Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio

Date added: September 18, 2023 Categories: Ohio Hotel
Front (west) facade, north elevation looking southeast (2005)

America's summer resorts and amusement parks flourished at the turn of the century, due to influences by economic factors and an increase in leisure time. Even in Colonial times, summer resorts were common. It was about the 1830s that summer resorts really became fashionable. The resort trend spread rapidly across the United States. Turnpikes, railroads, canals and steamboats made locations such as Newport (known as the Northern Charleston), Saratoga Springs and Long Branch, easily accessible for those who could afford the elegant hotels. Northeasterners went south in the winter to escape the cold and Southerners came north to escape the excessive summer heat. The early resorts were social gatherings, gender-segregated, with the main activities including dances, card games, lawn bowling and billiards and the most popular sea bathing. The early resorts were specifically designed for the rich, but the resorts that emerged at the turn of the century, like Cedar Point, were the foundation for the more popular middle-class resorts of the 1880s.

The large American middle class that emerged after the Civil War had a small amount of money and little leisure time. Responding to this, smart businessmen established summer resorts with moderately priced hotels, near water sources. Inexpensive railroad excursions were offered to resorts that featured lawn tennis, croquet, archery, band concerts, dancing and fishing. Freshwater and saltwater bathing were more popular than ever and it became acceptable for men and women to bathe on the same beach. Midwesterners found the Great Lakes to offer warm breezes. The southern shore of Lake Erie and the Lake's islands offered an ideal summer retreat. One of the first to gain resort status on Lake Erie was South Bass Island's Put-in-Bay. Guests arrived in Sandusky by railroad, transferred to the island on a steamboat. Other small resorts blossomed during the 1880s, as did the resort on Cedar Point (dubbed the Coney Island of the West). The first hotel to be constructed at Cedar Point was the Hotel Breakers in 1905.

The increasing summer vacationers along with travelers traveling between Toledo and Cleveland created a demand for hostelries in the Sandusky Bay area. The hotel register in Sandusky listed several large hotels including the 134 guest Sloane House of 1878, (razed in 1949), the 150 guest West House of 1858 (razed in 1919) and the Wayne Hotel, an establishment of 35 rooms, which was located at the historic site and building of the Colt's Exchange.

By the late 1930s, the hotel industry benefited from tourism, which doubled the population of Sandusky. The demand accumulated during the summer months occupied the Hotel Breakers, Cedar Point's resort housing 1,000 rooms and the Hotel Cedar, with its 400 rooms, in addition to the 400 rooms found in downtown Sandusky. The largest Sandusky hotel was the Hotel Rieger, offering services beyond room accommodations including complete food and beverage service, barber and beauty shop, cigar and newsstand, telephone, millinery and dress shops, billiards and poolrooms.

The Rieger opened on May 1, 1912, with sixty brass beds, twenty private baths and running water to each room. Rates, including meals, were $2.50 to $3.50 per day. In 1939, the Rieger Hotel annual register recorded more than 25,000 people, making it the largest in Sandusky. Sandusky's high rates of travelers were twofold; it was the halfway mark between Cleveland and Toledo; and Cedar Point along with the Lake Erie Islands drew in tourists for the summer season.

The Hotel Rieger serviced the city of Sandusky for 52 years. The Hotel Rieger was sold in 1964 and renamed the Erie Inn Motor Hotel. In 1969 the fifth floor was converted to house a nursing home facility and by 1982 the Sandusky Nursing Home Inc., was established in the entire hotel. In 1988, the nursing home was closed. In 1992 the Sanduskian Hotel Bed and Breakfast was opened, and fourteen rooms were available. It has been vacant since the later part of the 1990s.

The building was first constructed in 1912 as four stories and six bays on Jackson Street. The building followed West Market Street to the north with a two-story and six-bay structure. In 1915-16, the fifth floor was added to the building, increasing the 60-room hotel to 100 rooms. The 1915-16 addition was designed to allow for further vertical expansion. The exterior dialogue of architectural elements continued from the 1912 construction to the final phase of construction that occurred in 1926, taking the count of the hotel rooms up to 120. The storefront design changed with each phase of construction, along with the evolution of the cornice. The 1912 cornice design was classical in design. By 1926, the cornice design was a handsome application of terra cotta brackets in the classical style, adorning the lintel. The main body of the building, the second through the fourth floor, remained virtually unaltered with minimal changes occurring on the exterior of the building since the 1926 expansion. Awnings have covered the facade since the 1912 construction, and the hardware is still intact. Two large canopies exist today. The original south-end canopy changed styles several times throughout the history of the building. The 1912 canopy was a decorative metal-clad canopy with glass pendants. The canopy had changed little during the 1926 additions; a sign was applied to the glass pendants. By 1942, the metal canopy was replaced with an Art Deco streamline sign. Today, the canopy is constructed of canvas in a modern style.

The interior of the building includes the basement level, functioning as retail space, workrooms, general mechanical and storage purposes. The main floor includes the lobby area, restaurant and bar and office space. The remaining four upper floors served as hotel rooms, each with individual private baths. The interior marble staircase, decorative plaster ceiling brackets, and the elevator doors with the hotel's monogram on it remain intact. A degree of interior remodeling has occurred including the lowering of the first floor ceiling with dropped acoustic tile and changes in finishes. The upper floors have not been altered except for general maintenance over the years.

John L. Rieger

John L. Rieger, born in Sandusky on June 10, 1854, was a successful Sandusky businessman. He was a self-made man who left school at the age of ten to work on a local farm. At age 12, he was employed in a spoke and hub factory, and shortly thereafter trained as an apprentice in harness making. In 1873, he worked for the Sandusky Tool Co. The following year he became a street lamplighter. He worked several trades and settled on retail. In 1874, he accepted the opportunity to learn the shoemaking trade from McFall Brothers and by 1876; he went into business for himself. For thirty-seven years, he owned and operated a custom boot and shoe business on the southeast corner of Madison and Hancock Avenues. He was active in city politics, serving as a member of the city council and as a fund trustee, and an elected member on the Erie County Board of Commissions.

John Rieger became interested in building a hotel as a result of renting rooms above his retail establishment. In 1910, he embarked on the hotel industry and began to purchase land near the corner of West Market and Jackson Street. In 1912, he built the first fireproof hotel in Sandusky. The Hotel Rieger was constructed at 232 Jackson Street, and originally opened with 60 rooms. The success of the hotel resulted in additions in 1915-16, expanding the size of the building. Mr. Rieger died in November of 1926. His family continued to operate the hotel and the final phase of construction in 1926 doubled the hotel in size, and the five stories were completed with a total of 120 rooms. Hat, dress, barber and beauty shops occupied the first floor and portions of the basement.

Architect and Builder

Henry Millott was a prominent local architect, graduating from Cleveland University and Cornell University, class of 1906. He married Eleanor Hinde, daughter of Sandusky's Founder of Great Fibre Paper Industry, James J. Hinde, on November 24, 1910. He had been associated with Harold Parker for several years. He was a member of the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He designed the Ohio (Schade) Theater, Third National Bank, St. Mary's Girls Grade School, James J. Hinde House, and the Commercial Banking and Trust Company. In addition, he designed the Plum Brook Country Club, Sandusky Register building, Western Security Bank, Elyria Baptist Church, and Bellevue High School. In 1936, as a WPA project, Millott drew up plans to remodel the Erie County Courthouse. The remodel included both interior and exterior renovations, the 1874 Second Empire style facade was covered with a smooth limestone in the Art Deco style.

G. William Doerzbach had a widely known construction firm in northern Ohio. Doerzbach was born in March of 1852 in Sandusky, the son of Christopher and Louisa Doerzbach of German descent. He started as a cabinetmaker and soon advanced to journeyman carpenter. Six years later, he moved to Philadelphia to study with a leading architect and one year later returned to Sandusky. His first contracting job was the construction of the Andrew Biemiller Opera House in 1876. He continued the contracting business alone until 1900, at which time he formed a partnership with his brother. Upon his death in 1932, he was regarded as one of the most successful and respected businessmen in Sandusky. A large number of Erie County buildings were constructed by Doerzbach including large architectural monuments, public structures, churches, courthouses, jails, and plants. G. Wm Doerzbach worked as a contractor with Millott on buildings in addition to the Hotel Rieger, including the Third National Bank. Doerzbach constructed the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home, and the Bentley Science Building at Lake Erie College (razed in 1972). He constructed several buildings at Oberlin College including Baldwin Cottage, Peters Hall, and Talcott Hall.

The Hotel Rieger, the first fireproof constructed building in Sandusky, contributed greatly to the hotel and tourism industry that represents the Sandusky Bay. The hotel, "one of the finest hostelries possessed by any city of its size in the country", was one of Sandusky's leading hotels for over sixty years. The hotel industry in Sandusky has changed greatly since the Hotel Rieger was first constructed in 1912. The hotel itself grew from a 60-room hotel to 120 rooms in just 14 years. The downtown also saw many changes. Over the years many of the downtown hotels closed, some like the Hotel Sloane were razed. The general hotel district had moved to the interstate, and closer to Cedar Point, which is today one of the world's top ten amusement parks. Although the Hotel Rieger was closed and sold in 1969, the building remained a hotel up through the 1980s, during a time in which it was the only downtown hotel in Sandusky.

Building Description

The Hotel Rieger at 232 Jackson Street, Sandusky, Ohio was designed by Henry Millott for John L. Rieger. The building is located in the heart of downtown Sandusky, two streets south of Sandusky Bay. The masonry-constructed building, with a steel and concrete supporting system, was erected in 1912. Two additions occurred in 1915-16 and 1926. The five-story building, designed in the commercial style with Neo-Classical elements, spans twenty bays on the Jackson Street (west) facade and eight bays on the West Market Street (north) elevation. The basic plan of the building is rectangular.

The Hotel Rieger sits on the corner of W. Market Street and Jackson Street. Directly adjacent to the east, on W. Market Street is another building designed by Henry Millott, the Third National Bank building. The bank building. is a limestone Greek Revival two-story building. It has the typical elements of Doric and Ionic-engaged columns resting on tall bases supporting a simple entablature and pediment that is adorned with dentils, acanthus leaves and a cartouche supported by a festoon. Across Jackson Street, directly west from the Hotel Rieger is a second building designed by Henry Millott, the Sandusky Register Building. The Register Building, constructed in 1921, is a limestone Commercial style building with Neo-classical elements exhibiting arched openings on the first floor and a set of three windows on the second and third floors at each bay separated by an engaged pilaster. To the south of the Hotel Rieger, located on Jackson Street is the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Temple. The building was designed and constructed by George Feick in 1889. The red brick building is Late Victorian Queen Anne building displaying Romanesque details.

The first phase of Hotel Rieger's construction, 1912, spanned Jackson Street to the south for 12 bays, the first six bays were two stories and the south last six were four stories in height. The 1915-16 construction extended the building north by two bays and increased the height to five floors. The last phase of construction, 1926, extended the building north to the corner of Jackson and West Market Street by six bays. The additional terra cotta cornice elements were added with the 1926 construction; they are in the Neo-classical style, and are embossed with the letter "R".

The exterior of the building is in excellent condition. The majority of the historic fabric remains. Roughly thirty percent of the storefront has been slightly altered. The most evident alteration occurs at the transom level above the display windows, where a signboard was placed over the area where historic Luxfer prism glass transom light had been. The pilasters, however, and most of the beveled storefront windows are relatively intact. The storefront windows along the original six bays of the Jackson Street elevation appears to be historic fixed pane alterations. Globe light fixtures on the pilasters are no longer extant. Windows in the south section of the west elevation have also been altered with glass block or multi-divided light windows.

The exterior north and west elevations carry the same architectural characteristics. Both elevations are distinguished by Flemish bond masonry with recessed mortar joints. The building is basically defined in design by a three-part system. The first floor is made up of retail storefronts with display windows divided vertically by brick pilasters with Tuscan-like capitals. The brick at the first-floor level is painted. Four storefronts with single entrances exist on the north elevation. The west elevation is divided into ten bays at the first-floor level. The west elevation is composed of four retail storefronts, four display windows, and two entrances to the hotel. There is a slight grade to the west elevation stairs and ramps make up for the difference. Two basement entrances are located at the north end of the west elevation.

The second through third-floor levels lack ornamentation. Twenty rows of 1/1 double-hung windows with concrete sills are symmetrically placed horizontally across the west elevation, eight across the north elevation. The top section of the building, at the fifth-floor level, is the most ornate. The brickwork at this level is laid in a herringbone design within the arches. A pronounced cornice, supported by decorative brackets announces the parapet. The parapet follows through the vertical divisions of the first floor with projecting pilasters and is crowned at the top with finials.

The secondary elevations, the south and east elevations, are brick painted white. The windows are placed at random, following the interior structure and layout. The east elevation is much more service-oriented with fire escapes, chimneys, and mechanical systems. The roof is non-descript, except for the stair and elevator penthouse, which extends two floors. A large billboard frame is located on the northeast section of the roof.

The interior of the building has retained the general layout of the hotel, rooms and corridors alike. The basement area demonstrates the most amount of alterations with new partition walls for service and storage. The first floor, although it has retained a good portion of the layout, was altered when the hotel was converted into a nursing home. The retail spaces demonstrate changes from the multiple tenant changes. The upper floors of the hotel have the original room and corridor layout, with changes occurring in the bathrooms to accommodate mechanical upgrades. The ceiling heights in the corridors vary, at some areas up to six inches. Original south elevator doors exist. The trim within the corridors are wood baseboards and picture moldings. In the suites, trim exist at the baseboards and around doorways.

Although the interior finishes have been altered since the hotel opened in 1926, the floor plan has remained. A historic photograph dating around 1926 shows the refined hotel interior. Some of the interior finishes include terrazzo flooring, area rugs, reed mats, and marble panels on the walls. In recent years, the interior has been institutionalized for the nursing home facility. White walls and code compliance have diminished the elegance of the hotel interior. Minimal decorative finishes remain due to the alterations that occurred for the adaptation of the nursing home facility. The first-floor ceiling moldings and decorative plaster remain above the dropped acoustic ceilings. Other interior alterations date to the occupancy of the Erie Motor Inn.

There are two elevators in the building, one centrally located, and one at the south end. The south-end elevator has the initials "HR" on the triple-slide doors. Alterations with the stairs have occurred at both the north and south main stairs. The north stairs have a cage-like structure surrounding them, while the south stairs have a concrete block wall, which was likely retrofitted at the time of the nursing home to provide the necessary fire and safety code requirements. Other alterations that have occurred include window replacement, where wood windows were replaced with aluminum sash. The transom windows above the suite doors have been boarded up. Miscellaneous piping run askew throughout the corridors and in the suites. There is evidence of water damage to the plaster in isolated areas.

The minimal alterations that have occurred with the building do not diminish the simple elegance of the building. With the loss of the Sloane Hotel and the increasing development of hotels near the interstate, the Hotel Rieger stands as an excellent example of Sandusky's downtown hotel industry.

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio North (W. Market Street) elevation looking south (2005)
North (W. Market Street) elevation looking south (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio North elevation with adjacent buildings looking southwest (2005)
North elevation with adjacent buildings looking southwest (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio North elevation looking southeast (2005)
North elevation looking southeast (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Front (west) facade, north elevation looking southeast (2005)
Front (west) facade, north elevation looking southeast (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio North elevation, front facade and adjacent building looking southeast (2005)
North elevation, front facade and adjacent building looking southeast (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Front facade, south elevation looking northeast (2005)
Front facade, south elevation looking northeast (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Front facade looking east (2005)
Front facade looking east (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio East elevation with the rear of adjacent buildings on W. Market in foreground looking west (2005)
East elevation with the rear of adjacent buildings on W. Market in foreground looking west (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Lobby area looking southwest (2005)
Lobby area looking southwest (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Historic staircase from lobby to second floor looking northeast (2005)
Historic staircase from lobby to second floor looking northeast (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Seating area adjacent to the lobby looking east (2005)
Seating area adjacent to the lobby looking east (2005)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Historic photo; front (west) facade; taken prior to last addition looking northeast (1912)
Historic photo; front (west) facade; taken prior to last addition looking northeast (1912)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Historic photo; front facade and north elevation; taken after last addition looking southeast (1926)
Historic photo; front facade and north elevation; taken after last addition looking southeast (1926)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Historic photo; historic marquee and storefronts on front facade looking northeast (1940)
Historic photo; historic marquee and storefronts on front facade looking northeast (1940)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Historic photo; hotel lobby looking south (1926)
Historic photo; hotel lobby looking south (1926)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Historic photo; hotel lobby; original south staircase looking south (1926)
Historic photo; hotel lobby; original south staircase looking south (1926)

Hotel Rieger - Sanduskian, Sandusky Ohio Historic photo; hotel lobby looking northeast (1926)
Historic photo; hotel lobby looking northeast (1926)