News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 13, 2014

Building up for grabs

Century-old 12 Points Hotel building to go up for auction

TERRE HAUTE — It would be impossible to name all of the entrepreneurs who have opened businesses over the past 100 years in and around the 12 Points Hotel on Terre Haute’s near north side.

Not least in this history is Jay Jones, who bought the old hotel in 1998 at age 29 with high hopes of bringing back some of its past glory. Now, after years of sweat and hard work, Jones is ready to hand the keys to someone new.

The 12 Points Hotel is going up for auction, along with a neighboring, smaller building and a parking area, at 1 p.m. Saturday. The auction will take place inside the old hotel at 1285 Lafayette Ave.

There is no minimum bid, and the auction will be conducted by Mike Bickers Auctioneer of Charleston, said Mike Ofsansky, a real estate professional handling the sale for Jones.

Jones once dreamed of transforming the entire 12 Points neighborhood into a hip, college scene similar to Broad Ripple outside Indianapolis. But his money has run out, he said, and he is ready to move on.

“I’d love to see somebody actually develop [the hotel] into the same kind of things I dreamed of,” Jones said. But to make the changes needed will take a strong commitment and a lot of money, he said. “Money makes it all happen.”

The 12 Points Hotel building was constructed in 1908, and “I doubt it has changed much,” Jones said. The smaller building to its south, also for sale, was built a few years earlier, he said.

Ofsansky, a graduate of Garfield High School, which once stood just a few blocks from the old hotel, said he remembers well when 12 Points was a much more active place.

“It’s amazing what all was up here,” Ofsansky recalled, standing in the hall of the second story of the old hotel building. “If these walls could talk … there’s a lot of history here.” After the high school closed in 1971, business in the area began to decline, Ofsansky said.

A dumbwaiter adorns an upstairs wall in the hotel, where 20 rooms were once occupied by long-term and short-term guests. The dumbwaiter allowed residents to order food from the 12 Points Tavern below, Ofsansky said.

Insurance records show that Eddie Gosnell, husband of Terre Haute’s famous Madame Brown and a red light district “kingpin,” once owned the hotel, Jones said. It seems at least two killings also happened in the hotel, and legend has it the ghost of a young girl inhabits the structure, he said.

Many businesses have come and gone from the hotel’s ground floor over the years, including barber shops, variety stores, beauty parlors and more. Perhaps best known was Tilford’s 5 & 10, which was operated by the late Cecil Tilford and his wife, Doris, in 12 Points for decades. Tilford’s final location was at 1279 Lafayette Ave. Tilford retired two years before his death in late 2012, and later Jones re-opened the business but could not make a go of it. He decided to close the store, by coincidence, the day Cecil Tilford died, he told the Tribune-Star at the time.

The sidewalk level of the two-story hotel contains five store fronts. The smaller one-story building, also built in the early 1900s, has three store fronts. Together, the two buildings contain about 12,000 square feet, Jones said. Both will be up for auction.

Interest in the auction seems strong, Ofsansky said. Several people have called to ask questions since advertising began, he said.

Jones is selling the two historic buildings along with everything inside, which is pretty much a pack-rat’s dream. It’s full of what Jones calls “miscellaneous items,” in addition to countless wooden boards of all sizes and other building materials. The sale of the contents will take place in lots, Jones said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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