I was alive when one of the great hotels of Youngstown, the Tod Hotel, was razed in 1968 for “urban renewal.” I’m sure I saw it on visits to downtown, but unlike the Hotel Pick Ohio, I cannot remember it and never was inside of it. But for nearly a century, first as the Tod House, and later as the Tod Hotel, it was one of the premiere places to stay in the city.
The first Tod House was built on the southeast corner of Central Square in the 1860’s by Henry Tod, son of governor David Tod, and John Stambaugh, Jr. P. Ross Berry, the storied African-American bricklayer and architect, did the bricklaying work for the hotel. It was a four story structure managed by Captain O. Sackett and holding its own with other first class hotels. Howard C. Aley recounts a humorous story in the life of the old Tod House:
“Tod House waiters accustomed to observing gourmets with gargantuan appetites stow away unbelievable quantities of food, were puzzled beyond words when a very small woman entered the dining room, ordered seventeen dishes including seven different kinds of meat and proceeded to consume the entire spread. Witnesses solemnly attested that her input was equivalent to that of two men engaged at hard labor.”
The old Tod House lodged a number of famous individuals including William F. Cody, William Jennings Bryan, the famous liberal democrat, Cleveland industrialist Mark Hanna, as he worked to put one-time Poland resident William McKinley into the White House, and boxer John L. Sullivan. The old Tod House closed with a farewell banquet on June 30, 1915.
The new Tod Hotel opened the following year on the same site, built at a cost of $375,000 and costing $50,000 to furnish. The formal opening was on October 26, 1916, and the first guest to register was John P. Hazlett, who had been a 25 year resident of the Tod House. According to Hotel Monthly, the spacious lobby featured leather furniture and marble wainscoting. A 5,000 square foot dining room could be entered from the lobby. It featured blue carpeting, ivory, blue, gray, and gold finishings, blue and gold window hangings, and a mezzanine gallery partitioned for private dining. The bar and cafe featured leather furniture and a Rip Van Winkle panel over the back bar. The basement level included a billiard parlor, a barber shop, a Turkish bath accommodating 40, and a lunch room with glass topped tables that could serve 1,000 meals a day.
The sleeping rooms featured “oil cloth in cretonne pattern,” a different color for the rooms on each floor. Of the 180 rooms, 100 had baths and 80 showers. The rooms featured mahogany furniture, monogrammed bedspreads, and combination dresser desks. All of this elegance could be had for $1.50 a day and up.
The Tod was owned at this time by the Tod House Company, whose president was John C. Fitch. Interestingly, the hotel was managed by Mark C. Hannan, who also managed the Tod’s nearby competitor, the Ohio. The resident manager was B. F. Merwin, who came from managing hotels in Toledo and Akron.
The Tod Hotel flourished through the end of World War II. By the 1950’s, movement was to the suburbs and out of town guests often stayed at the newer hotels and motels opening up on the outskirts of the city. It also faced competition from the nearby Voyager Motor Inn, which opened in 1963, but closed in 1974, outlasting the Tod Hotel by only six years.
Recently, a Doubletree by Hilton has opened up in the renovated Stambaugh Building, recalling the days when downtown Youngstown was the home to elegant hotels. On occasion I have stayed in great old hotels that have preserved the elegance of the period when the Tod Hotel was built. The Tod represented the name of a great Youngstown and Ohio family, and a vision of refined hoteliery of an age gone by.