The site’s history dates back to 1806 and at one time it was the site of a saloon frequented for its apple brandy and wild game menu. But it has been mostly empty for many years and on Monday its final chapter began as contractors started removing part of the Parker House facade.
But the site is exepected to be vacant once again by the end of the week and crews bring the historic four-story strncture down, according to city of Hillsboro officials.
The building has assumed many names and many functions throughout the years, but has been a mainstay of Hillsboro since the town’s establishment in the early 1800s. Although it is about to disappear from the city’s landscape, the history of the Parker House is one Highland County should take pride in.
What was then known as the Knox Tavern was the second building constructed in Hillsboro in 1806. The bar, owned by Joseph Knox, was a small, primitive spot where the town’s prominent men gathered to indulge in the saloon’s famous apple brandy and pure corn whiskey. The rough furniture and simple interior were modest, but the large portions of delicious food sold there drew many early residents to the establishment. The clapboard-roofed cabin often served wild game of many kinds, including wild turkey and venison, popular with the pioneers at that time.
The lot changed hands in 1826 when a man named Colonel Doggett purchased the building and started his own tavern. He named the new business the Eagle Hotel after Eagle Springs, a spot known for its barbecues and celebrations. Much like its namesake, the Eagle Hotel quickly became a popular weekend retreat.
The Eagle Hotel was a social hotspot for both young men and women. Elegantly dressed bartenders served spirits and victuals to patrons over an ornate wooden bar. Exquisitely dressed town socialites mingled with one another and enjoyed the sophisticated ambiance of the Eagle Hotel.
Guests at the tavern were called to eat by a dinner bell every night. The rhythmic chime reminded people of an old saying that often accompanied the ring of a dinner bell. The customers called out “pigtail done!” as it rang every night. This maxim became a sort of nickname for the Eagle Hotel, as many began to call the inn the Pigtail Done Tavern.
The success of the Eagle Hotel carried on into the era of the Ellicott House in the 1860s. The Ellicott House experienced less success than the Eagle Hotel, but still served as a refined social scene for citizens of Hillsboro. It was around this time that the Ellicott House was renamed the Parker House after Silas Parker. In 1922, the Shannon family gained ownership. The prosperity of the Parker House continued into the Roaring ’20s. Since then, the building has changed ownership several times.
In the 21st century, the Parker House fell into disarray, according to city officials.
A lavish ballroom on the third floor hasn’t been danced in for decades. The bar was once home to lively conversation, but is now quieted. Today, the building itself is unstable and uninhabitable. The structure began as a log cabin tavern, then becoming an extravagant saloon, and finally became the Parker House Hotel as it is today. Its demolition will mark the end of an era.
Information for this story came from: Scott, Daniel. A History of the Early Settlement of Highland County Ohio. The Hillsborough Gazette, 1890, https://books.google.com/books?id=C04VAAAAYAAJ&dq=parker house eagle hotel hillsboro&source=gbs_navlinks_s; and “Parker House Started as a Log Cabin Tavern, Hotel; Named By Judges.” Press-Gazette, July 12, 1957.
Isabella Warner is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.