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Reviving a Dream

Vevay’s Ogle Haus Inn
to once again serve residents, tourists
The late Paul Ogle left legacy on county

By Ben Fronczek
Staff Writer


(February 2002) VEVAY, Ind. – When Belterra Casino Resort employees began moving to town in February 2000, its then-parent company, Hollywood Park, needed a place for them to live. It turned to the largest housing facility in the area – the Ogle Haus Inn.
The Glendale, Calif.-based company bought the 54-room hotel, closed it to the public and converted it into makeshift offices and living quarters for transitioning employees. Now two years later, with its casino workforce stabilizing, the company, now known as Pinnacle Entertainment Corp., plans to re-open the hotel, restaurant and bar sometime in late February or March.

Paul Ogle

Paul Ogle

That is welcome news to community residents who cherish the history of the late Paul Ogle’s signature hotel that sits majestically on the Ohio River and whose design pays tribute to the county’s Swiss heritage. It’s also good news to tourism officials, who once depended on the Ogle Haus as their primary source for for bed tax money.
“It’s great that they’re re-opening the Ogle Haus because we need it for tourism,” said Ann Mulligan, director of the county’s Welcome Center.
Eventually, the company agreed to provide money to help tourism during the shutdown. But the public was unable to use the 16-year-old facility.
Now the doors are opening once again. Pat Healy of nearby Warsaw, Ky., will lease and operate the restaurant and bar, while Belterra Casino employees will operate the hotel, according to newly hired Belterra Casino General Manager Alain Uboldi.
“The Ogle Haus has served as the pre-opening command post for Belterra, but now with Belterra up and running, we’re pleased to be renovating and re-opening it to the public,” said Uboldi, 55, who took over in December. “We’re well aware of how important the Ogle Haus is to the community, and we respect that fact.”
Healy, 50, has more than 20 years of food and beverage experience in the hotel industry. Her husband, Dennis Healy, formerly headed Belterra’s hotel operations when the casino opened in October 2000.
Four months ago, Pat Healy approached Belterra officials about re-opening the Ogle Haus. She signed a lease agreement on Jan. 15. “Everything about this place gives me goose bumps,” Healy said. “I think all the training I’ve had geared me toward this.”
Belterra officials plan to continue using the Ogle Haus to house bus tours and has no current plans to sell the property, Uboldi said.
Healy is moving quickly in her efforts to open. In January, she was working on obtaining a liquor license in hopes of opening the bar first sometime in February. But Uboldi said it more likely that the bar, restaurant and hotel will open at the same time, probably in March.
Healy said the restaurant and bar should provide up to 30 jobs. Her plans for the bar include a pool table, lounge sofas, cocktail tables and a big-screen television with live and videotaped sports coverage. She is using community input to design a menu for the restaurant.
“People in the community have good memories of this place,” she said. “So it’s not up to me. I need to find out what they want. I want local people to be able to come here to relax and have a good time.”
Healy’s vision resembles what the Ogle Haus has meant to Vevay. It was the brainchild of the late Paul Ogle, a Vevay native who became a prosperous businessman and generous philanthropist. His inception of the hotel arose after his longtime contributions and improvements to the county.
“He started out in Vevay and wanted to do something for the people and the businesses,” said Larry Jones, 64, who worked as the maintenance supervisor at the Ogle Haus from the day it opened to its public closing.
“The Ogle Haus promoted employment and gave us a nice place to enjoy a meal. Local organizations had their functions there, and there were weddings, parties and business meetings. I would say a lot of people really appreciated what he did for the community.”
The Ogle Haus broke ground on Aug. 27, 1985, with a dedication ceremony that included such guests as Lt. Gov. John Mutz, State Sen. Johnny Nugent and those representing U.S. Sens. Richard Lugar and Dan Quayle. The hotel opened the following spring on April 15.
Initially, the $3.5 million inn only had 26 rooms. All rooms were elaborately decorated in oranges, blues and rusts. Four of the 26 rooms were classified as King Suites with whirlpool baths and fireplaces. A 106-seat restaurant and piano bar aligned the southern side of the building, with panoramic window views of the Ohio River. Ogle owned the hotel and the property, but Charlie DeCalanne managed the hotel for the first two years.
On July 20, 1987, Ogle broke ground on an addition of 28 more rooms, for today’s total of 54.
As the Ogle Haus grew, so did its impact on the community, especially in tourism. Now visitors had a place to spend the night in Vevay.
“By him building the hotel, it finally put us in the position to take tourists in overnight year-round, not just for special events,” said Mike Danner, who owns Danner’s Hardware and Home Furnishings and has been involved with organizations such as the Kiwanis that used the facility for meetings.
Marcel Hankins, owns Marcel’s Carousel, a hair salon, and the Next Door Gift Shop, which are both located just to the east of the Ogle Haus Inn. Hankins remembers the flow of business she received from the nearby hotel.
“I had regular customers from out of town,” she said. “They would stop in the gift shop and become personal friends. It would help the gift shop tremendously. I used to be open seven days a week.”
Since the hotel’s closing to the public, Hankins has has had to cut back her gift shop hours. She hopes the re-opening of the Ogle Haus allow her to return to her old hours.
“I think it is going to be full,” Hankins said of the hotel’s re-opening. “Everyone wants the Ogle Haus open. It is the best thing that has happened to this town.”
In addition to helping tourism, the Ogle Haus also was a memorable place for many of its employees.
“I enjoyed our guests,” recalled Jones. “We got on a first-name basis with some of them. I remember we had one man from Ohio who spent 42 days here one year – not all at once, of course.”
The Ogle Haus also created many memories for Vevay residents. Vevay Realtor Teresa Bovard married Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Lyons at the Ogle Haus on Sept. 4, 1998. Their wedding was attended by more than 300 people and used a great portion of the facility. Bovard-Lyons also had class reunions and business functions at the facility.
“It has character, and you can’t find that in a lot of hotels,” she said.
Area corporations outside Vevay also took advantage of the facility and its services. Linda McCarty, Benefits Administrator for ATOFINA Industries in Carrollton, Ky., planned many of the company functions at the Ogle Haus.
“The food was always great, and so was the service and organization of events,” said McCarty. “I would think we would use their facilities again. We were pleased when we did.”
The Ogle Haus and its impacts survived Ogle, who died from a heart attack in 1989. After his death, the hotel went through two other owners before its purchase by Hollywood Park.
The Vevay-Switzerland County Foundation, an organization founded by Ogle, took over the ownership after his death.
In 1996, the foundation took minority ownership and sold 80 percent to Inn Development, Inc. of Aurora, Ohio. Madison, Ind., attorney John Eckert was among the partners. He eventually bought out their shares and took on full ownership of the majority interest under Amethyst Properties, LLC.
“It was a pleasure for me to keep the Ogle Haus going. It is a unique facility that adds a fabric to the life in Switzerland County. I think everyone was very proud of the facility. All the employees made their best efforts to make sure things went well.”
Selling it to Hollywood Park was not an easy decision, Eckert said. “At the time, it was clearly their intention to eventually re-open it, and that was something I wanted to see.”
Danner said he and other business owners hope the opening of the Ogle Haus will spur more activity downtown.
“A lot of the people coming to Belterra are going up to eat and spend the night there. They are not really coming to Vevay. Now we’ll have a lot more tourists coming to Vevay, and they may wander around downtown.”

• Editor Don Ward contributed to this report.

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