Put-in-Bay Before 1812

South Bass Island, or Put-in-Bay, is one of Lake Erie’s choice travel destinations. In fact, people come from all parts of the world to capture some of the island’s magic. When they visit, sightseers are thrilled to find lodging at famous island establishments including Put-in-Bay cabins and Put-in-Bay hotels.  Such residences augment their overall experiences of peace and relaxation that accompany any visit to the Lake Erie Islands.

It’s no secret that one of South Bass Island’s best features is its rich history. Many tourists and residents are aware of its captivating legacy of hotels. Even more supporters are proud to discuss the island’s role during the War of 1812, and the breathtaking Victory Monument that was constructed to honor post-war peace and prosperity.

Perrys Monument Postcard

For those who are unfamiliar, the War of 1812 marked a turning point in American – and Put-in-Bay – history. When the war ended, developers truly began to settle the island. But, before that, very little cultivation occurred. Let’s examine the years on Put-in-Bay prior to 1812.

Put-in-Bay 1800s

Indians on South Bass Island

According to historians, the Erie Indians were the first Native Americans to dwell in Ohio. Naturally, they were the first ones to visit South Bass Island and the other Lake Erie Islands. These early Indians would travel north along the Ohio River to Lake Erie via the Warrior’s Path (also known as the Sandusky-Scioto Trail). Once they reached Port Clinton, they would canoe westward toward the Detroit River, island-hopping along the route, or they would paddle east along the shoreline toward Niagara Falls. In the early spring or late fall, when severe storms would endanger their travel, the Indians would use Put-in-Bay as a temporary haven from the squall. The wintertime brought many Indians to the island to hunt raccoons along the frozen water.

Indian Warriors Path

The Iroquois Confederation defeated the Erie Indians in the mid-1600s, and they, too, began to explore the islands. Within fifty years, many other Indian tribes migrated to Ohio. The Seneca, Ottawa, Wyandot, Miami, Delaware, Tuscarora, and Shawnee all visited South Bass Island before 1800, as evidenced by the various artifacts (like arrowheads, axes, mounds, and skeletons) found on Put-in-Bay. None of the tribes ever settled there permanently.

Indians on Lake Erie

The Europeans Head to Put-in-Bay

The first non-Indian sailor to discover Lake Erie was Louis Jolliet, a French fur trader, and he did so in 1669. A few years after that, French pioneer Robert de La Salle and his friend, Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan missionary, sailed along the lake and became the first Europeans to set foot on Put-in-Bay. Scholars indicate that Hennepin even performed a ceremonial Mass on the island.

Robert de La Salle

The British weren’t far behind. In 1685, Johannes Rooseboom and some other traders traveled along the islands for a few years. But, conflict with Indians and French traders eventually prevented them from truly establishing a British presence along the lake.

From Pudding Bay to Put-in-Bay: The Next Century

The next 100 years on Put-in-Bay are somewhat mysterious and void of information. One thing we do know is that some European voyagers sailed along the Lake Erie Islands in 1789. They charted their course, and they named one special island “Pudding Bay” because the shape apparently looked like a bag of pudding. As time passed, “Pudding Bay” evolved and transformed into its current name – Put-in-Bay.

Put in Bay Downtown

Put-in-Bay Receives an Owner

Even though historians don’t know much about the early 1700s on South Bass Island, one noteworthy fact is this: The then-British colonies of Connecticut and Virginia had claimed certain territories beyond their state borders. This territory was called the “Western Reserve,” and the Lake Erie Islands were included in the area. Once the states broke free from the British and gained their independence, they handed over island ownership to the American government.

The government formed the Connecticut Land Company and, in 1807, sold Put-in-Bay and several other islands to Pierpont Edwards, a congressman, judge, and youngest son of famed theologian Jonathan Edwards.

Preacher Jonathan Edwards

Surprise Developments on South Bass Island

After procuring ownership of Put-in-Bay, Edwards sent an agent, Seth Done, to South Bass to explore the island. What Done discovered shocked him: A few French families were living on the island! No one knows how they arrived, when they arrived, or how long they lived there. In 1811, however, Done brought laborers to the island and began to develop it. The men cleared over 100 acres of land, which effectively forced the families to leave.

Later that year, Done and his workers imported 400 sheep and 150 hogs to Put-in-Bay. The men planted and harvested wheat, and the animals grazed on the plentiful supply of acorns and nuts. However, this first true attempt to settle the island failed when the British arrived the following year. They destroyed wheat and other resources, and the War of 1812 began, effectively halting progress for many years.

Put-in-Bay: Come Experience a Taste of History

South Bass Island has a remarkable heritage. Its legacy of progress and hope is something we’re proud to promote. So, come stay with us at the Put-in-Bay hotels, Put-in-Bay cabins, Put-in-Bay Condos, and the Island Club Rentals and experience a taste of history on Put-in-Bay.

Put-in-Bay’s Hotel History: An Inspiring Heritage

Put-in-Bay is the crown jewel of the Lake Erie Islands. Tourists have flocked to Put-in-Bay, which is also known as South Bass Island, for 200-plus years. The island has a rich history, and many are unaware of the important role it played in the War of 1812.

During the war, Put-in-Bay served as Commodore Perry’s headquarters. It was from the harbor that Perry and his naval fleet defeated the British in the pivotal victory of the war—the Battle of Lake Erie.

Since that day, Put-in-Bay has symbolized joy, peace, and freedom, and visitors would come to the island to experience such wonders. Others would stop over just to enjoy the day. Unfortunately, guests were unable to stay overnight because there weren’t any hotels or lodgings on the island for tourists.

At present, top-rated establishments like the Put-in-Bay Condos or the classic Island Club rentals afford tourists an opportunity to capture more time on the island. This, however, wasn’t always the case. In fact, approximately 50 years passed after the War of 1812 before island-goers were able to stay overnight.

Put-in-Bay’s First Hotel

The island’s very first hotel had a modest beginning. A man by the name of Frederick Cooper found an opportunity for business and he added rooms to a house near the boat landing sometime in the early 1860s. He built more rooms as the demand for them increased.

Several years passed, and, in 1867, he took on a partner (Andrew Decker) and named their growing establishment The Island Home. They expanded The Island Home over the next few years and added a bowling alley, a bar, a beer garden, and some stables. In 1879, they sold it to Henry Beebe, who re-named the lodging the Perry House.

Beebe hired island contractors to further upgrade the Perry House with a three-story wing, an ice cream parlor, and a ballroom. 300 guests could stay at The Perry House at a time, and attendees grew accustomed to seeing Mrs. Beebe host formal dinners nightly at 6 p.m. For about 25 years, the venue was an attractive destination for ballroom dancing, parties, and a lakeside getaway.

The Perry House was sold in 1910 and re-named the Hotel Commodore. A few years later, the Schlitz Brewing Company bought the house, and, sadly, on August 23, 1932, the hotel caught fire and burned to the ground.

The Put-in-Bay House: A Colonial to Remember

The Put-in-Bay House came into existence while the first island hotel was developing and changing. In 1861, Joseph W. Gray, an editor for The Plain Dealer, purchased the majestic Put-in-Bay “White House.” He turned this landmark, which was once owned by island developer A.P. Edwards, into a rooming house.

Over the next few years, the house found itself owned by several different people until Sweeney, West and Company took possession. Several additions and expansions were made, including majestic fountains in front of each wing and an upgraded dining room that could seat about 1000 people. Much like the Hotel Commodore, Sweeney, West, and Company’s Put-in-Bay House became a vibrant, exciting destination for over a decade.

The Put-in-Bay House was to be the venue of an extravagant gala on August 30, 1878. Donors and VIPs rushed to the island for a charity benefit for those affected by yellow fever. 1000 tickets were earmarked for the event, but the house caught fire and burned to the ground before the party.

Years later, the house was rebuilt and resurrected as the famous Colonial Hotel. The Colonial stood for over 100 years, but it also burned down in 1988, which has led many to believe that the land is cursed. Today, the Beer Barrel Saloon and Tipper’s Restaurant stand where the famous Put-in-Bay House and Colonial once did. You can read more about the fascinating tale of the Colonial Hotel here.

More Historic Hotels

In 1871, the Hunker House opened on the eastern edge of the village park. The hotel featured its own vineyard and orchard. The Hunker House became famous for its wines, ice cream, and pies, which were all made from homegrown fruits. The Hunker House, like many other island properties throughout the years, encountered multiple owners and name changes (i.e. Ward Summer Resort, Detroit House, Crescent Hotel). This establishment housed about 140 guests in its prime, and it closed in 1971.

In the early 1800s, the Gill House appeared on the scene. This smaller hotel accommodated 40 people. As time passed, it, too, faced name changes, depending on the owner. During one era, it was known as Bon Air. At another point, it became the Smith Hotel. Then, it morphed into the Hotel Oelschlager. The Hotel Oelschlager boasted an attached restaurant and general store where visitors could purchase groceries and souvenirs. Today, the building is known as the Country House—a famous gift shop, antique store, and landmark.

Eagle Cottage began as a boarding house, but it was purchased in 1946 and renamed the Friendly Inn. In 1970, it was sold, and it now stands as the Crew’s Nest—a boat club and resort.

Other lodgings, like the Bay View House, the Reibel House, and Smith’s Hotel have come and gone, but the Park Hotel (built in the 1870s and originally known as the Deutsches Hotel) remains today. It features 26 Victorian-style rooms and is located right next to the Round House Bar.

While Put-in-Bay has been home to many acclaimed hotels, perhaps none is more famous (or infamous) than Hotel Victory.

The “Grandest” Island Hotel

Hotel Victory was to be the “grandest” hotel in America and a luxurious destination. In fact, when it opened in 1892 (and was fully completed in 1896), it was, indeed, the largest hotel in the United States. Hotel Victory featured miles of carpet, a boardwalk to the beach, fountains, a pool, and much, much more. Regrettably, it, too, faced an untimely ruin.

Put-in-Bay: Continuing the Legacy

Put-in-Bay’s hotel heritage is proud and fascinating. We’re proud to continue the legacy of these mighty establishments and provide island-goers with first-class hotel accommodations.