Shawnee Hotel. Most fascinating is a menu from the hotel’s restaurant dated Feb. 10, 1940. Diners could get “Broiled Whole Maine Lobster in drawn butter” for $2. “Grilled Selected Sirloin Steak, Maitre D’ Hotel” was available for $1.25. Ah, the good old days! The menu also included a variety of other seafood, beef and ham, plus “Roast Young Ohio Turkey.”

The “Special Dinner” cost all of $1.25, all desserts were 15 cents and room service was also 15 cents, per person.

There’s a Sunday, Nov. 24, 1963, newspaper ad for Thanksgiving dinner to be served the following Thursday.

Also on display is a Syracuse China plate used in the Hotel Shawnee that was donated by Mary Vasseur in April, 1989; a fork with “Hotel Shawnee” inscribed on the handle, donated by Evelyn Buck and family on June 30, 1990; pictures of the building throughout the year; and a poster found between the walls during a 1985 restoration previews a May 25 performance of “Springfield’s Own Orchestra” at Memorial Hall, led by Conductor C. L. Bauer (no relation to me, by the way.) Again, quite the bargain — admission was just 25 cents for adults, 10 cents for children.

I spotted a hotel registration card listing Harry Marx of Hollywood, Calif., dated “1/22” (no year), with a room rate of $3.75. Below that is a box from “E.F. Meyer Co. Quality Clothes, Shawnee Hotel, Springfield, Ohio.” Handwritten on the box is “SLACKS C.M. Hyland, 154 E. Grand Ave.” Rounding out the display is a key for Room 421 and a wonderful old piano. Through the years, the building has been owned by The Fred Van Orman Hotel Group, Wittenberg University, a group of local people, and AdCare and Community Hospital.

Model Management is the current owner of the structure, which is home to the Shawnee Place Apartments, with 84 units for people ages 55 and older. Bonnie Young, who has been resident manager for 16 years, tells me 81 of the apartments are currently occupied, and 17 are handicapped accessible. The building was given a second, $15 million renovation in 2008 after receiving an Ohio tax credit.

These days, the former ballroom — now called the Link Room — is the scene for weddings, meetings of various organizations and parties. Young also pointed out comedian Lou Costello was married in the building during a double wedding and a woman who worked as elevator operator told her Howard Hughes stayed at the Shawnee Hotel.

The building is also popular among the local legal community. Seven attorneys — James Griffin, Wolodymyr Strileckyj, Eric Sommer, Kurt Hasselbach, Paula Powers, Gerald Schmenk and Richard Spencer — have offices there. McCall Sharp Architecture is located on the East Main Street side of the building.

Griffin has been there for more than two years and was the first lawyer to move in after the most recent renovation. He said “(the management) treats us wonderfully and it’s great to be in such a historical building.” He added it’s very convenient to the surrounding buildings — the county courthouse, Juvenile Court and A.B. Graham Building — and, “it’s nice to have a restaurant downstairs.” (Bistro To Go).

The structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 5, 1985, one of 35 located around Clark County with that designation.

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