ASHLAND -- The understand the arc of Ashland's Otter Hotel one should understand its roots.
William D. Otter was born in Ashland in 1863. His parents immigrated from Prussia in 1861. He attended Ashland College and spent four years in the jewelry business.
Eventually, William borrowed $14,000 from the local building and loan and began construction on the Otter Hotel in 1899 in downtown Ashland. The original 32 rooms were expanded to 82 by 1930 with the nearby Ashland Hotel serving as an annex.
The hotel was described as being very popular and widely known throughout Ohio with many high-class patrons. No guest could eat a famed Billy Otter dinner without a proper coat, white shirt, tie, proper shoe shine and a neat appearance.
The Otter Hotel was the first in Ashland to have hot and cold running water and featured a bathtub in the bridal suite. Prior to that, the rooms were equipped with “thunder mugs” which were a type of chamber pot.
William was an entrepreneur who was always interested in the progress of the city. In the 1880’s he had a beer garden and made cigars on the site that later became the Otter Hotel.
He also opened the W. D. Otter’s Lunch Counter and Restaurant -- where the Peking Restaurant is now located.
William eventually retired to his farm on Smith Road.
In the 1930’s, he turned the hotel over to his son, Gus, who was a civil engineer and served as city engineer in Ashland. A cafeteria and popular tap room were later added but the building.
It was eventually razed in 1959.