PROFILE 2023 — A trip back in time: The Marting Hotel

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2023

By Nicole Cox | For The Ironton Tribune

One of legendary business icon Henry Adam Marting’s last ventures was to build the remarkable Marlowe Theater with his son in law, Dr. Andrew Clark Lowry. “Marlowe” was a combination of their surnames. Just around the corner at Second Street and Park Avenue, ground was broken for a spectacular hotel unique from all the others. The project soon stalled, and, from 1914-1917 the site was known as “Ironton’s Hole in the Ground,” since only the basement had been excavated, due to steel shortages from World War I. In 1916, Mr. Marting pledged to finance the hotel project and by the following year had raised $190,000, including $75,000 of his own investment. 

Vintage postcard of the Marting Hotel, provided by Nicole Cox

Col. Marting had interests in dozens of businesses in Ironton, beginning with a dry goods store on Second Street and later, a pivotal role in the Foster Stove Company, the Crystal Ice Factory, Ironton Portland Cement and the Eagle Iron Works. In 1912, he incorporated the Marting Iron and Steel Company by purchasing three coke-fueled iron furnaces throughout Lawrence County. He was given the title “colonel” by Ohio Gov. Asa Smith Bushnell, after being a member of the governor’s staff. 

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On Sept. 18, 1919, the grand opening dedication dinner was hosted in the spectacular Marting Hotel. The lobby was decorated with flower bouquets and Rome apples, since the apple show and festival were being held at the same time. Sadly, the man who saw the project to completion did not live to see its success. 

 Nine days later, on Sept. 27, 1919, Colonel Marting succumbed to illness. 

One time listed as “Ohio Valley’s Best Hotel” the hotel advertised 128 rooms with rates from $1.50 to $4. It once contained a barber shop, billiards parlor, cigar store and coffee shop. It nearly always hosted a tavern, restaurant or bar. The impressive seven-story Italian Renaissance Revival style building at 202 Park Ave. in Ironton boasts a history as interesting as its architecture. 

One of the hotel’s most famous guests was none other than female ironmaster and socialite Nannie Kelly Wright. After a colorful career, ruined romance, and extensive world travels, Wright made the Marting Hotel her home from the 1930s until her death in 1946. From her view high above the town, she reminisced about watching the World War II soldiers arrive at the nearby train depot. Both the original Ironton-Russell Bridge and the newer

The Marting Hotel today (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

O.C. Collins Memorial Bridge are within view of the top floors, as well as the dome of the county courthouse. Due to its proximity to the Ohio River, rail lines, the county seat and the Ironton business district, the Marting Hotel has always been a popular downtown destination. Often hosting community meetings, dinners, dances and civic functions, the establishment also served in times of need. The devastating flood waters of 1937 reached the third floor, but several patrons took refuge on the upper floors. 

One of the more recent notable guests was U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, whose district office on the ground floor served the southern part of the 6th Congressional District from 2011 until the end of last year when redistricting moved Lawrence County into the Second District. 

For a brief time in the 1950s it was named the MacArthur Hotel, but, by the next decade, had resumed its original name and, by then, added the Sand Bar, banquet facilities, air conditioning, and televisions in all the rooms. The historic hotel went through dozens of managers, renovations, redecorations and various entertainment additions before falling into disrepair at the end of the century. 

In 1998, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Several years later, the Ironton – Lawrence County Community Action Organization took ownership of the decayed building and began extensive renovations. Now known as the Park Avenue Apartments, this beautiful landmark continues to be a busy center in the city with lively characters and social activities comprised of 50-units of senior living apartments. 

At the time of Marting’s death, he gave financial donations to the Marting Hotel, proving his devotion to the project. The Ironton Register newspaper ran his extensive obituary and noted: “Every business house in the city was closed during the funeral hour from 2 to 3 o’clock. The Home Telephone Company suspended service for 10 minutes at 2 o’clock. The public schools and banks were closed.” The town collectively mourned the loss of a great industrialist and friend of many. 

It has now been over 100 years since the grand opening. If these walls could talk, they would echo the laughter, friendliness, sociability and enjoyment that guided Marting’s vision for his final venture. 

Nicole Cox is president of the Lawrence County Museum & Historical Society and can be reached at 740-646-4104.