LaFayette Hotel has storied past

Published 1:35 am Friday, October 29, 2021

Story by Mark Williams | Photography by Mark Williams and Sarah Simmons

Overlooking the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers in the heart of downtown Marietta, Ohio stands the Lafayette Hotel, a timeless landmark with a storied past. Established as the Bellevue Hotel in 1892, the structure was rebuilt and christened the Lafayette in 1918 after the original building was destroyed by a fire. Named after Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American Revolution who visited Marietta in the mid 19th century, the historic hotel now boasts 77 unique rooms, including multiple suites, penthouses and parlors.

Though the hotel has been outfitted with all the expected modern amenities, the style and decor of the rooms, furniture and facilities remain elegantly vintage. Many of the hotel’s unique artifacts are still on display, like the call bell system used by guests to communicate with staff and the original front door lock and key.

Two of the hotel’s most notable features are the Gun Room and the Riverfront Bar and Grill. The Gun Room, a large family-style dining hall, is most famous for its collection of handcrafted long rifles, all of which were built between 1795 and 1880. The spacious restaurant also displays a riverboat’s telegraph, steering arms and other steamboat instruments. Multiple pilot wheels that were crafted for Navy ships in World War II hang throughout the dining area. The Riverfront Bar and Grill, renovated and opened in 1984, overlooks the Ohio River and features a stunning large hardwood bar which was hand-carved by local Amish woodworkers. On sunny days, guests can move to the Riverfront’s outdoor patio and sip a wide range of unique mixed drinks, cocktails and other colorful libations.

Thanks to its centralized location, the Lafayette Hotel feels like a hub of activity. Guests of the hotel can easily venture out into the bustling streets of Marietta where they will find numerous gift and antique shops, unique restaurants and live music venues. But for more daring adventurers, activities of the paranormal variety await. Hidden Marietta, a tour and event agency specializing in all things spooky, offers walking tours, in-depth building tours and even guided paranormal investigations of the city’s most haunted locations. The group also offers tarot card readings and antique photography, and operates a curiosity gift shop located in the Anchorage Mansion, a historically haunted 23-room Italianate mansion built in 1859. Each January, Hidden Marietta hosts a paranormal expo, where participants from all over the country convene at the Lafayette Hotel to discuss, explore and investigate the city’s most notable  ghost stories.

 Housing an annual paranormal expo at the Lafayette Hotel is no coincidence either. The hotel, specifically the third floor, just happens to be one of the city’s most notoriously haunted places. Each year during the expo, Hidden Marietta rents out every room on the third floor for guests of the convention. On Friday night, the hotel goes dark and The Lights-Out Lockdown begins. Professional ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts are then given the opportunity to explore certain areas of the hotel with their sophisticated equipment, searching for signs of the unknown. But as Lafayette General Manager Sheila Rhodes explains, the ghost hunters are most likely to find something more mischievous than nefarious, if they find anything at all.

“In my 25 years as general manager, I personally have not experienced anything like that,” Rhodes explains with a laugh. “But nine times out of ten, when people do report strange experiences, it happens on the third floor.” Rhodes goes on to tell the story of S. Durward Hoag, a former owner of the Lafayette Hotel. Together with his father, Hoag purchased the Lafayette Hotel in the early 1930’s and went on to become the public face of the hotel and a vocal advocate for promoting Marietta itself. He and his family lived much of their lives on the third floor of the Lafayette Hotel, until Hoag sold the hotel in the early 1970s. He passed away less than 10 years later, but many believe Mr. Hoag’s ghost can still be found on the third floor, checking on the hotel guests and playing tricks on the staff. Rhodes notes a famous incident involving a guest and a sandwich as one of the more famous paranormal pranks.

“As the story goes, a guest on the third floor had just finished making himself a sandwich when he sat it down on a coffee table in his room and went to wash up before eating. When he returned from the washroom, the sandwich was nowhere to be found.” After searching the room over, the perplexed guest went about his day. The next morning, he awoke to find the missing sandwich on his coffee table, exactly where it was before it mysteriously disappeared the day before. “Most of the stories are like that, so I think Mr. Hoad is a friendly, funny ghost.”

Whether you’re visiting for a show at the Adelphia Music Hall, exploring one of the city’s countless historic sites or trying your luck at ghost hunting, the Lafayette Hotel is the perfect homebase for all things Marietta. But if you’re brave enough to stay on the third floor, protect your sandwiches.

For booking and more information on the Lafayette Hotel, visit www.lafayettehotel.com.