Willshire’s Straubinger Hotel

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Headington House Hotels, once located in Portland, Indiana, and Celina, Ohio. Soon after I was asked about the hotel that was in Willshire years ago.

Straubinger Hotel, Willshire, Ohio


I remember that old hotel building. Our Willshire School sixth grade class took a field trip there in 1963 and our class was photographed outside the building.

Straubinger Hotel, 1963, Willshire 6th grade.

I also remember when Mary Stetler had her ice cream parlor there. Some very good ice cream, I might add. The old hotel was torn down in 1964.

Dale Jones & Mary Stetler, 1960, Frosty Zip located in old hotel.

Willshire is celebrating its bicentennial this year. 1822-2022. There is a focus on the town’s history and Willshire’s Bicentennial Committee is planning events throughout the year.

We attended one of those events a few weeks ago, which featured Darrell Groman, who portrayed Willshire’s founder, Captain James Riley. Riley platted the town of Willshire in 1822.

There were also some historical displays about Willshire at that event. Sondra displayed a nice collection of old local newspaper clippings about the history of Willshire’s hotel. Sondra is a true Willshire historian and had originally provided most of the information for the news articles. She graciously allowed me to photograph the news clippings and to share the information here.

From those newspaper articles, here is a brief history of Willshire’s hotels:

Willshire has had several hotels over the years. William Case built a hotel in Willshire 1836. Solomon Hartzog reportedly started a mercantile and hotel in Willshire in the spring of 1848 but died later that same year. The Oregon House, later known as the Straubinger Hotel, the building many of us remember, was built in 1850. Another, the Thatcher Hotel, was located on the west side of State Street, across the street from the Straubinger Hotel. A 1908 fire destroyed the Thatcher Hotel and several other buildings in the village. Moses Foreman was the proprietor of the American Hotel, location unknown. The Depot Hotel was built by the railroad in 1884 and it burned down in 1906.

The most well-known Willshire hotel, the Straubinger Hotel, survived the longest, operating over a century and standing even longer. The structure was built in 1850 for Dr. J.W. Pearce, although it is believed that he never resided there. Such establishments were known as taverns at that time. The hotel was first called the Oregon House and was located on the southeast corner of State and Simpson Streets. Although the hotel faced west, facing State Street, Simpson Street was the main business section in Willshire at that time and most businesses faced Simpson Street.  

Straubinger Hotel

The hotel was built with hewn timbers, was neatly boarded, and had hand-made roof shingles. The interior trim was said to be black walnut. The rooms were described as spacious with ceilings that were not lofty. A tavern was located in the south room and contained two long sturdy tables for diners. There were 12 guest rooms on the second floor. A livery for the horses was located on the east side of the building. Travelers came on horseback and at one time it was the only hotel between St. Marys and Fort Wayne. It was a well-traveled route and many travelers stopped there for a meal or a night’s stay.  

Straubinger Hotel in its hayday

A rowdy celebration just after the end of the Civil War damaged rooms and furnishings on the first floor. Mr. Alberts, the hotel’s proprietor at the time and reportedly a Southern sympathizer, invited soldier boys and their sweethearts to an open house and dance. The event included free food and drinks. Things got out of hand and riot broke out. A new cookstove and dining room furniture were reportedly thrown out of the windows and the north side of the first floor caved in. Women and children were smuggled out and were taken across the river in small boats. One of the children who was smuggled out, a four-year-old girl, became the wife of Judge Merriman of Decatur years later. In the 1930s the Merrimans returned to the hotel to celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary and stayed there overnight.

People gathered around the hotel

The hotel had several names over time, changing as the proprietors came and went. These names included Oregon House, Lamb House, Pearce House, Willshire Hotel, and lastly, the Straubinger Hotel.

Adam Straubinger (1840-1917) was born in Germany in 1840 and settled in St. Marys in 1861. He moved to Willshire in 1874 and worked as a miller there for several years. In 1877 Straubinger decided to go into the hotel business and purchased the hotel. He and his family ran the Straubinger Hotel for nearly 75 years and lived there as well. He and his wife Matilda had 12 children and several of the children were born in the hotel. Three of their children died in infancy but John, George, Ben, Russell, Anthony, Flodeltha (Mrs. A.F. Passwater), Anna, Lucy, and Katherine grew up in the hotel. One of Adam’s granddaughters was Virginia Painter (1916-2012), daughter of Flodeltha (Straubinger) & A.F. Passwater.

At one time the hotel was the social center for refined parties and receptions. A guest once left $3000 under his pillow and the money was promptly returned to him. During the oil boom in the early 1900s the hotel housed oil field workers.

Willshire Hotel. Could one of the men be Adam Straubinger?

The hotel was still in operation and open to lodgers on its 100th anniversary in 1950, although meals were not served there anymore. Dining room service was discontinued about 1948. In 1950 it was run by three of Adam Straubinger’s unmarried children, Kate, Lucy, and Ben.

Kate, Lucy, and Ben Staubinger carried on the business until Dale Jones purchased the building in 1953. Mary Stetler rented space for a cream station and her Frosty Zip ice cream parlor was located there for 10 years.

The remaining Straubingers moved into the former home of Emma (Buchanan) Lautzenheiser, across from the village park.

Straubinger Hotel before it was razed in 1964

The 114-year-old hotel was razed in 1964. A small cement block building was built on the lot and it housed the Frosty Zip for several years.  

Straubinger Hotel razed, 1964

Many of the Straubingers are buried in Willshire Cemetery.   

Thank you to Sondra for collecting, saving, and sharing all this information about a part of Willshire’s history.


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    • Janet Goodwin James on March 11, 2022 at 7:47 am
    • Reply

    Karen, thank you for the wonderful article! I’ve always been curious about the building and remember it well. When Mary stetler had her ice cream shop there, as you entered the door, to the left was a bookshelf with library books to lend, possibly from the van wert library? Maybe sondra would know. Us Goodwin kids borrowed books from there as well as our mom! Another question, how did Rockford get a Carnegie Library and not Willshire? I assume we were too small? Thank you for easing my curiosity!!

      • Sondra Samples on March 11, 2022 at 8:12 am
      • Reply

      Janet, I also remember the shelf of library books well and borrowed some to read. I do believe they were a small extension of the Van Wert library service to the Willshire community.

    1. You are welcome! Thanks for reading.

    • Sondra Samples on March 11, 2022 at 8:18 am
    • Reply

    Thanks, Karen, for giving the Willshire Bicentennial a shout-out. There is a Family Food and Fun night being planned by the committee on March 26, to be held at the Legion building. There will be a Willshire Trivia contest as part of the fun and games. Perhaps there will be a question about the Straubinger Hotel.

    1. You are welcome! And thank you for all your Willshire knowledge and research. The upcoming Willshire Trivia contest sounds like a good place to learn some things…

    • Deb Bollenbacher Reichard on March 11, 2022 at 8:58 am
    • Reply

    Very interesting stuff Karen. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Deb!

    • Tom Reichard on March 11, 2022 at 1:16 pm
    • Reply

    I remember Kate and Ben Straubinger living in a home on the south side of the park. One of us boys mowed their yard for them. Ben always sat out front on a porch swing. My recollection is the Straubinger hotel closed due to a fire. I remember going upstairs seeing where the fire did the most damage. (I don’t think we were supposed to be up there). That’s when Mary Stetler’s Frosty Zip was relocated to a temporary location in a building east of the Hotel towards the river.

    1. Thanks for that information, Tom. It is a wonder the fire didn’t burn the whole hotel down. Thanks for writing.

    • Phyllis Brockmyer on March 11, 2022 at 1:17 pm
    • Reply

    I understand the Hotel was on the stagecoach route between Piqua and Fort Wayne on old Piqua Road. Another inn from this era is the 9 Mile restaurant between Decatur and Fort Wayne. If you look carefully you can see the Greek Revival details on the old section of the building. Fortunately 9 Mile has survived and is thriving (ribs night on Tuesdays).

    1. That is some interesting information. We’ll have to take a long look the next time we drive to Fort Wayne. Thanks for writing!

    • Phyllis Brockmyer on March 11, 2022 at 1:46 pm
    • Reply

    Sondra Samples has carefully gathered Willshire history and artifacts and is the main reason there is the possibility of a Willshire Museum.

    1. She sure has! She is a wealth of knowledge.

    • Jayne Habegger on March 20, 2022 at 10:50 pm
    • Reply

    I have an early Straubinger flute made by David Straubinger currently residing and doing business south of Indianapolis, Indiana.
    When I first met him in the 1980’s during my college years, we realized the connection to Willshire and my family. He said he was of the Straubinger family who had the hotel.
    Last time I had my flute worked on by the Straubinger’s he was still alive. But I had my repairman here in California do the leg work and talking so I didn’t get to talk with David. He was around my dad’s age. My dad, Eldon Habegger, has passed.
    BTW: My grandmother was one of the four Book sisters who sang as a quartet. History in itself. But I know you mentioned Books in another article. Also, one of the Book sisters married a Merriman of which there are still some siblings (my cousins) alive if you want more info.
    My grandmother married John E. Reichard, the postmaster.
    Thank you for doing research on Willshire, Ohio. It is actually interesting. I wish you could have spoken to my father before he left for Heaven.

    1. How interesting about the flute. I did know of a musical connection to the Straubingers. I may have met your father and I am certainly familiar with his name. Yes, there are many who people I wish I could have talked with. Thanks for writing!

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