Source: Aurora (1927) Ad:


C.F. DUNBAR, Proprietor
North Manchester, Indiana

Source: Aurora (1937) Ad:

"The Leading Hotel"
115 West Main
Phone 55
North Manchester, Indiana


Volume IX, Number 2 (May 1992)

By L.Z. Bunker, M.D. Retired

As we reminisce about the early days of North Manchester, the name “The Young Hotel” often comes up.

This aged structure, once located at 115 West Main Street, was built by the Siling brothers, Tighlman, born in 1826 in Maryland, and Milton, born in 1829 in Ohio.  They were living in South Whitley as late as 1854, being listed as “Furniture makers in Indiana” of that year.

About 1856-1857 the brothers came to North Manchester and built the large three-story building, two stories a furniture factory and the third the Masonic Hall.  Here they manufactured tables, chairs, cupboards and wooden coffins.  None of this furniture was marked, as far as we know, and there is no record of it remaining in the community.

In 1858 Tighlman I. Siling built a residence at 202 West Second Street which still stands in very good condition.  He was so enamored with the Greek Revival style that he built his home in this form although the style had been abandoned over most of the country.  Until a search was made the house was considered to be 20 or so years older than it really was.

We have no pictures of the building at 115 West Main Street in its earliest days, but, being a factory, it was probably without the cornices, pilasters and doorway of the residence, although the roof did evidence the double-back of the Greek Revival period.

Come the Civil War, April, 1861, Tighlman I. Siling organized a militia company, was elected captain, and left here permanently.  His family also left North Manchester.  Siling remained with the armed forces during the war but with another command.  He returned here many years later to a G.A. R. Reunion.  At that time he was living in Kansas [see Newsletter, May 1988.]  What became of his brother is not known.

Joel Tilman, probably a relative of Silings, was operating the business in 1861.  It continued as a furniture and coffin factory into the 1870’s.  When Saul Argerbright and his numerous family were in charge they continued in the coffin and building trades into the 1890’s, having built the George Leffel house in 1892 on the northwest corner of Main and Maple, still standing.

The third floor of the building was occupied by the Masonic Lodge until 1872 when they moved to the new L.J. Noftzger building on the south side of Main Street.  Later occupants of the Siling building were the Independent Order of Good Templars, the Knights of Honour, and the Plowman’s Insurance Company.  In the late 1870’s the factory was purchased by a Mr. Bone and all three floors were converted into a hotel.  Soon after it was sold to a member of the Keller family and called Keller Hotel.  In 1884 it was purchased by Shelby Saxton who continued to operate it until near 1900 when it was purchased by Mitchel King, a very small but feisty man who had been a cavalryman in the Civil War.

He was host for a few years, followed by Freeman Fox who called the establishment the “Fox House.”  Its last name came from “Brigham” Young, the owner until about 1911 when Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dunbar took over the management but did not change the name.

Charles Franklin Dunbar was the son of Samuel Dunbar, a Civil War veteran, and was brought up on Front Street in North Manchester.  His wife was Mabel Johns who grew up on a farm near Liberty Mills.  Frank Dunbar, as he was known, was a veteran of the Spanish-American War.  Frank died in 1939 but Mrs. Dunbar continued to operate the Hotel until the disastrous fire of February 25, 1943.

As we look back on the old hotel, converted to a hostelry from a wood-working plant, it was not attractive or even quaint.  It was a foursquare hotel building, extending the width of the lot and directly on the sidewalk.  There were no architectural embellishments, and it had no shutters or porch.  Many renovations had covered the early frame siding with brown stucco and later, tan brick.  There was a slate roof, probably dating after the 1870’s, as slate was brought here by the railroads.

Several huge maple trees grew at the curb, and a couple of benches sat in front of the building.  There were no flowers or bushes. All was clean but strictly utilitarian, inside and out.

To the south of the old building there was a two-story addition which housed the large dining room and kitchen, with sleeping rooms above.  This was put on during the Dunbars’ tenure.

One entered directly into the lobby, an irregular shaped room with several posts and beams in the ceiling.  A clerk’s desk and safe and a small cigar case made up its furnishings.  The east end of the lobby was taken up by a large table, surrounded by arm chairs.  Here a card game was said to have gone on for a third of a century!

The establishment could well have been called a residence hotel in the 1890’s.  Traveling engineers, putting in waterworks, electric facilities and paving, came through the Midwest, staying at our location for some time.  They often brought their wives and children and lived at local hotels.  When the North Manchester standpipe was built in 1894, several engineers came from Bucyrus, Ohio, and stayed all summer.

“Traveling men” with great sample trunks, fanned out from New York City, showing goods to Midwest merchants, in hotel sample rooms.  Sometimes a dining room was used as a sample room.

Travel until the 1940’s and later was by train, and hotel guests were transported from the two railroad stations in Bill Keel’s two-horse hack and, by the 1930’s, in a motor taxi.

Famous people came to the hotel---William Jennings Bryan; Robert G. Ingersoll; later, Theodore Dreiser; Franklin Booth, the artist; humorists, Bill Nye and Opie Reed.  The summer Chautauqua lecture series brought many noted people.  V. Steffanson, the Arctic explorer, was among them.  Edna Ferber the novelist, her maid and her chauffeur, stayed there, but North Manchester didn’t figure in any of her novels!  At fair time there were theatrical troupes and the harness racing crowd.

Mrs. Dunbar’s fine cooking attracted many guests.  A country fare was served, such as roast turkeys and chicken, rounds of beef, country sausage, mushrooms and strawberries in season, and her specialty, maple syrup ice cream made from real maple syrup.

Everyone sat at a long table and maids passed the heavy dishes.  A huge sideboard stood at the end of the room, laden with pie, “covered, uncovered, and crisscross,” also luscious chocolate coconut cakes.

News of such bounty spread in the early days of motor travel, and the Young Hotel was a recommended stop on the Hoosier-Dixie Highway, the first marked motor highway in the United States, extending from Detroit, Michigan, to Miami, Florida.

The tradition of the Young Hotel as a residence continued into the 1920’s and 1930’s.  In 1925, John Spurgeon, a Civil War veteran and a handsome man at a great age, made the hotel his home, as did Max Drefkopf, a Russian émigré who operated the Syracuse Factory where screens, wooden grilles and cedar chests were made.  Another resident was Louis Conner who ran a taxi.  In palmier days he was the agent for the Stanley Steamer Automobile Company.  And, of course, there were numerous other people.

The Kiwanis met here from their beginning, along with many clubs and informed groups.

The furnishings were not remarkable in the hotel’s later years by the Mission, near Mission and golden oak which has become popular today.  There was none of the earlier Eastlake or rosewood or even Shaker furniture to be seen.  The Dunbars had a nice suite on the second floor, and there was a nice suite with a davenport and a piano on the first floor.

Dr. George Shoemaker owned the hotel in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.  He lived in Louisiana but would return occasionally and occupy his suite from which he saw old medical patients!

The Dunbars were a kindly couple, often assisted by Mr. Dunbar’s sister, Mrs. Emma Gilbert.  Mr. Dunbar, a short, obese man in poor health, was not often out of the hotel.  When he was, he was often carrying a tin container of soup to an ill neighbor or friend.  They fed tramps, sent extra food to the needy, and made a home for two orphaned children of one of their cooks for several years, among other kindnesses.

Mr. Dunbar died in 1939, and Mrs. Dunbar continued the hostelry until the fateful day of February 25, 1943, when the ancient structure fell victim to its many reconstructions.  

An overheated furnace caused a fire in a cubby hole which was put out.  It was not realized until later that there was fire in the walls.  Soon flames and smoke burst out all over.  The ancient walls, tinder dry and full of dust, burned at an explosive rate.  Layers of wood, stucco, brick and a slate roof held the fire in until the third story and two-story addition were but ashes.

Thursday, February 25, was not a very cold day; a large crowd gathered.  In spite of the violence of the fire, many people rushed in and carried out furniture and threw bedding from upstairs windows.  No one was hurt.

W.E. “Josh” Billings, retired from the News-Journal arrived on the scene to write a graphic account which provided much information for this article.

Salvaged articles were stored in the lower level of Zion Lutheran Church, next door, and several other buildings.  Always energetic, Mrs. Dunbar immediately moved the bus station which had been in the hotel to 226 East Main  Street, and occupied a small apartment in the rear.  By March 5, 1943, she arranged an auction of the furniture, dishes, silverware, and bedding that had been saved.  She continued to manage the bus station.  She died in 1951.

After the fire there was a great alarm that the remains of the building, owned by John Geyer of Sebring, Florida, would fall into the street, and passersby avoided the area.  On May 4 1943, however Geyer had Everett Hillegas and his wrecking crew from Huntington demolish the structure.

Much brick, heavy timber, and wiring was salvaged, and Hillegas said, “Contrary to falling down the building was solid.  If a cyclone had struck North Manchester the Young Hotel would have been the last building  destroyed!”

The area was soon cleared, and the lot was purchased by the congregation of the Zion Lutheran Church.  The fine parsonage there, designed by the late Fred Kissinger, was built in 1950.