John Dodd decided the city of Xenia needed a first class hotel so in 1830, proceeded to build such an establishment. On Jan. 1, 1831 he advertised the opening of his “House of Public Entertainment” in Xenia.
He placed the following advertisement in the newspaper: “The subscriber respectfully informs his friends and the public that he has again opened a house of public entertainment in the town of Xenia at the sign of the coach and four. His house is large and commodious, and his stables equal to any in the state. His table will be supplied with the best that the country offers, and every attention will be paid to those who may favor him with a call. During the summer season travelers who are desirous to make excursions in the surrounding country can be accommodated with saddle horses or hacks on the most reasonable terms. He tenders his grateful acknowledgements to the public for former favors and from his long experience as an inn keeper; he looks confidently for a continuance of them.”
With this announcement a business was established which would continue to serve the public for more than 140. Over the years, the hotel has been known as several different names but most will recognize the name “The Xenia Hotel.”
When one entered the old Xenia Hotel, it was like stepping back in time. Upon entering, you would see the beautiful wooden desk where the hotel manager would greet guests. The rocking chairs lining the walls were most inviting and the beautiful chandelier which hung from the ceiling was of interest. The magnificent staircase which led to the upper floors along with the stained glass windows represented an era gone by.
Each of the hotel’s rooms was furnished with antiques. The hotel was purchased in 1897 by Jeniel Dakin who apparently made minimal changes from the work of the previous owner, other than the name of the business (Dakin Hotel). When his son Merrick took over the business, he decided to remodel to make the place filled with newer accommodations. It was not long before he realized the patrons were commenting on remembering a particular bed or dresser from their childhood days and how they enjoyed seeing the antiques. He listened to the customers and rather than remodel completely as had been his plan, he began to purchase other sturdy and attractive old furniture for the rooms.
A major purchase included two old pump organs which he put in the lobby with the intention of selling one of them. However, while he was trying to decide which one to sell, he overheard a lady asking her husband why there were two organs in the lobby. He decided that it was a definite point of interest and both remained.
When George Bradley took over in 1860, the hotel was known as the Bradley House. W.R. Baker was the next owner. He decided to name the hotel after his daughter and called it “The Florence.”
Dakin bought the hotel in 1907, and named it the Dakin Hotel. In 1934 the family decided to call it simply The Xenia Hotel.
The hotel provided comfortable rest for those passing through town. In time, other transportation took the place of the stagecoach and horse and buggy so the stables were no longer needed.
Passenger trains came down North Detroit Street and dropped passengers near the entrance. It was not unusual for all 50 of the rooms to be occupied at a time. Soon the hotel became known not only for the accommodations which were provided, but for the restaurant as well. It was not unusual to find a number of local individuals lined up awaiting seating at the restaurant. While they waited to be seated, the enjoyed the wonderful rocking chairs in the lobby.
Word spread quickly about the excellent choices on the menu and local folks enjoyed not only Sunday dinner, but scheduled a number of luncheon meetings and organizational lunches at the facility. The menu included such items as jumbo shrimp cocktail, filet of flounder stuffed with crabmeat, baked ham loaf, or Salisbury steak with mushroom gravy. Additionally, fresh baked pies and locally grown vegetables were appreciated along with breads and desserts made “from scratch” which delighted local diners as well as travelers.
In 1959, the menu featured fresh roast pork with dressing, buttered green peas, apple and raisin salad, homemade bread and butter, and tea or coffee all for the “special” price of $1.25.
Business at the dining room continued to be successful, but the expense of keeping up the rooms became a burden with other hotels and motels opening nearby. The hotel portion of the building was closed in 1974. The new owner, Hal E. Black, had inherited the business from his aunt Mary Dakin, the last of the three children of J.H. Dakin. Black stated that hotel occupancy had been declining in recent years but the restaurant continued in popularity and would remain open.
Fate changed the hotel on April 3, 1974 when a tornado destroyed much of Xenia.
That summer, the many antiques which had been a part of the hotel for so many in years went on the auction block. The bed in which President William McKinley had slept when campaigning for election was sold, along with the marble top dressers, china pitchers, spinning wheels, paintings rockers, and other antiques which had made the hotel so famous.
There are those who still remember dining at the Xenia Hotel.
Remembering William Eichman
Born in Xenia in 1914, William Eichman graduated from Xenia Central High. After graduation from Miami University he joined the family business Eichmann Electric. He served as a member of the Xenia City Commission for 26 years, was mayor and acting city manager. He was instrumental in founding the Xenia Area Chamber of Commerce. Friendly and knowledgeable, he made Eichman’s a household word. No job was too large or too small and he did everything with a smile. He was a recipient of the F.M. Torrence Award, Kiwanis Legion of honor, and a member of the Spirit of ’74 Commission following the 1974 tornado.
— Joan Baxter
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.