Historic Structures

Indiana Hotel, Hammond Indiana

Date added: March 26, 2021 Categories: Indiana Hotel

The original incorporated (1883) town of Hammond evolved to the north and south of the Grand Calumet River, expanding outward from settler Hohman's cabin (1851). The western boundary has always been the Illinois state line. Hohman was one of the earliest settlers in this area.

In the 1880s there had been pressure from the Post Office to establish a name for the town. According to Harold Hammond, (the grandson of Thomas Hammond, brother to George Hammond who had started the first meat-packing plants in Hammond) there was a coin toss between Marcus M. Towle (Towle founded a residential-industrial area that would become part of Hammond) and Thomas Hammond at "Four Corners" (State and Hohman) to decide the name of the town. Hammond won, and succeeded Towle as Hammond's second Mayor, in May 1888 for two consecutive terms.

By 1890, eight railroad systems crossed the city, of which Conrail and the Norfolk and Western Railroad remain, continuing to affect this intersection. Hohman Avenue and State Street were widened after 1900, reaching their present configuration.

In response to the traffic and commerce the railroads brought to Hammond, the Indiana Hotel (noted on the architectural plans as the Bereolos Building) was built c.1922-23 for the Hammond Hotel and Improvement Company. It was built as a multi-use retail and hotel building. The Bereolos family owned several stores and lots in the neighborhood, and had a family member: James P. Bereolos on the intial list of stockholders in the incorporation of 1928 of the Indiana Hotel of Hammond, Indiana, Incorporated.

Three years after the hotel was built it was visited on March 15, 16, 1925 by an Indiana Ku Klux Klan leader, D.C. Stephenson. He had abducted Madge Oberholtzer of Indianapolis, with assistance from his bodyguard. On the train ride to Hammond (sleeping car of the Monon Railroad) she was tortured. At the hotel, Stephenson checked into room 416 and his bodyguard into 417. Madge subsequently attempted suicide unsuccessfully, dying three weeks later in Indianapolis.

Stephenson had met Ms. Oberholtzer at the inaugural ball for Governor Jackson, held at the Indianapolis Athletic Club on January 12, 1925. The 28 year-old Oberholtzer was an employee of the Indiana Department of Public Instruction. After they had met, she began seeing him on a regular basis. She had helped serve as a messenger to his friends in the legislature.

Stephenson was arrested shortly after her death, on kidnapping, rape, and murder charges. The trial was transferred to Noblesville, county seat of Hamilton County and drew national publicity. The most extensive historical accounts of the trial has been gathered from newspaper accounts, as the trial papers turned up missing in the early 1960s.

Long-term tenants of the hotel have included Bodie Photographers, a studio that occupied second floor space in the hotel from at least 1928 until 1989. Perrin's Recreation (billiards) was another long-term tenant in the basement from c.1928 to at least 1958. Bachman & Bertram, Architects appear in the mid 1920s and Bachman remained attached to the building until 1990.

The occupancy rates for the hotel, storefronts, and offices appears to have been steady from the late 1920s with some decline in the 1980s. By 1990, less than half the commercial space was rented, yet the sleeping room occupancy rate was nearly 100% for the rooms. In the Fall of 1990, the building was completely vacated due to the generally rundown conditions. The building was demolished in 1992.