February 2023 Gazette: Round House Celebrates 150th!

An Abridged History of the Round House

Editor’s Note: This is an abridged history of the Roundhouse based on research Peter Huston did several years ago! There is obviously much more to the story.

The Round House Bar opened for business as the Columbia Restaurant in June of 1873. No one is sure when the bar was named The Round House, but originally it was called the Columbia Restaurant.

The building was white and the front porch had steps with no railing stretching across the front of the building. It had a dome roof thirty-two feet from the floor, while the interior of the vast circular room was fifty feet across. The room was excellently lit from six large windows by day and eighteen gas jets by night.
Building a round building connected with the Victorian era interest in nature and spirituality. Round buildings, barns, museums and houses were considered the most efficient use of space.

When it opened, the Columbia Restaurant served refreshments including beer, wine and food. However, the real treat back in those days was ice cream and cottage cheese. There was no electricity, so the ice had to be cut during the winter months and stored in the Ice House (which is now located on the Put-in-Bay Winery estate) allowing for this summer time favorite. Banners for ice cream stretched from the building high across Delaware Ave. to De Rivera Park. Local Lenk wines and the finest beers from Toledo Brewing and Malt were featured.

An 1888 article named one of the first owners as George F. Schmidt (or Smith). Legend has it that G.F. was known as “Round House” Smith for obvious reasons.

During the winter of 1887-8, he had local contractor George Gascoyne build the Park Hotel which was first called the Park (Deutches) Hotel.

Business must have been tough, for within a year he committed suicide. Some say the hotel is haunted by his ghost. His widow Ottilie ran the Hotel until 1907 when Lucas Meyer bought the place. Lucas Meyer (aka Luke) was mayor of Put-in-Bay. He owned and operated the two businesses from 1906 until1944 then sold out and bought a rooming house. He “helped out” by running the Park Hotel temporarily until he had a cerebral hemorrhage and died.

Murray Shaver bought the Park Hotel in April 1944 and shortly afterward separated from his wife. Shaver, who was living on his yacht “Loose Ends” had trouble running the hotel alone without experience and with little help other than that of a married woman with whom he reportedly was having an affair. The same year William Greunke, considered a playboy by some, formed a partnership with Shaver, and by October bought him out for $11,000.

Bill and his wife Lavina had the circular bar built in Toledo by a Cincinnati Brewing Co. She was a pianist who entertained at the Round House, but she did not like playing “in the round” with her back to the audience. They moved the bar from the center to the location it is now. The Greunkes also added the canopy which was gold and red back then. It was installed to catch the falling plaster from the walls and ceiling, and to improve the overall acoustics of the room.

According to a news article in the May 1946 Vacationland newspaper “Greunke’s Features Community Singing,” their community song fests were the big feature of the Park Hotel and Round House that started the tradition of regular live music.

The McCann family purchased the Round House in the early 1950s and painted it the now famous red color. The entire building is wood constructed and for the most part, all original, except for the interior floor and the front porch. The plastered walls have always been a part of the building. The walls are now adorned by artist Canoe Bob’s murals. A new back bar addition, outside patio and retail shop were also added to the historic Round House Bar.

Owners Mack and Mary Ann McCann also hired a full-time manager, Teri Winchester, who over the years added a large line up of entertainers, plus introduced the Whiskey Light opening and closing ceremonies (celebrating 25 years in 2023), Prom Night, buckets of beer for the “Bucket Heads,” the Wake and much much more.

In April of 2013, the McCanns had the famous red building painted with a red, white and blue flag by creative patriot artist Scott LoBaido. The flag was to commemorate The Round House Bar celebrating its 140th Anniversary and the Bicentennial Celebration of The Battle of Lake Erie.
Today, Michael and Anita McCann with the help of their daughters, Amanda and Elizabeth, and manager Paula Garsteck still carry on the traditions of McCann Family ownership now going on for nearly 70 years.

Putinbay.com is proud to present this Put-in-Bay Gazette article from the February 2023 issue.

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