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Circa 1891 Ohio Hotel and Ballroom Building Gets Renovated-Abandoned Fort Piqua Hotel Becomes Fort Piqua Plaza & Library
Fort Piqua Hotel - Before renovation
Restoration complete--now the Fort Piqua Plaza
Fort Piqua Hotel...in the beginning
For more than 20 years, the old Fort Piqua Hotel in Piqua, Ohio, sat abandoned in the center of downtown, boarded up and decaying. The hotel was once a grand luxury hotel, built in 1891, by prominent citizens of the city William Orr and Samuel Statler. It was constructed in the Richardson-Romanesque style, with 85,000 sq. feet, including 103 rooms and a ballroom on the 4th floor.
The main lobby had an enormous fireplace, with a mezzanine overhead, and a stained-glass skylight above. As you walked past the fireplace, you come to the grand staircase, which swept up half a floor to a landing where more stained glass windows would glow in the midday sunlight. The stairs split and switched back at that point where they continued climbing to the second floor of the hotel.
The ballroom featured a vaulted two story ceiling, and floor to ceiling stained glass windows and mahogany woodwork graced the walls. There was also a musician's balcony, and a separate dining area for children.
The Exterior of the Fort Piqua Hotel
The exterior of the Fort Piqua Hotel is sandstone, and has a huge clock tower on the front right corner of the building. Sculpted gargoyle faces peer grotesquely down from the stone window sills all around the outside. Over the front entrance of the hotel is a balcony with wrought iron railings, where celebrities appeared before their adoring fans, and politicians would stand and speak to the people who gathered. Some who put in appearances through the years were Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Harry Houdini, and John Philips Sousa.
Clock tower and Gargoyle face
More background on the Fort Piqua Hotel
During Prohibition, the hotel was used for the meetings of the local Women's Christian Temperance Union. Ironically, after Prohibition, it became the first business in the city to open a bar.
In 1947, the NAACP staged a sit-in at a lunch counter at the hotel, ending, once and for all, Piqua's restaurant segregation policies.
Due to the small size of the city, though, the hotel struggled to stay afloat financially. It changed owners many times, and many changes in the hotel itself were made, but nothing was successful for any length of time.
By the 1970's, it had been reduced to a hotel for transients, and also a bus depot. But soon it became vacant and in a severe state of disrepair, and it was boarded up and closed for good in 1987. For the next couple of decades, it sat empty and unused, a dismal shadow of its former elegance and grace.
Finally, decisions are made...
In the first half of the 2000's, while everything else in the city was being improved during a revitalization project, it was finally decided to do something about this empty hazardous structure. Using Federal and state grants, tax credits, city funds, and almost $4 million in private donations--approximately $20 million in all--the plans were finalized. The dollar amount from private donations in itself was staggering, considering Piqua has a population of only around 20,000 people.
The city's library was going to become the main tenant for three floors in this building, as it had outgrown its present site. Also planned was a banquet/conference center in the old ballroom/dining room on the 4th floor, and a coffee shop and restaurant on either side of the first floor of the library. Scattered throughout the building were also going to be other meeting rooms, a "President's Room", remembering past presidential visits, a "Veteran's Room", where they would have military exhibits and presentations.
A few more photos of the changes
In 2008, the Fort Piqua Plaza is opened...
The building was restored, as much as possible, to its original condition. Where original paint or design was found, the workers stayed faithful to it. The old fireplace and staircase, along with the stained glass windows and magnificent chandelier in the ballroom were all restored to their original beauty. There is no sign that this was, for many years, forgotten about and left to crumble...
The construction project began in January of 2007, and was finished in October of 2008. The Fort Piqua Hotel was re-christened Fort Piqua Plaza, and approximately 1000 people attended the Grand Opening on October 19th of that year. Residents of Piqua can be proud of the work done on this building, and thankful that the city leaders decided to restore it, and not demolish it, as some had suggested at the time of the decision making.
I for one am thrilled to be a resident of Piqua, and to have been able to go to this building several times since it's reopened. It's hard to describe how beautiful this place really is, and I invite everyone to come and take a tour through this...you won't be disappointed.