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Landmark building razed in Charleroi

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Demolition of the former Columbus Hotel building at Third Street and McKean Avenue continues in Charleroi.
A large ornamentation located between the second and third floors and above the main entrance to the Columbus Hotel carries the name of D. Gelb, the original owner of the building.
This photo of the dining room at the original Hotel Gelb in Charleroi appeared in the May 1903 Charleroi Chamber of Commerce Industrial Edition published by The Charleroi Mirror. It is part of the Charleroi Area Historical Society’s extensive archives collection.

Another landmark building in Charleroi is going the way of the wrecking ball.

The structure being razed at Third Street and McKean Avenue is more than 100 years old and most recently housed the Columbus Hotel.

Charleroi Borough Manager Donn Henderson said the building, which has been closed for several years, is currently owned by an unidentified firm in New Jersey,

“It has changed ownership a few times in recent years,” Henderson said. “The building was for sale on the Internet.”

Henderson said the $50,000 cost for razing the building is being covered by Charleroi's Community Development Block Grant funds.

Nikki A.C. Sheppick, chairman of the board of directors of the Charleroi Area Historical Society, said it was built at the turn of the last century by David Gelb, the original owner of what was known then as the Hotel Gelb or more commonly as The Gelb. Gelb, she said, was a wholesale liquor distributor from Pittsburgh who purchased several properties in the community.

A large stone ornamentation located between windows on the second and third floors of the building now being razed carries this inscription: D. Gelb.

Sheppick said the historical society archives include pictures and stories about Hotel Gelb sponsoring a championship baseball in 1902. A team photo shows John W. “Jack” Mathias, a standout pitcher, sitting front and center. A story among those artifacts identifies him as manager of the hotel.

The Columbus Hotel also sponsored numerous other athletic teams.

The CAHS collection also includes pictures of the exterior and interior (dining room and bar) of the hotel that appeared in the May 1903 Charleroi Chamber of Commerce Industrial Edition published by The Charleroi Mirror. E.C. Niven was editor and publisher of the newspaper and J.L. Fehr was credited as compiler.

The Robertson Brothers Candy Co. also is believed to have occupied the structure after the original shut down in the 1920s.

The building was sold to the late Neil and Pauline Connor in 1948. Mrs. Connor continued to operate the business following the death of her husband on Dec. 15, 1958. It was sold to William D. and Veronica Caterini of Roscoe in 1965 and they were the owners when the business closed for good several years ago.

During its heyday the hotel had 29 guest rooms and two apartments for permanent occupancy. The business also featured a spacious dining room that was the site of numerous banquets and other social functions for many years and a bar.

The building deteriorated and was the target of vandals and a suspicious fire in recent years.

Plans have not been announced for possible development of the property when the demolition is completed.

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