THE GREAT SOUTHERN HOTEL
Columbus was abuzz on the hot summer night in 1897. The city's leaders had fulfilled their promise in building the "showcase of the midwest" and tonight, the 23rd of August, The Great Southern Fireproof Hotel and Opera House was opened to the public. It had been a tragic decade for hotels in this capitol city, with fires claiming the Seneca, the Deshler, and the Vendome Hotels. It was with great pride that the populace toured the majestic building, as it had been built on the dreams of 400 men investing $100 each towards its construction.
They marveled at the spectacular lobby that had been designed with exquisite taste and admirable skill. The decorative work was treated in specially modeled plaster, the ceiling beams forming panels which housed spectacularly decorative stained glass, with the central panel forming a magnificent dome. Pink marble wainscoting was edged by appropriately designed woodwork of cherry, creating a color scheme between old gold and terra cotta.
As visitors strolled through the peer of all lobbies, they roamed to the Cafe or supper room, lavatory, travelers' exchange (containing railroad, ticket, telegraph, transfer company and telephone offices), check rooms, bar, billiard, reading and writing rooms, barber shop, and in further wonder...five stores.
Never before had some of the visitors seen such a fine example of French Renaissance architecture, and they marveled at the open aired feeling as they strolled the promenade on the second floor which was landed centrally either by the grand stairway or elevators.
Directly connected with the promenade were spacious parlors with views of High Street, the main dining room, maids' dining room, ordinary (breakfast) room, private dining room and guest chamber corridor. The principal features of the second floor were the dining rooms and parlors with the balance devoted to the kitchen and guest chambers.
The dining room itself was akin to a palace ballroom, and no expense had been spared in its construction. Local laborers stood by the city's elite as the general manager, J. M. Lee, welcomed them to the hotel. They marveled at the extreme size of the room, extending the height of the second and third floors at a total expanse of 46 x 90. The length, however, was masterly relieved by a decorative arch which screened and secluded the musician's gallery. With six fluted pilasters on each side and dome capitals surmounted by an ornate entendres, the dining room presented an appearance, second to none in the country.
The parlors were finished in white enamel and gold with unique designs as more than a few ladies retired to the comfort of the seating arrangements away from the cigar smoke of the men.
The Great Southern housed 222 guest rooms in its expanse, with two club rooms, 56 private bathrooms and 8 public baths. The guest chambers on the second, third, and fourth stories was finished in plain oak, while the balance was completed in yellow pine.
Quite ahead of her time, the grand dame as she would soon be known housed the latest equipment for electric work, call bells, heating, ventilating and plumbing. Huge coal fired boilers were located in the basement which also housed the buildings own water supply from three separate wells.