Historic Structures

Cambrian Hotel, Jackson Ohio

Date added: December 20, 2021 Categories: Ohio House Retail Hotel

Ground was broken for The Cambrian on the 8th of September 1900. The cornerstone was laid on March 10th, 1901. The shop on Main Street opened as Stephenson and Foster Dry Goods Merchants on May 14th 1902. On December 22nd 1902 the Cambrian Hotel opened its doors without fanfare.

The village of Jackson was established in 1817 as a salt boiling center at natural saline springs which had been used by the Indians before the white man arrived. Congress had set aside this six-mile square tract of land known as the Scioto Salt Reserve in 1796. Jackson was subsequently authorized out of this parcel.

Industrial prosperity was brought about by the union of limestone, Hanging Rock iron ore and wood for charcoal. Charcoal was replaced in the second half of the nineteenth century by coke made from local veins of high quality coal. Jackson prospered with the arrival of the Scioto and Hocking Valley Railroad in 1852 and the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad in 1854. The railroads provided cheap transportation to the Ohio River. High iron prices at the turn of the century made Jackson a booming town of over 5,000 people. It was a short lived boom. There was a panic in 1907 as the high quality coal began to play out. Increasing competition from cheap Great Lakes iron ore took furnace after furnace out of blast in the Hanging Rock country. The charming county seat town of Jackson continues to be a thriving market town and even a small industrial center, but the decline of its mineral base took the blast out of its expansion.

Edwin Jones (1862-1921), builder of the hotel, was for many years pre-eminent among Jackson's businessmen. His grandparents immigrated from Wales in 1837 bringing his father, Eben, then only four years old. Jackson County was already a center of Welsh immigration. Eben Jones was unusually well educated for his day, attending Ohio University and then graduating from Bartlett's Commercial College in Cincinnati in 1857. Eben taught school for six years until he was commissioned a lieutenant and went off to the Civil War. Mustered out as a Captain, he went into business after the war. Edwin's mother was Ann Williams, born in Wales. His father was a huge success in the iron furnace business. He became secretary of the Globe Iron Company, then manager of the Buckeye Furnace. He returned to Globe Iron succeeding his deceased father as President. Four generations of the Jones family successfully ran the Globe works. At the turn of the century Eben Jones was reported to be "the wealthiest man in the county".

Edwin was the second son in the prosperous family. He went into coal mine operation, owning at various times several coal companies, including the Emma Coal Company and the Northern Coal Company. In 1901 he was reported to have owned "a larger area of coal lands than any man in the county".

Jones was active in community affairs, serving a term as mayor and, in 1914, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. The county history says of his community boosterism that under his leadership of "a band of businessman wonders were accomplished for the county seat". The new industries included Crown Pipe and Foundry Company (of which Jones became president and principal owner), a woolen mill, Diamond Flint Glass Co., a shoe finishing branch and the shops of Detroit Southern Railroad. "Before this, Jones had shown his great faith in the Town's future by building the Cambrian, a modern hotel, large enough for a town of 15,000 people". Jones was proud of his Welsh heritage, naming his building the Cambrian, Roman name for the Welsh, and specifying in the deed that it must always bear that name.

Jones did not intend to become a hotel operator. He leased the unfinished hotel to Grapes and Grapes, who were experienced hotel operators from Fremont, Ohio. While the lease does not appear until 1903, the newspaper reports Grapes and Grapes were in charge in September, 1902 before the Hotel opened.

Jones' daughter Lillian remembers that the Cambrian Hotel was " ... run like a big city hotel, similar to New York City. There were more than one chef, also pastry cooks and served gourmet food... The Cambrian was well known and people from large cities came to stay and dine". The Jackson Journal Standard reported in June 1902 "The new hotel will have many appurtenances, such as a private light plant, capable of providing a number of arc lights and more than 300 incandescent lights. It has a complete laundry, a cold storage, an up to date kitchen department, latest improved elevators, barbershop, and a bath in every room". The Jackson Herald reported in September 1902, "Mr. Edwin Jones has spared no expense in fitting up his splendid hostelry and it now stands as a monument to his public spiritedness".

Little is known of the operation of the hotel after Jones sold it in 1913. Jones sued the new owners for $27,000 and won. He bought the "Cambrian Block" at the Sherriff's auction in 1917 for $35,000 and immediately sold the hotel to Harry Cruikshank. Jones retained ownership of the big store rooms facing Main Street, already occupied by Wood's Furniture. Ownership of the hotel changed rapidly for several years. There is a lease to John Trotter from Pharaoh Hill in 1918 and C.H. Wick advertised himself as proprietor from circa 1921-1925. The Spang family held ownership for twenty-five years from 1921. In 1946 Leroy Cox bought and operated the hotel. He sold it to Koula Petreu four years later but there is a lease indicating that Cox continued to be the operator. Petreu leased the hotel to Milner Hotel Inc. in 1952. Physical evidence indicates that additional apartments were established in the 1940's and 50's; however, records found in the hotel show that hotel rooms were being let by the night until the end of November 1962. It is known that it ceased operation about that time and the marble interior of the lobby and even copper plumbing fixtures were stripped out and sold in the "mid-60's". Never occupied again, the Cambrian Hotel was allowed to reach an advanced state of deterioration.

The large store room on Main Street has been known as Wood's Furniture within human memory. It actually opened ahead of the Hotel on 14 May 1902, occupied by Stephenson and Foster Dry Goods Merchants. The opening was reported in the local press as a gala event with flowers and two bands. Before the opening the paper reported, "The big daylight store room... is going to be one of the most magnificent business rooms to be seen anywhere around". Charles L. Wood, who is previously advertised as an undertaker, opened his furniture store in the Cambrian circa 1914. Wood subsequently bought the store rooms from Lola Jones shortly after her husband's death in 1921. Wood's daughter, Mary Davis, sold the property to the city. At the time of sale, she and her husband Charles were still operating the Furniture store which moved.

The occupants of the commercial space along Broadway Street have proved illusive. One store front and possibly basement space appears in old photographs. Mr. Raymond Boothe, who in circa 1919 worked at a concession stand in the lobby, says that the space behind the lobby was originally a barber shop. During the short time he worked there the Cambrian Restaurant moved into that space where it consistently appears in later photographs. The classically ornate restaurant space on the mezzanine floor became a "dance pavilion". Mr. Boothe played in the band. It was in operation until sometime in the mid-1950's. The restaurant appears to have closed its doors along with the hotel.