Exchange Hotel had quite a history in Cardington

Reflections - By Evelyn Long - for the Morrow County Sentinel

Courtesy Photo The hotel was destroyed by the tornado in 1981, but this is a photo of the structure in its heyday.

Courtesy Photo The hotel was destroyed by the tornado in 1981, but this is a photo of the structure in its heyday.

It stood on the northwest corner of the Cardington Village square for 131 years and was a landmark. Built in 1850 by David Mosher, the two story brick structure was known as the Exchange Hotel. As it expanded, it had several owners through the ensuing years. David Norris was the first proprietor of the two story structure known for years as the Nichols House. In 1857 owner Henry Benson added the third story to the building then known as the Benson House. T. Patterson was the proprietor in 1871.

Somewhere around 1890 the veranda was added the length of the building and in 1895 it was purchased by J. D.Gregory, a descendant of a Cardington pioneer. Known as the Hotel DeGregory, it was described in a 1905 news account as having 32 rooms with a dining room and offices.

“The table service is excellent in every way and every effort is made to give the traveling public a service which will be satisfactory All furnishings are new and up to date and the finest spring water in the state is used in the house. This water is pumped by a gas engine into reservoirs and is used throughout the house. Experts have declared this water to be the best in the country. The hotel is heated by steam, lighted with electricity and gas, and has electric call bells. “

The hotel was visited by hundreds of people, some staying in these “modern” rooms, others dining in the popular dining hall where Mrs. Gregory was the chief cook. One of the hotel registry books for 1900 owned by Jack Edgell, has the signatures of over 2,000 registering in nine months, many coming from around the state and even out of state- In the early 1900’s transportation was principally by rail or horse and buggy. On one page are the signatures of H W Stetson – presumably the pioneers of the Stetson Clothing. Others signing in 1900 included local people, many just dining. A common name on there is that of Weiland, Mt Gilead.

Somewhere along the way it became Hotel Robinson and in 1925 was purchased by Wesley Wornstaff of Marengo, who purchased it as an exchange for his 85 acre farm near Marengo.

The name remained. Residents and travelers still rented the 24 rooms, various businesses filled the first floor rooms. At one point wrestlers trained in a back room, a troupe from a musical group stayed in the rooms.

There was a pool room, tea room and several eating establishments.

In 1949 the hotel was purchased by Bill Sterritt of Marengo. He opened a flower shop in the front business room. Other businesses flourished from the other first floor rooms and upper stories’ 24 rooms were rented by both travelers and local residents. Sterrit’s Flower shop moved out and after a short stint by Darlene’s Flowers, it became the Corner Restaurant managed by Ray and Mildred Bennington. The veranda became a popular place for the rooms’ renters to view the village.

The hotel was sold in 1971 to Attorney Tom Ray who also continued to rent the rooms, some of which were combined into small private living quarters.

Destroyed by the tornado in 1981, its broken frame with blown out windows was a silent and somber indicator of the extent of the tornado’s damage in the village. Attorney Ray’s contractor, Lloyd Thomas rebuilt a structure on the same site in 1982 with two floors of apartments and several in the basement where there is also a laundry room and a rec room. Ray sold the building in 1999 to DisBennett Realty, Delaware, and it continues to house both long time and short term renters.

The original hotel building’s period architecture brought comments from many visitors and local residents, too- that while traveling Main Street, the sight of the hotel was like something out of the “Old West,” an observation that brings smiles. Thanks to all of the previous owners who continued to carry on this business serving others on this site for 165 years.

90 years ago, October, 1925: It was the coldest October 10 for 19 years, the coldest since the weather bureau had been established in 1870. Locally the temperature had dropped well below freezing and ice a half inch thick had formed.

The Cardington Auxiliary of Rex Jenkins Post enjoyed a social meeting at the Wornstaff Hotel pool club room. Members also met for a time in the corner of the writing room of the lobby before moving to the hotel’s large dining room.

60 years ago, October, 1955: Avis Hildebrand of Edison, earned her Bachelors Degree in Nursing from the Ohio State University.

Esther Henry was honored with a reception at Gilead Friends Church. She was moving to Wilmington, Pa. She was a teacher at Edison and was active with the W.C.T.U.

Evelyn Long is a correspondent with the Morrow County Sentinel and can be reached at [email protected]

Courtesy Photo The hotel was destroyed by the tornado in 1981, but this is a photo of the structure in its heyday. Photo The hotel was destroyed by the tornado in 1981, but this is a photo of the structure in its heyday.


By Evelyn Long

for the Morrow County Sentinel