Razing of Old Pierce House

by George A. Nye

The tearing down of the old Pierce Hotel, later known as the Central Hotel on South Buffalo street last week removes from that locality one of the old landmarks of the town. John W. Whiteneck, owner of the Warsaw Laundry Co. is rebuilding the front of his establishment on the old site. Just when the old building was built is not known, but we have some evidence that it had stood there for three-quarters of a century, if not longer. If Jake Thralls were living he could no doubt enlighten us on the subject, for he always said that when he first came to Warsaw they were just starting the excavation for Center lake.

The abstract for this property shows that Lot No. 39, which includes all ground 66 feet from the alley, used to exchange hands for a fixed price of $300. In the early forties the lot was owned by George Moon. He sold it to Nelson Nutt, and he in turn to George Boydston in 1845. George Boydston was a great-uncle of the late N. N. Boydston. In 1854, the Boydston heirs sold the lot to Rowland Willard and we have evidence that the Willards built the hotel. The Willards in 1870 sold it back to George Moon, who in 1874 sold it to Hattie M. Pierce.

In the seventies, when Warsaw was going good as a booming town on two railroads, the Pierce Hotel was a well-known stopping place. Other hotels were the Wright House and Kirtley House, the former being on the north east corner of Buffalo and Center and the other east of this corner where the new Eagles' building is today. Chapin Pierce, however, was a well-known character about town in 1862 and had a livery barn here during the Civil war. Before the Warsaw, Goshen and White Pigeon Railroad came in 1870, Pierce had the contract for hauling the mails to Goshen and return. The barn was in the rear of the hotel.

Dave Breading who was a boy around Warsaw in the late sixties remembers that Lash Pegg, a big burly sandy complexioned man, used to drive the four-horse stage coach for Pierce. Chained in the lobby of the hotel at this time was a bear which attracted the attention of all the school childdren who passed the building. The boys would tease the bear. One day Pegg lengthened the chain several feet unbeknown to the boys. When they came to tease the bear that day they got a wonderful surprise, and some of them were scared out of a year's growth.

The writer happen along in front of the old building the night before workmen tore it down and overheard its valedictory monologue. I give it to you about as I heard it:

"Well, this is my last night in this place. Tomorrow night I will be kindling wood and debris. I have been here a long, long time watching the things that took place on this street. I was just new when the railroad was being built through town from the east. Some of the workmen used to stay under my roof. The whole uptown district, then was of frames like me except for two brick buildings up on the corner of Center and Buffalo. Except for these two I have seen all of the brick store buildings go up about me, beginning with the Phoenix block across the street about 1858. I never will forget the cluster of frame store buildings that used to be down here on South Buffalo street. One used to be just across the alley from me and Peter Marvin had a grocery in it. Seems to me it burned, and Sam Oldfather built the brick which replaced it. John R. Nye built the next one south of it. Nye had a grocery there all during the seventies. Chipman, Funk and Company were then across in the Phoenix block and so was Cal Hossler. Bennetts used to have a grocery near here.
On the corner over there where the Boss building (old State Bank) is now there used to be a big frame building. After the Empire block fire in 1871, Foster's moved their drug store into it and Harvey Beazel had his harness shop there. Honest John Evers had a harness shop down here too about that time.

"In 1863, in a frame building across the street The First National Bank was started by Billy Graves and the Chipmans. I remember well when George Moon built this big brick north of me on the corner. It was in 1868, just after the war. John Lane's little jewelry store used to be there and Lane lived in a house just south of the corner. During the early part of the sixties the postoffice used to be in a little frame building just north of me. Peter L. Runyan, Sr., was then the postmaster. My! I have seen this end of town improve. The old barn back of me was torn down about 1910. I saw the first paving brick laid in Warsaw. It was down there at Mr. Davis' crossing at the railroad in February, 1903. I used to have two frame companions just north of me, but they were torn down about 1905 to made room for Mr. Ringle's room and the one north of it. I regret to leave my old companion across the street where Dr. Siders' office is. It is an old-timer and used to be Frank Place's photo gallery. Later Dr. Eggleston, dentist, was there.

"Well, I am old and ready to go. Mr. Whiteneck wants to build a modern laundry office here. He has been here several years in the laundry business. Before the laundry moved over here I was used as the American Express office with George H. Jordon in charge. In the nineties I quit being a hotel and was a bicycle store. They were quite numerous then, for everybody rode bicycles. In my north room about this time Joe Campfield had his gun store. Henry Mansfield used to be his clerk and mechanic. You know I feel somehow that I belong to Warsaw of an earlier day. I don't feel quite at home with all these new fangled things such as airplanes, radios and even automobiles. I have sort of a longing for the old horse-drawn vehicles that I watched go up and down this street for fifty years. I felt at home with cobblestone gutters, gravel streets, hitchracks and wooden sidewalks. The old gas lights on the corners too, bring back memories to me. Well do I remember the old kerosene lamps. Mr. Pierce had about his hotel and the lanterns at the barn. Once in a while I used to see ox teams go through town, pulling covered wagons or loads of logs, but I have not seen any for years. I remember too, the political rallies, we used to have in this town when delegations would come from all parts of the county and some big speaker such as Will Cumback or Schuyler Colfax would hold the people spellbound for two hours on the courthouse lawn. These were the good old days, the days of the long ago, and I feel that since they have gone I must be going too.

"Good-bye, old town. Farewell, old site. Replace me with a good, substantial brick building that will be a credit to the town, and a treasure to the owner. Look forward, not backward. Build for security and a great future, but in memory's golden casket bestow a thought for me. When the winter winds whistle about this corner and the snow king writes his name in frost upon the window panes, then may the passerby see a spirit seeking shelter. The ghost of the old Pierce House will be seeking the hotel fireside of the long ago."

Warsaw Daily Times April 22, 1931

[hand written note probably by Geo. Nye. "Pierce was father of Alice Pierce, later Morgan Manley's wife. Pierce lived out on Clunette road. Built the brick house where Marcus Mote lives. Used to have a brick yard. Hattie used to be some character & Chapin left town with a Wm. Sullivan between two days. Pierce's white bull dog & Perry Brown's used to fight. A man disappeared at the Pierce House once and nobody ever found out what became of him. It used to be a pretty tough place."]

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