by Tom Castaldi
Just off the west end of The Landing, across Harrison Street from the west end of Columbia Street downtown, there was once a fine Fort Wayne five-story hotel that boasted it was “the best $2 hotel in Indiana.” The Randall Hotel in its heyday, between 1890 and 1930, could proudly proclaim its motto, “Everything First Class,” for each room had a telephone, running water and steam heat. The site of the Randall Hotel, however, began in 1828 as the Jacob Fry tannery, which was noted for its awful odors.
By 1870, a simple hotel called the Robinson took the place of the tannery; later this became the Grand Hotel. This was a “Methodist Hotel,” and there was no drinking allowed. It was classy, nevertheless, with a horse-powered elevator and wood stoves on each floor. The hotel was also the favorite lodging for such visiting greats as Buffalo Bill and the many traveling theater groups that came to town.
In 1889, Perry A. Randall, a prominent local attorney, bought the old Grand Hotel and renamed it the Randall Hotel. Perry Randall was a promoter. Raised in Fort Wayne, he dabbled in all sorts of schemes, from building a canal from Fort Wayne to Chicago to producing the Fort Wayne Centennial.
When Randall died in 1916, his widow, Winifred, took over the hotel. She had been the first woman in the United States to operate a lumber mill, and she managed the hotel with the same great efficiency. After the Great Depression in the 1930s, the hotel became primarily a residence. It was razed in 1963.
Fort Wayne Magazine, “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Sept. 2005, No. 15, p. 45