Logan County History: Lake Ridge Hotel & Resort


By: Mary E. Mortimer

In the early days of the Lewistown Reservoir, Lake Ridge was a very rustic and picturesque area. It was also a prime area for local residents to hunt small game and fish. Hunters and fishermen who chose to spend the night made a campsite or stayed at a log hotel built by John Palmer. In the mid-1880s, Harrison Spencer purchased Lake Ridge Island and some additional land. He then built a home and turned the island into a successful hunting and fishing camp. Land access to Lake Ridge was via a toll road and bridge that were built by Spencer.

Starting around 1890, there was an annual two-week fishing camp at Lake Ridge called Camp Razzle Dazzle. Members of the Razzle Dazzle Club were from Chicago and Bellefontaine. The Logan County Index reported in July 1891 “the scene of the festivity was an extravagant one, with remnants such as wasted lemons and onions and hastily changed socks to remnants of giant firecrackers and a whistling bomb scattered about.” One night the campers set off a giant firecracker that frightened all the guests staying at the nearby Lake Ridge Hotel. There were also reports that a circus visited the camp “exhibiting more camels, elephants, canvas and cooks than any other roadshow.” It is not known how many years Camp Razzle Dazzle continued, but they sure had a good time in the years they camped at Lake Ridge.

In 1891, Spencer’s daughter, Bertie, met and fell in love with William E. Clark while he was visiting Lake Ridge. They were married a short time later and took over management of the island and camp. The Clarks built a 40-room hotel that included single rooms, family suites, a dining room, a parlor, a lobby, and a kitchen. Three of the larger rooms featured huge wood-burning fireplaces. Over the large fireplace in the lobby was a nameplate built entirely of American Indian arrowheads that were found on the island. It was over six feet long and contained dozens of perfect artifacts. There were also wooden tubs of fresh fruit available at all times for hotel guests. Visitors arriving by electric railway were met by staff and brought to the hotel by horse and carriage.

The Bellefontaine Republican reported in May 1895 “Prospects are flattering, indeed, for a big season this year and already tourists have begun to arrive. Mr. Bevis of Cincinnati is in charge of the cottages, bathing houses, and boats. Several new cottages have been built and a new fleet of row boats is being constructed with all the late improvements, including lazy-back seats and false bottoms, which will afford ample protection to ladies’ dresses.

The bathing houses are being refitted and a ladies’ toilet room will be added. The beach has been placed in good order, an adequate supply of first-class bathing suits purchased, and a toboggan slide is being constructed which will afford great support for the bathers.

One of the best improvements is the Gazelle, a trim little Ohio River stern wheel steamer which will afford much amusement and pleasure to the passengers. The plot of ground south of the hotel is being made into an enclosed park which will contain rare birds, fowl, and deer. A cottage within the enclosure is being stocked with a fine collection of curios, including Mr. Clark’s shell display, and American Indian artifacts.”

Numerous prominent people visited the Lake Ridge Hotel, including Mark Twain, President Warren G. Harding, and Governor Asa S. Bushnell, and his wife, Ellen. Many left their testimonials about the happy hours they spent at Lake Ridge.

In June 1901, a large pavilion was built with a stage for concerts and vaudeville shows that could seat several hundred people. J.S. Boyd, former manager of the Hotel Ingalls in Bellefontaine, was hired to assist the Clarks in April 1902. Boyd later moved to Lima to manage the Hotel Norval. Brothers Clyde and Charles Carr of Marysville were hired in April 1911 to manage the Lake Ridge Resort and Hotel. The Carr brothers, who had 18 years of experience in the restaurant and hotel business, were assisted by their wives.

William E. Clark passed away in April 1920. His wife, Bertie, and daughter continued to operate the Lake Ridge Hotel and Resort.

In July 1925, Bertie Clark granted the right of entrance and exit through her property so a bridge could be built connecting Lake Ridge Island to Indian Isles. This also eliminated the toll gate that had been in place for over 40 years. On July 4, 1926, Dream Bridge was opened so that Indian Isles could be reached by automobile from State Route 32 through Lake Ridge Island. Hundreds of autos crossed the new bridge on the Independence Day holiday.

The Lake Ridge Hotel underwent extensive remodeling in June 1932. The main lobby was arched and equipped with three fireplaces, and the dining room was enlarged. The veranda facing the lake was remodeled and enclosed with glass windows. All hotel rooms featured hot and cold running water, and six cottages had electricity, four with baths.

Tragedy struck in June 1937 when the Lake Ridge Hotel was destroyed by fire. It was believed sparks from one of the fireplace chimneys ignited a fire on the roof. All fifteen guests and staff escaped without injury. Firemen responded from Russells Point, Lakeview, Bellefontaine, and Belle Center. Most of the furnishings on the first floor of the 48-room hotel were saved, but everything on the second floor was lost. Estimated losses were in excess of $20,000. The Lake Ridge Hotel was not rebuilt.

Bertie Spencer Clark passed away in June 1947.