Saturday, November 14, 2009

The West House Hotel

Owned by brothers W.T. and A.K. West, the West House hotel was opened to the public in 1858. It was the first building credited to architect Sheldon Smith. At one time the West House was the largest hotel between Cleveland and Toledo. It was five stories high, and was located at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Water Street, in downtown Sandusky, not far from the docks at Sandusky Bay. Over two thousand guests stayed at the West House during the Ohio State Fair, which was held in Sandusky in 1858. Charles E. Frohman wrote in his book Rebels on Lake Erie, that during the 1860’s the West House “was the center of the social and business life of the bustling city of 25,000.”

Many organizations, businesses, and associations held their conventions and annual meetings at the West House. The August 7, 1912 issue of the Sandusky Register announced that veterans from the 128th Ohio Volunteer Infantry would meet at the West House for their thirty seventh annual reunion. James A. Garfield wrote in his diary that he once met an associate at the West House. In 1877 the United States Signal Service was established in Sandusky and had its station on top of the West House.

In 1864, a Confederate agent, Charles H. Cole stayed at the West House. Cole, along with John Y. Beall and other Confederates, planned to free several prisoners housed at the Civil War prison at Johnson’s Island. Ultimately Cole was arrested before the plan could be successfully carried out. The website of the C.I.A. features a page on this conspiracy.

Volume 21 of the Firelands Pioneer reported that the West House was dismantled in March of 1919. The article concluded…..“for 55 years, until 1913, it was Sandusky’s principal hotel, housing from time to time many of the most notable men of the nation. From its upper stories could be commanded on a clear day a notable view of the Lake Erie island region, which always appealed to travelers and attracted transient visitors.”

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