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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

#4380 - Elevator Brewery, Columbus, OH - 9/30/2021

Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus
Columbus, Ohio

The Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus in downtown Columbus, Ohio is simply one of the most beautiful bars I have ever been in, and requires a dip into the location's history before we get back to the present business. I have found that sources, even usually reliable sources, document several different dates for when the current structure was built and when the "Bott Brothers" moved into it, and the picture is further clouded by the fact that the brothers ran operations in several other locations in Columbus, and apparently moved their ornate entry area from one of those to the current building. So for the last word on key dates I will rely on the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places.

According to this document, the site, now known as the "Larrimer building," was constructed in 1895 and began its life as a bar when William "Billy" Bott and his brother Joseph moved their thriving billiard parlor there, opening in April 1905. The source I found that was closest to the date of the founding, Taylor's "Centennial History of Columbus and Franklin County" (1909), confirms this opening date, as well as the grandeur and success of the business, stating, "In April, 1905, [the Bott Bros.] built the finest cafe in the United States and at the present time are conducting the largest and most prosperous business in the city."

The brothers brought with them the elaborate, curved glass front entry structures, and a magnificent back bar created for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, AKA the Chicago World's Fair, taking the event's blue ribbon for craftsmanship. The spectacular bar is hand-carved Philippine mahogany, with onyx columns, and various inlaid designs in Mother of Pearl, copper, silver, and other woods. Another striking feature are the large and beautiful interior stained glass pieces. The bartender told us that these were added from a local church in the 1920s, and indeed they do not appear in a set of photos from 1910, but I was not able to confirm this origin. But in any case, they add considerable elegance to the ornate glass in the entry and elsewhere, and the finely designed tile floor.

Jack Sullivan describes the Bott Brothers' preceding activities thusly:

'Joseph came to Columbus in 1871 and found work in a variety of retail establishments.  Within a few years, he happened on his true love:  billiards.  Working in a local pool parlor, he became an expert pool and billiards player.

Billie, who had been nine when Joseph left, arrived in Columbus a few years later.  The brothers soon opened a billiard parlor in downtown Columbus immediately across from the State House, guaranteeing a lively traffic from lawmakers and gaining the reputation as the “third house” of the legislature, a place where “a meeting” was always going on.   Later the Botts would move to larger and more elaborate quarters, advertising 40 tables.   They were also branching out into other enterprises.  Their pool halls had always featured a bar;  in 1886 they opened a full-fledged saloon, a part of its interior shown here.  The long and ornate front bar had been purchased from a Chicago saloon erected at the 1893 World’s Fair.  The Botts featured an animated electric bulb sign outside that outlined a pool table where a pool cue descended and balls scattered.  Columbus had never seen its like; customers flocked to the place. 

The following year Joseph and Billie organized the Bott Brothers Manufacturing Company, an enterprise that sold pool and billiard tables and supplies, bar fixtures, refrigerators, playing cards, and even bathroom fixtures.  In short, the Botts handled everything needed to set up, in the minds of many, “dens of iniquity.”'  (pre-prowhiskeymen blog, 2014)

Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus
Columbus, OH
Sullivan continued that the business ended "in 1916 when Ohio voted to go “dry.” but it appears that Ohio state prohibition did not go into effect until 1919, about six months before federal prohibition took effect. In any event, the Bott Brothers do appear to have concluded the manufacturing, distilling, brewing, and saloon business with the advent of prohibition, whereupon the premises are said to have briefly hosted "Columbia Recreation," where the liquor was replaced by milkshakes, and billiards by checkers and chess. Legend has it that tunnels, now sealed, below the building led to the state house and other prominent nearby structures, to facilitate discretion while keeping the liquor flowing for city leaders.

In 1925 it became the Clock Restaurant, which maintained a highly regarded pool hall, played by the likes of Rudolf Wanderone -- better known as "Minnesota Fats." To this day the bar retains an 1891 8-foot Botts table, as well as an 1884 7' table. Despite some highly regrettable design touches that obliviated the beautiful (and since restored) front entry, the popular Clock Restaurant remained there for over half a century, finally closing in April 1979. "The Clock (Reborn)" (re-)opened in 1981 and ran until 1994, following by "Chasen's" in 1996 to 1998.

Shortly after, a father and son couple of beer lovers with no experience in brewing or restaurants, established a brewery in a grain elevator in nearby Marysville. The location inspired the name "Elevator Brewing," and the owner's business card title of "elevator operator." In 2000 they opened a smaller brewery and a restaurant in the Larrimer building. Ryan Stevens, the younger partner, passed away in 2003, but his father Dick maintained the business, largely as an homage to his son. In 2016 employees Will Triplett and Kevin Jaynes completed a buyout of Dick's remaining shares and took over the restaurant, and then in 2020 the 81-yo Stevens sold the remaining brewery to Jackie O's, a popular Athens brewery.

Today the splendor of the Botts Brothers grand business floor remains on full display and in immaculate condition. It continues to serve some fine Elevator Brewing beers (and root beer), along with spirits and upgraded versions of pub food such as beef tenderloin medallions, cajun chicken penna, and blackened mahi mahi on a hot Finnish Tulikivi firestone. It is a can't miss stop for anyone interested in bars and/or history.

And finally, after mentioning spirits, lest we neglect the other worldly events that some people inevitably observe in bars of such antiquity, the building does of course come with a share of ghost stories. The most well known of these is described by

"On a cold February night in 1909, an infamous womanizer named Col. Randolph Pritchard was at the Bott Brothers Saloon, as he often was. Pritchard was called into the street where he was stabbed by a woman, presumably one that he had abused. The Colonel stumbled back into the saloon, collapsed on the floor and bled to death. At the exact moment of Pritchard’s death, the large clock in front of the saloon stopped, marking 10:05. The only trace of his killer was her fresh footprints in the winter snow. The clock stood for many years, stopped at 10:05 for eternity…or at least until it was removed and replaced. The ghost of Colonel Pritchard is said to roam the restaurant, but has only been spotted on rare occasions. Pritchard’s killer, who was believed to have froze to death the night she killed him, is also said to make her presence known. Mysterious footprints have appeared in fresh snow where no one had yet walked. There have been several witnesses who have claimed to see the footprints appear right before their eyes."

This photo is said to be from 1890, although that
seems dubious to me, as it is the current location.

The Clock Restaurant appears to have been very
popular, although how theycould live with
themselves after doingthis to the beautiful entry
is a mystery indeed.

161 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215 - (614) 228-0500
Est. 2000 - Building constructed: 1897
Previous bars in this location:
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