Hotel Berry
Athens, Ohio

1932 - Hotel Berry is Leased to Foor for 10 Years. New Director, Identified with William Foor Hotels Company of Pennsylvania.Postcard of the Berry Hotel

Change in the management of Hotel Berry, by which William Foor taken charge of the hostelry, was announced today. Mr. Foor, who has been engaged in hotel direction for 40 years, has been in Athens for several weeks studying conditions here and is enthusiastic about the Berry. Although he has been directing the operation of the business since June 1, papers closing the deal were not signed until this afternoon.

Mr. Foor assumes charge of the Berry under a 10-year lease taken under the name of the Berry Hotel Operating Company from the Berry Hotel Company. A meeting of the latter company was held this afternoon to ratify the lease.

The new director of the hotel today said that the Berry would be operated as a first class hotel, "right up to the minute." He said "Athens can be certain that residents here will be proud of the Berry."

The only other business with which Mr. Foor now is connected is the William Foor Hotels Company in Pennsylvania, which operates the George Washington Hotel at Washington, PA. The Leverich Towers Hotel in Brooklyn, N.Y., was the last one he controlled other than the one at Washington. Previously he was interested in numerous other hotel businesses, one of the most important of which was the Foor-Robinson, which operated a chain of hotels in the South.

Mr. Foor is married and has two daughters. Mrs. Foor at present is in Nashville, Tenn., and will leave soon for Maine to spend the summer. While she will be in Athens part of the time, her health will not permit her to remain in any one climate the year round. One of the daughters, Miss Mary B. Foor, is head of the book department at Northwestern College at Brookline, near Boston. The other is Mrs. William H. Morrison of Indianapolis.

Mr. Foor said today that possibly there would be some changes in the personnel at the Berry, but that no definite action had been taken. He succeeds J. E. Baily, managing director of the hotel for the last nine [years? Sentence seems to stop]

Mr. Bailey had been affiliated with the Berry for almost nine years having taken charge of the hotel in November of 1932. He says he has no definite plans for the future, as yet. [Athens Messenger, Athens, Ohio, June 9, 1932]

The Post Online, independent student-run newspaper serving Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Date of publication not shown, but possibly may have been May of 2004.

Since its demolition in 1974, the story of the Berry Hotel has faded into historical obscurity. Yesterday Ohio University revived the hotel's legacy with a plaque-presenting ceremony to honor its owners.

Edward and Martha Jane (Matti) Berry, two influential black entrepreneurs, started the Berry Hotel in 1892 with 20 rooms. The hotel, which stood where the Court Street Diner is now located, set the standard for hotels as the first to place Bibles, personal closets, cologne, fruit baskets and sewing machines in every room.

Closing out OU Black Alumni Weekend, yesterday morning began with a dedication ceremony to unveil the commemorative plaque titled, "The Berry." The ceremony featured speeches by Francine Childs, professor of African American Studies; Athens Mayor Ric Abel; Monique Griffin, junior African American studies major; and Frank Hale Jr., great nephew of Edward Berry.

"My uncle's hotel is the prime example of what one can do with a brick and a vision," Hale said. "My history tells me he began with a brick in his hands, but he took that initial brick and invested it into a hotel."

Edward Berry worked as a bricklayer at the age of 14 for five cents an hour and by 1910 he was considered one of the ten wealthiest black men in the United States. The initial 20 rooms more than doubled during Berry's ownership, expanding to 90 rooms. The hotel was often used to host OU formals, political party banquets and had accommodated six U.S. presidents.

"Today gave me a chance to remember the times of dancing in the Berry Hotel as a freshman," Abel said.

In an Athens News article, May 24, 2004, titled "Historic black Athens hoteliers honored with uptown plaque", it mentions that the hotel was used as an Ohio University dorm for many years. The hotel was on North Court Street, Athens, Ohio. The owners, Edward Cornelius Berry and wife Martha Jane Madry Berry sold it in 1923. An earlier Post Online article of February 7, 2003, states that the Berry's sold the hotel in 1921 for $100,000 to a "national syndicate" rather than 1923 as other articles show. The hotel started when Berry bought the J. B. Allen building in 1893 and made over 22 rooms with electric call bells, electric lighting and how water heating system which was a luxury then. He had 15 employees, 14 of them were black. A local auto dealer, Fred Beasley, bought the hotel in 1935 and he ran the hotel until 1961 when Ohio University bought it for a residence hall. "Berry Hall was an all-men's dorm, complete with the 'Animal Room' in the basement, personal showers, phones and uniformed waiters in the dining room". Berry died in 1931 at 76. The hotel was later abandoned in 1973 after a state fire inspector condemned the building.

Copyright 2005