Henry Lawrence built the Claypool Hotel in 1903, at the corner of Illinois and Washington Streets, with the financial help of Connersville millionaire Edward Fay Claypool. Lawrence had been manager of the Bates House (1853), which the Claypool Hotel would replace. Thomas Carter’s tavern (1822) also previously occupied the site.

The 600-room Claypool Hotel on the northwest corner of Illinois and Washington Streets, 1940
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society

Architect Frank Andrews, who at the time practiced in Dayton, Ohio, designed a lobby that was reportedly the largest in the country at the time. Meeting rooms were notable for their size and exotic motifs. The Claypool’s proximity to the State House ensured its role as a headquarters for both political parties (see Democratic Party and Republican Party) and the site for numerous political gatherings. Upstairs, the 450 guest rooms were elegantly furnished with mahogany dressers and brass beds. Lawrence insisted that each room have a private bath, a new idea that was denounced by the National Hotelman’s Association.

Two sensational murders took place at the Claypool. In 1943, Army nurse Naomi Riddings was found dead, a case that remains unsolved. In 1954, the body of 18-year-old Dorothy Poore was found stuffed in a dresser drawer; a suspect was arrested a week later, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. Both crimes received national press coverage.

Tavern in the Claypool Hotel, 1932
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society

By the 1960s newer facilities had begun to attract much of the downtown hotel business. The Claypool closed following a fire in June 1967, and the structure was demolished two years later. Claypool Court (an enclosed food court and retail mall) and an Embassy Suites Hotel opened on the site in the 1980s, continuing the tradition of a hotel operating at this location.

Revised February 2021

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