For most people in Columbus, Ohio, New Year’s Day in 1923 was a time to celebrate the coming of new times and to remember passing places and people.
The weather was chilly but cooperative, and many people took the opportunity of a holiday weekend to spend time with family and friends.
Most of the churches in the city held “night watch” services on New Year’s Eve, with special programs of singing and music. Other people spent the evening in a favorite restaurant. The Oriental — at 30 ½ N. High St. “over the Kroger Store” — offered a New Year’s dinner at $1.50 per plate. People of more modest means found their supper at the Stadium Restaurant at 580 N. High St. There — for 55 cents — one received “cream of chicken soup, roast stuffed spring chicken, green peas, mashed potatoes, combination salad and tea or coffee.”
Many residents and visitors looked for something a bit more elaborate in the way of celebration. One could watch a film of Tom Mix and his horse Tony at the Dreamland or Glora Swanson in “My American Wife” at the Grand or a live production of “The Bat” at the Hartman.
For the dedicated celebrator, there was always the Deshler Hotel at Broad and High streets. A local ad explained: “You will want to be at the Deshler tonight-by all odds the biggest night of the year…Two big parties-one in the Crystal Room, the other in the Ball Room-will get underway at 10 o’clock. Dancing from midnight on. Wonderful music in both places. Wonderful favors, too! The cover charges, including supper: Crystal Room, $3.50; Ball Room, $5.00.”
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For some people, the new year came in more quietly. A local paper noted that President Harding was spending a quiet New Year’s at the White House. “Contrary to previous custom, there will be no New Year’s reception at the executive mansion. The ceremony which, in the past, has drawn thousands to grasp the hand of the President, and his wife, will be omitted.”
In Columbus, there were simple plans for other people. “Outside of special chapel programs in most of the state institutions there will be no special celebrations of New Year’s Day this year…Special dinners will be served at all institutions Monday, but where special exercises are held these will be held Sunday. The workshops at the state prisons will operate as usual.”
For the more adventurous, there was winter camping. “The winter camp of the Boy Scouts near Worthington closed Saturday following a three day’s period of fun. Thirty-five were in attendance, encamped in a cabin along the Olentangy River. The location of the camp and the housing quarters were ideal, the spirit up to the standard that has made the Boy Scout organization known all over the world and the program was filled with interesting activity…The biggest hit of the entire camp season was the ‘eats.’ Elaborate menus and splendid cooking were the features of each meal. A big banquet was held Thursday evening. The meat on the menu for the occasion was roast venison.”
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For others, this New Year’s was a time of change of place. The YMCA had been in Columbus since 1851. For many years, it had been housed in a gray stone structure. But the Y was leaving. “The old YMCA building, 36 South Third Street, will be the scene of its last New Year’s celebration from 2 until 5 o’clock Monday afternoon. Programs will be held in both gymnasiums for its present members and friends. The present structure will give way to the erection of a new home at the corner of Front and Long streets.”
That building is being vacated by YMCA and will be converted to affordable housing. The old YMCA building was torn down and replaced with a new brick building for The Columbus Dispatch.
And then there was the Neil House. William Neil came to Columbus with his wife, Hannah, in 1818. They built a home and tavern across the street from the Statehouse.
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Leaving Hannah with the cabin, William Neil made his fortune in the stagecoach business. In 1834, he opened the first Neil House hotel facing Statehouse Square. After a rather raucous holiday season in 1860, the hotel burned to the ground.
Undeterred, Neil built a second Neil House on the site. But the era of that hotel was ending. “For sentimental reasons, Manager W. W. Prosser of Keith’s Theatre chose the Neil House as the scene of the annual Christmas party…In the Blue Room of the historic old hostelry, the players gathered in what was the last Christmas celebration of any note in the old building, which is soon to be razed to make way for the new Neil.”
That third Neil House lasted from 1924 until it was replaced by the Huntington Center.
Happy New Year!
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News and The Columbus Dispatch.