This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on March 13, 1977
Requiem for tainted ladies: flophouses falling
By DALE HUFFMAN
Sitting behind a time-ravaged wooden upright desk, Harley Stayner glanced across Ludlow St. from his cab company office and said, “Good-by, old hotel. Gone but not forgotten.”
It was a requium of sorts for the passing of an ever-shrinking breed of hotel known as flophouses—dark, dirty, cheap hotels where people wind up when they are down on the their luck and have nowhere to go.
The Alton Hotel and the Lee Hotel, which for at least 77 years have been side-touching, Siamese structures at Ludlow and W. Sixth Sts., are falling to a wrecker’s hammer.
As the three-story structures come down to make way for a parking lot, oldtimers remember the more “glorious” days of what is now called downtown’s skid row.
Only one “economy” hotel now remains alive out of dozens that once peppered downtown Dayton. That’s the Reid Hotel at 131 W. Fifth St., where many former residents of the Alton and Lee have moved.
The old Alton, once the Giddings Hotel and later the Cody Hotel, sat for a while without a roof recently, with dust belching on a brisk breeze from a broken window.
Inside broken stained glass, a crumpled pink chenille bed spread, a pillow spilling feathers, broken wine bottles and a discarded Bible shared the lobby floor.
The once-bright “Alton Hotel” sign outside had fallen over and dangled low over the sidewalk.
Stayner, 53, has been watching the hotels and their patrons from his Cliff Cab office across the street for 30 years.
“I think the Alton was once a pretty classy place,” he said. But the Lee…it was always like a wicked stepsister. There are hundreds of stories a man can tell about both places. But to be honest, we are not sorry to see them go.”
When the Alton was the Cody 30 years back, Stayner remembers, “There was a racehorse bookie with headquarters in there. He had a ticker tape, and a big board, the whole works.”
Stayner and others who have watched the area for many years can attest to everything going on in those hotels from gambling to prostitution. They recall fights and suicides.
“I remember about eight years ago on a Sunday morning, when I was working here in the office and I heard glass crashing.” Said Stayner. “I looked over there, and a man came crashing out of a second-floor window down to the sidewalk. He was dead.”
Stayner said he remembers about 10 years ago “running to the back of the hotel, where a man was on the top of the fire escape. He had one of those love affair problems and was going to jump. A big crowd gathered, and the guys from the printing company next door, held their heads out the window and shouted ‘Jump, chicken.’ They got the guy down.”
Paul Lutz, 61, has vivid memories of residents Arson Annie and Paregoric Pat.
Arson Annie was an occupant of the Lee Hotel who was accused of starting a fire in the room every time she caught her boyfriend going out on her.
Paregoric Pat was “a beautiful raven-haired woman” who asked cab drivers to sign for purchases of paregoric so she could get more than the legal limit. Paregoric is an opium-based drug used medically to relieve diarrhea.
Lutz also remembers a woman who stayed in a second-floor room at the Alton for at least five years in the 1960s.
“She sat there looking out the window, and they took food into her and her papers. She only came out two times in five years and both times they found her wandering up the street with no clothes on. Wonder where she is now?”
Lutz went on. “In the old days this was a busy end of town, when trains were the only way to travel. People would get off of trains and would hit these hotels around here. Now the trains don’t come anymore and the people are all old or gone and the hotels are coming down.”
Where have they gone, the street people, the winos, the poor people who lived in such places?
A number of men, drinking wine, shabbily clothed, and sitting on a door step across the street from the Alton and Lee hotels sat watching the demolition work.
One said he used to live in the Lee but now lives in the Arcade apartments. Another has moved to the Reid. Still another lives in the Belleview apartments on E. Riverview Ave.
“When we’ve got the money, we find a place,” one of the men said. “But we don’t get a room until after we get our bottle,” he added, with a toothless smile.