The Exchange Hotel

The Oasis of the Black Swamp Region

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The Exchange Hotel:

 

In 1832, just 16 years after Perrysburg had been laid out and named by Amos Spafford, his grandfather, Jarvis Spafford built a hotel at what is now 140 West Front Street. He called it the Exchange Hotel.

The framework for this building, which was to achieve local fame over the years, is still standing at this address, but unfortunately in a form now so altered in appearance that it is totally unrecognizable from the original.

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In the early 1830s there wasn't much civilization between Buffalo, New York and St. Louis, Missouri, but this hotel was known as "the best and most elegant place of public entertainment" between those two cities.

The hotel was built of walnut logs from trees growing right in the neighborhood. It was later covered with clapboard and painted white. It followed by eight years the building of the first Wood County court house here (Perrysburg was the county seat then), a two-story log cabin virtually next door to it.

The structure had a fieldstone foundation without a basement, with matching chimneys on the east and west ends. It was dominated by a large two-story porch running the length of the building and supported by columns. Guests could sit on the upstairs or downstairs porch and enjoy a view of the Maumee River in front of them. The interior featured a bar, a dining room, a reception room and eight bedrooms (although an 1876 reference mentions 25 rooms at the time).

Perrysburg was a tiny oasis in the wilderness in the 1830s, surrounded by the Great Black Swamp on the three sides that sorely challenged travelers going south, east or west. The lodging house was a welcome haven for out-of-towners here to transact business at the courthouse, to arrange shipment of goods by water, or to take part in political gatherings or such things as the 1840 reunion of War of 1812 veterans at Fort Meigs.

And for the immediate area it remained for many years the social center of the community, the scene of special dinners, wedding receptions, balls, concerts, and for a time lively croquet games played on the lawn. In the back of the property was a kitchen and a separate building to stable the horses and carriages of the guests, some of whom arrived by stagecoach which ran down Front Street.

Attesting to Perrysburg's and the Exchange Hotel's importance at the time is the fact that prominent people such as Presidents William Henry Harrison and James K. Polk, General Winfield Scott, Daniel Webster and assorted national and state congressmen, governors and judges were guests at one time or another. Indeed, in the year 1839 there were no less than five hotels in Perrysburg -- the Eastern House on Indiana, the Farmer's Hotel and the Eagle Hotel on Louisiana, and the Temperance House and Exchange Hotel on Front Street.

The Exchange Hotel outlasted them all, remaining in the Spafford family for 34 years. The place was later owned by C. W. Norton and was known as Norton's Exchange. In 1907 the hotel, then owned by Frederick Hillabrand, suffered the worst of several fires. Because of the damage, the old establishment went out of business and the building was converted into a double-residence private dwelling, the rear section and porch being torn down and new smaller porches erected on the east and west sides. Subsequent alterations have removed the last recognizable vestiges of this old lodging house that witnessed so much of Perrysburg's early history.

*Local historians had formerly thought that Samuel Spafford built the hotel in 1823, but recent research shows it was built by his son, Jarvis, in 1832.

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