by Tom Castaldi
Rosemarie Alley on West Columbia Street was once a focal point of one of the central commercial districts of Fort Wayne. The Alley is named for the last building to occupy the site, the Rosemarie Hotel, which was destroyed by fire in February 1975.
Originally it was the site occupied by Dana Columbia, after whom Columbia Street was named. There in 1831, he built a twenty-room hotel called the Columbia House. The hotel was replaced in 1836 by the American House and, in turn, the New American in 1865 and finally in 1877 its name was changed to the Tremont House. In 1887 a new building named the Wayne Hotel was erected by J.C. Peters. Peters was the grandfather of the 1930s movie actress Carole Lombard and one of the founders of the Horton Manufacturing Company that introduced the world’s first contained washing machine.
The Wayne was a grand, four-story brick and stone affair, with gas lights, the city’s first hydraulic barber’s chair, an elevator, and plush furnishings. Here was first demonstrated in the city the marvels of the teletype. Perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan spoke from its balcony on October 21, 1896, about the evils of the gold standard, and former presidents Benjamin Harrison and Rutherford B. Hayes thought highly of the place after their visits.
In 1930, Jasper Jones purchased the Wayne Hotel, remodeled it to accommodate 115 rooms and renamed it the Jones Hotel. The Jones was bought by John Arnold in 1966, who renamed it the Rosemarie Hotel and extensively restored its old ninetieth century grandeur, making it renowned for its tobacco shops, billiard and card parlors, barber shop, ball room bar and dining room. Rosemarie Hotel was destroyed by fire in February 1975. Appropriately, today a focal point of West Columbia Street is remembered as Rosemarie Alley named for the last building to occupy the site.
Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Nov 2007
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM and WRRO 89.9 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com.