The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 1, Page 14.


Valparaiso's First Hotel, "The American Eagle" House, Stood At Corner of Main and Franklin Streets; It Was Here That Idea For Name of City Was Given

The American Eagle House, built at the southeast corner of Main and Franklin, where the Windle building now stands, in the year 1836, was the first hotel in Valparaiso. Abraham Hall was its owner. He opened a tavern in it in 1839. The hotel was also known as the Valparaiso House and Hall's Tavern.

This hotel was the scene of a gathering of a party of sailors in the winter of 1837. The seamen regaled the crowd of patrons of the American Eagle House with their tales of the old Chilean seaport, Valparaiso. It was the old Valparaiso that Admiral David Porter, for whom Porter county was named, fought his famous battle on board the Essex, and at the suggestion of the party of marines steps were taken to change the name of Portersville to Valparaiso after the Spanish-American seaport.

The first tavern in Valparaiso was erected in the fall of 1836 by Jimmy Laughlin, built from the frame of a building which was used by Hans Barnholt as a meat market. John Herr and Solomon Cheney bought and finished it, and kept a tavern there from the spring of 1837 until the fall of 1838.

Many amusing incidents of liquor sales in the early days were told. One had to do with the American Eagle House proprietor. It seems that Herr and Cheney had some raspberry brandy which had been well tested by LaPorte lawyers, always good judges of things spirituous, and had been pronounced good.

Abe Hall thought he must have some of the same when he opened up. When he returned from Michigan City with the first load for his bar, the barrel of raspberry brandy was taken from the wagon, a hole bored in it, and a portion of the contents removed. A high time was followed and the barrel was forgotton.

There were some hogs in the back yard, sleeping in piles of shavings. They smelled the raspberry brandy, tasted it and pronounced it good. After midnight people living in the vicinity were awakened by the strange cavorting of the hogs. When Hall came out in the morning from the tavern with a tin pail to get a fresh supply, he found the barrel empty.

Subsequently David Oaks, who had kept a tavern at Prattville, became Mine Host at the American Eagle House, greatly improving the building. Then came John Dunning and others.

In 1845, Elizabeth Harrison, from East Tennessee, built a tavern where the Premier theatre building now stands. It was enlarged in 1849.

About 1855, A. R. Gould moved into it from the American Eagle, and kept it continuously until the death in 1877, when he was succeeded by his widow. Mr. and Mrs. Gould were favorably known from New York to San Francisco.

The Tremont House, located at the northeast corner of Main and Franklin, where the Farmers State bank building now stands, was built in the forties. James Maxwell was one of the proprietors. It was the terminus for bus lines operating between Valparaiso and Calumet (Chesterton), and Valparaiso and Crown Point and Valparaiso and LaPorte. The building was later destroyed by fire.

The Excelsior Block, on the southeast corner of Mechanic (Indiana) and Washington, was built in 1858, it was used for years by private families and a place where rooms were let. At length it served its original design by becoming the Winchell House. In 1875, it became the Merchant's Hotel, with the geneial Thomas T. Maulsby as landlord. For many years it continued as one of the city's leading hostelries. Later it served as headquarters for Polk's School of Piano Tuning and the Court Hotel, operated by Charles Kenyon. It was destroyed by fire in 1927.

A ludicrous incident in connection with the Gould House occurred in 1860. United State Senator D. D. Pratt, of Logansport stopped at the Gould House. He had attended the national republican convention in Chicago where he had served as secretary of the convention. His visit to Valparaiso was occasioned by the fact that he was to be pitted against some of the ablest legal talent in the northern part of the state in litigation involving an Indian title to a large quantity of land.

When the usual hour arrived, needing rest, Mr. Pratt retired. Came the midnight hour and later. Just opposite the hotel was a warehouse or grocery and a great pile of salt barrels. There were white and black brindled cows, dun-colored and spotted cows; there were cows with bells and cows with bellows, and they were having a picnic.

The music made by the cows was a sweet lullaby to the denizens of Valparaiso. But with Mr. Pratt the case was entirely different. He could not sleep for the ding-donging of the cow bells and their plaintive lowing.

He got up in scant attire and tried to shoe them away. He made a charge on the enemy with a board and they dispersed, but the hogs from one end of the town to the other took up where the cows left off with simultaneous baying and barking. It was like a certain place had broken loose.

Hardly had he gotten into bed, then the cows were back at the salt barrels again, but the exercise indulged in by the Honorable Mr. Pratt had soothes the irate gentleman's nerves, and he was oblivious to the noises as if he had been brought up in the place. He awoke in the morning refreshed and after a hot contest of several days, he won his case.

The Conn House was erected in the seventies. For many years it was operated by John Conn. In its day it was one of the leading hostelries of the city until the Central House was erected, and then its popularity waned. Reports are that many important personages tarried there. Forty-one years ago it was purchased by Mrs. Jennie Beckman Barnes, who still owns it. In late years it has been used for religious meetings and a Gospel Mission.

In 1880, the Gould House was razed and the Central House erected on the site. Some of the proprietors of the hostelry were: Edward Mee, Mark Killian, John H. Spindler, C. R. Barnhart, Virgil Dawson, Dell Carr, William Burdick and James Wilson, the first operator of the hotel.

The Central House was later changed to Lafayette hotel, the Spindler hotel and the Sheldon hotel, last named being operated by James H. Sheldon, before it was sold in 1921 to G. G. Shauer and Sons. The hotel building was razed and the Premier theatre building erected.

In 1920 steps were taken by a group of local citizens, backed by the chamber of commerce, to build a new hotel. The efforts of the group were finally successful when Charles H. Lembke announced he would finance the building a hotel and also supervise its construction. The Carr properties at the corner of Lafayette and Washington was purchased and construction began in 1924. The hotel, a five-story steel and concrete structure, was constructed and operated in charge of Julius Dreschoff, of South Bend. The hotel, is one of the finest to be found in a city this size in Indiana.

Other hotels in the city are the Bloch hotel, the Alpen hotel, Hotel Belmont, Grand Trunk hotel, built in the eighties, and the Franklin house at the Pennsylvania depot, an old-time hostelry, the old Dudley hotel, and Stiles hall, in the university district.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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