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The Wayne/Jones/Rosemarie Hotel ca. 1911
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
Designed by local architect Frank B. Kendrick, and built in 1887 on the site of Dana Columbiaís original 1831 twenty-room Columbia House hotel (for whom Columbia Street is named), the Wayne Hotel was resplendent with stained glass windows, a plush lobby that featured marble accents, tobacco and barber shops, an elevator and a handsome portico over its front door at 119 West Columbia Street. Over the years, the hotel changed hands twice and was renamed, first to the Jones Hotel by Jasper Jones in 1930, and then to the Rosemarie Hotel by John Arnold in 1966 who extensively refurbished the hotel and added the popular restaurant and dancing spot, Johnís Gold Mine.
For some years, it was among the largest and fanciest hotels in Fort Wayne and enjoyed such notable overnight guests as Presidents Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield, and Rutherford B. Hayes. Additionally, William Jennings Bryan, the inventor of the national presidential stumping tour, spoke to crowds from the roof of the portico during his 1896 presidential campaign.
Sadly, the once grand, 95 room, Rosemarie Hotel fell to the hands of an arsonist on the evening of February 3, 1975. The city had had a rash of arson during the early and mid-1970ís, incidents which included fires at several park structures around town, and the total loss of the original 1963 Diehm Museum at Franke Park two weeks after the Rosemarie was consumed. Additionally, the very same night the of the Rosemarie fire, arson also claimed the Protective Electric/Old Fort Draperies building (also known as the Bash Block) across the street. While in both of the Columbia Street fires traces of the accelerants were detected, no suspects were ever apprehended. Due to the extensive damage and unsound condition of the remaining partial structures, and despite strong interest in at least saving the facades, both the buildings were razed.
The Protective Electric/Old Fort Draperies building is now the parking lot at the northeast corner of Columbia and Harrison, and the Rosemarie was replaced in part by the two story ivy covered brick Rosemarie Alley building. It is this building that will itself be razed as part of the Cincinnati based Model Groupís $35M vision for the revitalization of the Columbia Street ďLandingĒ block. Regrettably, the artistís rendition of the new building that will replace the Rosemarie Alley structure appears to stray even further from the original look of the surrounding block.
(Image courtesy ACPL)
Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian and author of two books on local history.