The durbin hotel a local landmark lost news rushvillerepublican.com electricity questions for class 10

In the years of its operation the Durbin Hotel was known for its effort to preserve the decor, atmosphere and tradition of gracious hospitality. Its history is rich, dating back to the town’s beginnings. Its claim to fame as the presidential campaign headquarters for Wendell Willkie in 1940 remains rooted in the town’s identity.

In 1831, Harvey W. Carr purchased the lot and constructed the hotel. In 1856, the grand opening of the Carr House took place and, according to a 1974 article written by Mary Durbin Ball in the Rush County Sesquicentennial book, “It must have been one of the most gala events in Rushville.”

Civil War-era advertising stressed the hotel’s service for the traveler, as well as “good stabling and friendly ostlers.” In 1878, the first gas lamp ever lighted on Rushville streets stood at the Capp Hotel (as it had now changed hands), which was run by Frazier and Joseph Johnson.

In 1899 the hotel underwent a major overhaul by new owners William and Harrie Jones. The new face lift included an office, parlor, dining room, wash room and three large sample rooms on the first floor, as well as 50 sleeping rooms. Advertising also boasted that the hotel had electricity throughout and that each room was heated with natural gas.

April of 1926 brought with it the Durbin family, who leased the hotel. Leo Durbin began as a traveling salesman for an Ohio furniture company. When he asked Mary Inez Cain of Indianapolis for her hand in marriage she accepted, but with one stipulation: she would not marry a traveling salesman.

So, Leo and Mary leased a summer dining resort at Lake Saint Mary’s, Ohio. Leo bought several abandoned railroad cars to convert into guest rooms for the resort, since it did not have overnight accommodations, a practice that became a forerunner of today’s motel industry.

In 1928, the Durbins purchased the hotel and cafe from David Lollis and for 53 years Leo, Mary and their seven children operated the hotel like a family-style bed and breakfast. The lower level once housed a barber shop, an insurance company, a meat market, the hotel laundry, the Greyhound bus station, a Western Union office, a creamery and the post office at one point or another.

In 1940, the Durbins were given 48-hours notice that their hotel was to become the site of a national political campaign. Revamping the hotel and making it presentable for the various newsmen, politicians and celebrities from across the nation was truly a community effort.

During World War II, gas rations drove travelers off the highways. Help, as well as supplies and equipment, were scarce. So, the Durbin became a training facility for the seven Durbin children. They learned to make beds and repairs, prepare and serve food, wash dishes, make beds, etcetera.

Interstates and highways came and Rushville ceased to be a crossroads, according to Ball’s Sesquicentennial article. The hotel’s game plan included shifting its emphasis from providing lodging to serving food. As hotels failed all over the country, the Durbin expanded. Small rooms were combined to make larger, more comfortable ones with air-conditioning and color television. Adjoining lots were purchased to make room for a parking lot and more dining space and a catering service. Mary Durbin’s recipe file and menu plan with directions so exact that the newest employee could prepare any specialty of the house became the envy of other restauranteurs around the nation.

“This was truly a premiere location,” Mayor Bob Bridges said. “Obviously, it’s historical significance is invaluable with the ties to Wendell Willkie and his presidential campaign. When I first came here it was still a viable part of the community and served as a facility for weddings, graduations, and all of those other happy events in the community members’ lives.”

Four of the Durbin sons continued in the hotel industry. James retired as president emeritus of the hotel division of the Marriott Corp. and operated his own hotel business, Durbin Cos.; Don opened the Indianapolis Marriott East in 1974 and was its general manager until his retirement in 1990 (he passed away in 1997). Dave retired as associate manager of the Indianapolis Marriott East; and Bob retired as executive vice president and director of worldwide operations for the Sheraton Corp. He returned to Indianapolis in 1990 and was general manager of the Marriott East for nine years.