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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  40 - Hotels of Eau Claire

The Williams House

(-as transcribed from pages 549 - 551)

This hotel was one of the leading hostelries of the city in the '70s. When first erected it was called the Williams House, after George W. Williams, one of the owners of the building. Later the name changed to the Peabody House, and again to the Windsor House. The building was located at the corner of what is now Gibson and River streets, on the premises on which the H. T. Lange Company's store building stands.

On November 14, 1854, the land was transferred from the United States to William Reed, and after several changes in ownership, on April 14, 1868, was deeded by Peter Wychoff, an early day postmaster, to George W. Williams, Elvin Fox and Seth Fish. To clear some cloud in the title, Richard F. Wilson gave a quit claim deed on March 10, 1868, to the same parties.

A large livery stable was erected, which was run by Williams & Co. In an advertisement in the "Free Press," they state they are prepared "To convey people to and from different localities anywhere within one hundred miles," and that their "rigs are as good as can be had outside of Milwaukee."

After some time in the livery business the building was remodeled and converted into one of the finest hotel buildings in the Northwest. A resident of that day states the original building used for a stable was raised up and a new story erected underneath. The building was two story frame. The hotel opened on September 30, 1869, under the management of S. P. Greenman. George W. Withers was day clerk. Mr. Withers came to Eau Claire for the purpose of taking this position, arriving on September 29. He states that on the day of the opening he was engaged in putting up curtains on the second floor, when he discovered a fire in the building south of the hotel, bordering on what was then Kelsey street, now Grand avenue east. These buildings were mostly of frame and a number of them were consumed.

In August, 1870, Mr. Fish disposed of his interests in the property and on August 9, 1872, Mr. Williams bought the interest of Mr. Fox.

S. P. Greenman was succeeded as proprietor of the hotel by E. S. Chase & Co. This company was composed of Colonel E. M. Bartlett, Eben S. Chase, at that time postmaster, and J. P. Nelson. Colonel Bartlett had nothing to do with the management which was largely with Mr. Nelson and Mr. Chase.

In July, 1873, J. P. Nelson & Co. succeeded to the management. For three months early in 1874 Chandler & Co. appear as the proprietors of the Williams House and on April 14, 1874, were succeeded by Truax & Etter. December 19, 1874, the title to the fee passed to Elizabeth J. Peabody, and the name was changed from Williams House to Peabody House.

February 28, 1881, the fee passed to William F. Vinton, who changed the name of the house again from Peabody House to Windsor House. Dr. Vinton, who had formerly been a practicing dentist, gave his personal attention to the management of the hotel for several years. In the meantime the shifting of business had gradually made the Windsor House less attractive to the traveling public. The building was a frame one, and this also influenced the traveling public in favor of the more centrally located hotels.

On September 23, 1898, after an existence of over twenty-five years, the building was consumed by fire. Several guests had narrow escapes.

For short intervals, on several occasions during the life of the hotel, it was closed. The lots are now occupied by the wholesale store of H. T. Lange Company.

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