Hotel St. Clair History

Built in 1911 as a state-of-the-art hospital and later converted into an upscale boutique hotel, this near east side landmark—just blocks from downtown Columbus, Ohio—has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a touch of celebrity.

Early 1900s | Hospital

The Saint Clair Hospital, designed by architect Jacob Goldsmith, was a community hospital from 1911 to 1948, serving primarily the immigrant laborers on the Pennsylvania Railroad junction. Many of the original features of the hospital are still preserved to this day, such as the nursing station arch, the mahogany wood door frames, and the white tile flooring where the operating room used to be. 

The Jazz Era | Hotel

In 1948, the building was purchased by Zelpha and William Garrett, an African-American couple living in the neighborhood, who together converted it into a swanky, upscale hotel.  Operating as a hotel for almost thirty years, it boasted luxurious amenities such as central air conditioning, elevator, dining room service, cocktail lounges, valet, and telegraph service.  The hotel was frequented by numerous well-known entertainers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington’s band, Count Basie, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., and Della Reese. 

“I like people.  The hotel is primarily selling rest.  The man who pays the lowest rate should have the same comfort, service, and convenience as one who can afford the more elaborate rooms.”
— Alfonso J. McKibbon, hotel manager, 1948

The Hotel St. Clair was well-known for welcoming African American patrons at a time when many Columbus hotels demanded “whites only.”  In doing so, Hotel St. Clair stood as a beacon light at a time of segregation and exclusion.  It was a gathering place for children who bought candy from the front desk, and during the late 1950’s it hosted meetings held by a neighborhood improvement association. This spirit of inclusiveness and community-mindedness remains a core part of the building and those associated with it to this day.

Early 2000s | Historic Designation & Renovation

After sitting vacant for 25 years–even becoming a target for demolition–the Hotel St. Clair earned designation on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. That same year, a major $2.8MM historic renovation was started which saved the building and brought it back to its original grandeur.  The efforts of Fred Schwab, Willis Brown, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing under the leadership of Hal Keller, and the City of Columbus under the leadership of Michael B. Coleman were instrumental in saving the hotel. Between 2001 and 2016, the building was operated as senior apartments, first by Christian Community Development Corp. and subsequently by Community Housing Network.

Today | Newly Renovated Apartments

In 2017, the Kelley Companies, a local family real estate company, acquired and fully renovated the building into new market-rate apartments. All units were given high-quality finishes and fixtures and the original building elements were restored. Common areas—particularly the main lobby—were renovated to resemble how it might have looked during its years of grandeur as a 1950’s boutique hotel.

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Ella Fitzgerald

Jazz Singer often referred to as the first lady of song.

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Duke Ellington

 

Pianist, composer and leader of a jazz orchestra.