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Lost History Of Columbus: The Neil House Hotel

If you’ve wandered through downtown Columbus, you might’ve passed by where the grand Neil House Hotel once stood without even realizing it.

The story of the hotel feels like a hidden chapter from the city’s past, nestled between the bustling streets and modern skyscrapers.

Back in 1818, William Neil arrived in Columbus with a vision.

Starting with a tavern in 1822, he and his wife, Hannah, quickly became central figures in the city. From launching a stagecoach company to contributing land for what would become Ohio State University, their influence was significant. But perhaps their most impressive achievemant was the Neil House Hotel.

the first neil house hotel
The first iteration of the Neil House Hotel.

The first iteration of this hotel sprang up in 1842 and cost around $100,000, a significant investment at the time. Yet, fate had a fiery twist in store, with a devastating blaze in 1860 that reduced it to ashes.

second version neil house hotel
The second iteration of the Neil House Hotel.

Undeterred, Neil rebuilt, and by 1862, a new Neil House Hotel stood proudly on the same spot. This hotel wasn’t just a building; it was a home to future president William McKinley while he served as Ohio’s governor. Nowadays, the McKinley Memorial stands at the spot where McKinley would stop and wave to his wife every day.

By 1923, it was time for change again.

The second hotel made way for a third, grander version, which opened in 1925. This wasn’t just any hotel; it was the talk of the town, welcoming guests with open arms and a touch of luxury that was hard to find elsewhere in Columbus at the time.

the third neil house hotel
The third and final iteration of Neil House Hotel.

Beyond its architectural and historical significance, the Neil House Hotel was a notable entry in The Green Book, serving as a safe haven for African American travelers during the era of segregation.

demolition of neil house hotel
The demolition of Neil House Hotel. Photo by David E. Lucas.

The closure of the Neil House Hotel in 1980, to make room for the Huntington Center, marked the end of an era. Yet, its spirit lingers in the heart of Columbus. It was a place of welcome, a witness to history, and a reminder of how buildings can hold the essence of a city’s past.