Many years ago, nearly every small town had a hotel, some large, some small. A majority of travel was done by train before automobiles were very reliable, and traveling salesmen went from one small town to another to sell their goods to the local establishments.
At one time stagecoach travel was used extensively, but when the Little Miami Railroad began to lay out its course, the village of Transylvania, on the west bank of the river was to be bypassed, with the route scheduled for the east bank of the river. It was because of this arrangement that Transylvania ceased to exist, and the village of Spring Valley came into being,
The hotel in Spring Valley was located on West Main Street remains a symbol of days gone by, when weary travelers would welcome the opportunity to stop for the night to rest and get a good meal. The location, beside the train track was perfect for the travelers.
The building started as rather small, but an addition was added shortly after the building was constructed, followed by a later addition. Both additions were removed some years ago.
In the 1850s the era of the traveling salesman was just beginning. Salesmen would arrive by train from Cincinnati or perhaps Xenia with their samples. They would take lodging at the hotel for the night then in the morning lease a horse and buggy from the livery stable to visit their customers.
The first owner of the hotel was Jesse Sanders (Saunders). He had made his home in Bellbrook in 1830, working as a hatter and later as a wagon maker, not likely trades for a future hotel proprietor, but he managed the hotel for a number of years. The exact date of the hotel opening is not known, but it is known that Sanders was a resident of Spring Valley in 1852, so one can assume he opened the business about that time. He remained the proprietor until 1882, there were a series of other owners.
According to the information provided when the hotel building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is built over a dirt basement floor and sits on a rubble stone foundation. The massive hand-hewn joists support a solidly built frame structure. The original raised tin roof remains a part of the structure as does the iron balcony on the second floor with French doors which once opened onto the balcony,
The entrance to the basement was via a small passageway and down a steep staircase, where cables were suspended from the ceiling. It is supposed that the cables at one time held a large wooden platform for cutting meat. It is possible that ice was also stored there.
In addition to the main entrance at the front of the building, there were three additional entrances on the main floor, including double French doors which apparently were opened when the stage coach or supply wagon arrived, enabling the driver to throw baggage or supplies directly into the hotel.
This hotel fit the pattern for most hostelries of its day, with the office, dining room and parlor on the main floor, and the sleeping rooms upstairs. A central hallway allowed guests to walk through the building to the steps to retire, or to proceed from the dining room to the parlor or even to the office with ease.
The price of lodging was 50 cents a night for the room, which included breakfast. Guest’s horses were housed in the livery at the back of the building. There were horses and rigs available to rent at the livery for patrons as well. The dining room served a noon meal which was enjoyed by guests and residents of the community.
Diners were alerted by a bell on the hotel roof which was rung to announce the meal. The sleeping rooms were not heated, so it would not have been unusual for folks to spend the time relaxing near a stove in the office or parlor on the main floor before retiring for the night to their rooms. This was also an opportunity to chat with the other guests of the hotel.
Outdoors, and adjacent to the hotel were the railroad ticket shed and the customary privies. Nearby one could see the railroad station and the livery buildings,
In 1875, when rail transportation was at its peak, the village boasted 400 residents and more than twenty businesses, including a bakery, blacksmith, bank, barbers, creameries, general merchandise stores, grocers, lumber dealer and even a pool room.
The hotel, by then known as Valley House was still open in 1916, but closed as a hotel soon after.
Due to the fact that the building was well located and adjacent to the railroad, the Post Office occupied a portion of the building for a while, making the delivery and pick up of the mail via the railroad very convenient.
For a short time, the building was used as a boarding house, and a shoe repair shop was located in one of the downstairs rooms. Dr. A. N. Vanderman utilized the building for his office and residence for some years.
And so, the old hotel was once a thriving business, welcoming travelers for a night of rest after a wear day’s travel.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and long-time historical writer.