By Mike Avitt
I came across this picture while reading old newspapers, and I'll share with you what I found. This photo was already at the
Depot Museum when I joined in 2001.
I got the location of the German House from our Sanborn maps, which are dated 1893, 1898, 1907 and 1919. The German
House hotel sat just north of where the Neighborhood Center is today, right next to the alley. The 1893 map gives the name as the O'Neal House. I believe
this is J. W. O'Neal because Mr. O'Neal is credited with having built the Commercial Hotel in 1895. The Commercial Hotel was located about two lots north
of the German House.
In 1898 and 1907, the hotel is called the German House. John German and his wife Abigail came to rural Ringgold county in 1867 and
moved to Mount Ayr in 1879. I don't know when they took possession of the hotel, but I know it was known as the German House in 1896.
I found a series of
newspaper articles about the hotel in March of 1897. The Twice-A-Week News reports fire broke out in the hotel on February 27, 1897. The northeast
portion of the hotel was badly damaged, and G. S. Warner was hired to do the repairs. The work went quickly and the hotel reopened on March 23.
the reopening, Mr. and Mrs. German invited Mount Ayr's three newspapers for dinner. The Mount Ayr Journal was represented by publisher James Sherman
Shepherd, his son George and George's companion, Miss Edith Newman. J. S. Shepherd bought the Journal in November 1885 after having published the
Corydon Democrat for two years. George would continue the paper after his father's retirement.
H. H. Tedford, J. S. Spurrier, H. J. Reger, G. H. Talley,
and N. R. McClanahan attended for the Ringgold Record. The Ringgold Record would merge with the Twice-A-Week News in 1907 to form the
Mount Ayr Record-News.
Representing the Twice-A-Week News were Miss Sue Neely, Miss Margaret Imus, W. E. Burleigh, M. L. Imus, H. C. Beard and
Randolph Beall. W. E. Burleigh would buy the Tingley Vindicator in 1904 and publish it for 35 years. H. C. Beard would later publish the Twice-A-Week
Press, and Randolph would publish the Ringgold County Bulletin.
Our 1919 Sanborn map no longer shows the Commercial Hotel and the German was then
called Hart's Rooming House. I have heard the old German House building lasted into the 1950s and was last known as Lamb's Hotel.
Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 13, 2015, Page 14
By Mike Avitt
This is another picture I have used before. I ran this photo in the April 25, 2013 edition of the Mount Ayr Record-News
and shared what little information I had on it back then. I'll share much more this time.
This week's photo (above with April 25, 2013 transcription)
appeared in the June 12, 1896 issue of the Twice-A-Week News but very little information about the German House was in that paper. After all, the hotel
was only about fifteen years old at the time. I'm guessing the hotel was built about 1880 because the railroad came to town in 1879. The German House was
located about 204-206 North Taylor Street (Depot Street) or just north of the Ringgold County Neighborhood Center. My 1893 Sanborn map lists this hotel as
the German House.
The first note I have on the German House is dated September 27, 1888 and says John German turned the hotel over to George German.
My next note says John German returned in 1895 when the Hotel was owned by J. W. O'Neal. And, in fact, my 1898 Sanborn map refers to this lodging as the
O'Neal House. In March 1896, J. W. O'Neal traded the hotel to Grant McCullough for a farm. Grant's mother, Elizabeth operated the hotel under the name
O'Neal House and my 1907 Sanborn map still calls the old German House
the O'Neal House.
According to a newspaper account on November 19, 1903, W. H. Stiles sold the old hotel to Frank Sheldon and the Allyn Bros. Mr. Sheldon
and the Allyn Bros. were the top three men at the Mount Ayr Bank and I'm sure they bought it as a real estate investment. They must've gotten the price they
wanted because George Harmon bought the O'Neal House in February of 1904.
Rol Shroyer became manager of the hotel in early April 1906. He was replaced by
J. H. Crowell about June first 1907. Noah Reynolds took over in late April 1910. In August of 1914, Mrs. F. M. Cropper rented the hotel from Ed Blauer.
Now, up to this point, the old German House had strong competition from two other hotels. The Commercial Hotel, located about half a block north of the
German House, and the Mount Ayr Hotel on East Madison Street. Things were about to change in this arena.
The Commercial Hotel burned in February 1915 and
Mrs. J. N. Dalton rented the old German House from Ed Blauer in April of 1916. By March 1919, Lucy Bicknett was renting the hotel from U. G. Hart. My 1919
Sanborn map calls the hotel Hart's Rooming House.
OK, remember Mrs. J. N. Dalton? Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Dalton were the owners of the Mount Ayr Hotel in
January 1920 when their hotel was heavily damaged by fire. Since they already [were] renting the German House/O'Neal House/Hart's Rooming House, they
immediately moved some of their guests from the Mount Ayr Hotel to the old hotel, which was now being called the Annex Hotel.
The Mount Ayr Hotel
was condemned two years later and former Ringgold County Attorney George Bartow bought it and saved the Mount Ayr Hotel. T. J. Harden bought the Annex
Hotel in June 1923.
My last note says Nate Lamb bought the Annex Hotel in December 1925 and changed the name to Lamb's Hotel. Many people say they
still remember the hotel standing on that spot north of the Neighborhood Center so I'm guessing it wasn't torn down until the 1950s.
Grant McCullough obituary
George W. German biography
Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015