Photo Du JourWindsor

RIP Chappell House

With great sadness, I opened the paper yesterday morning to read the news that one of Windsor’s last remaining prohibition era roadhouses has suffered a devistating fire over the weekend.

Currently operating as the President’s Club “Adult Entertainment” lounge, in a former life it was known as Rum Runners, home to many infamous Z-Rock Monday Night Parites in the early to mid 1990’s. Before that it was known as the Lido Venice, and for a while, just the Lido.

The building despite contradicting information in the articles below was built in 1903 by the Williams Brothers Architects. They also designed Holy rosary Church on Riverside Dr. in the Ford City area of Windsor. The building has a notorious history, as being the site of the murder of “Babe” Trumble, who was shot to death by the Rev. J.L. Spracklin in 1920.

Despite surviving worse over the last 103 years, this weekend’s fire seems to have caused structural damage, and 27 years after the first time it was supposed to be demolished, it looks like clock has finally run out.

When she does come down, Windsor will lose a vital link to its history, one that will never be recaptured.

The Chappell house, from a 1909 postcard.

Here is a similar view today.

From the December 27, 1979 edition of the Windsor Star:

The burned-out shell of the former Lido Tavern on the city’s northwest side may be gone in a couple of months.

People who live in the area, complain the old tavern is more than just an eyesore and, City Council has reacted by asking the building department to call tenders to have it demolished. Building Commissioner Magnus Mitchell said there’s still “legal paper work,” but once that’s done tenders can be called.

That could happen by the end of January or early in February and the one time prohibition road house, known in the old days as The Chappell House, will be doomed immediately to the wrecker’s ball.

The Lido, which stands at the corner of Chappell and Sandwich streets, was destroyed by a February 1977 fire. Electrical wires and wooden beams hang from the blackend ceilings, and garbage, broken tables and old sofas lay scattered across the floors. Mitchell estimates it could cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to remove the two storey structure. The hotel has been closely associated with the development of Windsor and, in those early years, it was the “last stop” for anyone traveling by horse and buggy to Amherstburg. It also, lay along the streetcar line that once ran from Windsor to Lasalle.

The former Chappell House was the third hotel owned by the Chappell brothers, Henry and Harley. They opened a hotel in 1865 on the Canadian Steel Corp. property in Ojibway. They sold the first one and bought the Mineral Springs Hotel in Sandwich, and, in 1897, opened up the second Chappell House on the present site. Both hotels, were known for their good food, cooked by Francis Chappell, Hernry Chappell’s wife.

They ran the hotel until it was taken over by the Trumble family who sold it in 1949. It was here at The Chappell House that a famous prohibition shooting took place. Beverly “Babe” Trumble the tavern owner, was shot and killed in 1920 by the Rev. J. O. L. Spracklin, the former minister of Sandwich Methodist Church, now called Sandwich United.

Mitchell said it would take about three to four weeks knock the building down. And when the wreckers move in, despite renovation| work since the prohibition years, they will uncover the ”secret room” in the basement with the fake concrete blocks. The simulated blocks were made of wood and inserted into a brick wall, to hide a small room behind. It was here that liquor was probably kept during prohibition.

On April 4, 1980, this article ran as a follow up to the one above:

No matter what your taste, 3885 Sandwich Street West is definitely not one of Windsor’s fashionable addresses. The land is high, dry and commands a clear view north to the river, but oh, what a view! Immediately across the road are the tanks of a waste-disposal firm. Beyond that the bulldozed rubble of a chemical plant. Across the river the awesome grime of the Zug Island industrial complex presents as grim a panorama as you’ll find anywhere in the world. Between the electricity makers and the steel makers and the chemical makers this little corner of Windsor is no beauty. But back to the tenant, the sightless orphan that occupies 3885.

Industrial casualty

With gaping holes in the roof, glassless windows and a scruffy crop of weeds, this derelict building looks every inch the industrial casualty. The product of its environment. The color of dried blood, it looks like a wino who has been rolled once too often. In a landscape of despair, the Lido fits right in. A few months ago the kindest thing anyone could suggest for this aging roadhouse was euthanasia. The quick parry and thrust of the wrecking ball and yet more parking space in Sandwich. In a city with more than its share of eyesores, the Lido is a standout. But it was not always so. The building that stands on the corner of Chappell and Sandwich Streets is steeped in the history of the last eight decades and in its own way is as important as the Baby House. The current structure was built in 1897 by the brothers Chappell, Henry and Harley, as a roadhouse serving the carriage trade between Windsor and Amherstburg.

Handsome Edwardian

Although it’s difficult to see the original lines now, there are indica¬tions that the Chappell House was a handsome and gracious example of Edwardian architecture. Doubtless the surroundings were much more pleasant, too. Across the road, then known as Bedford Street, was the well known Mineral Springs Hotel, a fashionable spa that could attract 20,000 visitors on a single Sunday. Although lacking any attraction as exotic as the curative mineral waters, the Chappell house built its reputation on good food and, of course, good drink. However, along came 1916 and with it the “Great Social Experiment” — prohibition — which no doubt made life difficult for hotels selling strong drink. Conceivably that was one of the reasons why the Chappell family sold the hotel to Beverley (Babe) Trumble in the summer of 1919. Whatever, the landmark hostelry was sold and within 18 months Babe Trumble was dead shot down by the pistol-packing preacher, Rev. J. O. L. Spracklin. In one single incident, the essence of prohibition — that foolish and misguided experiment — was captured. This was the Roaring Twenties, the lawless era of rum-runners when fortunes were being made in Windsor and drink could be had — if one knew where.

Lido Venice

Spracklin, in addition to being a Methodist minister was also a pro¬vincial liquor inspector and it was in that capacity that he shot and killed Trumble on the front steps of the Chappell House in 1920. Spracklin was acquitted of man¬slaughter in a trial that made head¬lines all over North America. The Trumble family continued to run tne Chappell House which they renovated and re-named the Lido Venice during the ’30s. With the loosening of liquor laws it became a popular night spot and the name was changed once more to the Lido Tavern. In 1949 the Trumble family sold the hotel to Robert Casev, by this time the surroundings were no longer bucolic and the Lido began to fall on hard times. By the turn of ’70s, the once-proud Lido had become just another beverage room with a rough biker clientele. Several fires and even a bombing finally shut the place down in 1975 and another fire in 1977 seemed to be the last straw. By the fall of last year City Council, having acquired the Lido for tax arrears, asked that tenders be called for its demolition. However, at the last minute, just to be certain, council instructed that tenders be called for anyone wishing to buy the derelict structure.

Now, a new start

Demanding a reserve bid of $85,000 the tenders drew three bids including one from 59-year-old busi¬nessman Saul Berstein for $100,010. Bernstein, a former grocer and property developer now waits clear title from the provincial ministry of intergovernmental affairs, which he expects to have by mid-June. When he has clear title Bernstein fully expects to preside over the renewal of what he’s planning to call the New Lido. With another $250,000 to back the $100,000 purchase price, he plans to completely renovate the old tavern, put it back on us feet as a money-maker and then probably sell out — for a profit of course. Not that the Lido has no emotional hold. On the contrary, Bernstein grew up in Sandwich in the shadow of the Lido and now with the wherewithal he is hoping to concile head and heart and become an innkeeper. At the moment the place is a mess but Bernstein cheerfully claims the damage in merely cosmetic and basically it is “a very solid structure.”
If all goes according to plan, work could start by late spring and by autumn the Lido could very well be back in business once more — as a tavern and a historical marker.

James Elliott is an editorial writer with The Windsor Star.

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