Ornate hotel drew early conventions


Donna Dulek writes, “My granddaughter is doing a paper for her fifth-grade class on the Columbia Hotel. Could you provide any information or advise where we might get information on the hotel?”

On the north side of Main Street (U.S. 40) near the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, there is an empty parking lot that was the location of the old Columbia motel.

For many years it was the site of many conventions and important meetings in the community. The Columbia was built in 1895, and it was demolished in 1960.

In 1922 a three-gallon still and other items for making bootleg liquor were found in the basement by federal officers. The proprietor, David Hall, was fined $175 plus court costs. That same year the furnishings of the Columbia were sold at tax sale for $2,500, the amount of the tax debt.

When originally built, the hotel had a turret, balconies and a third-floor ballroom. The restaurant was famous for its fried chicken and could feed a large group. It also had a main staircase that was impressive and open to the lobby, which also had an open fireplace.

In the 1950s the building struggled for survival. The managers used to dump the ashes from the coal furnace into the basement, which soon filled up. It was vacant for several years. Eventually no one knew what to do about the ashes or the building, and it was torn down.

In March my wife’s cousin Jim Holder passed away. Jim was a 1961 graduate of Mt. Comfort High School, which would have been at the site of the current Mt. Comfort Elementary School. The old Mt. Comfort High School was built in 1917 in Buck Creek Township. In 1923, Hancock County Auditor George O’Dunn took the basketball team to the Indianapolis theater for winning the sectional.

In 1906 Buck Creek Township had seven schools, with six being grade schools. All the grade schools were one room. A combined high school and grade school located in Mt. Comfort had four teachers. I believe that was the gray brick building that now serves as a residence. If you go into the Mt. Comfort grade school, an old band uniform is on display.

My condolences to the Holder family.

The community of Mt. Comfort was platted in the 1840s. In 1845 a memorable Fourth of July celebration took place near Mt. Comfort, and a flag was made by Mother Eastes’ white linen sheets. A large barbecue pit was dug with many delegates coming from all over the county.

Enough. I have told you everything that I know and some things I don’t. Talk to me.