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A Columbia Landmark and Historic Stage

By Mike Watson

Recently a conversation arose concerning the Hotel on the corner of Greensburg Street and the Public Square in Columbia. There is a long and storied history of this piece of real estate, and also of the hotel, built in 1898 by John Conover. The following is a far-from-complete history, but a starter, of sorts. The photograph accompanying this article is undated, but the Barbee Stagecoach depicted on the Square is well known.

In 1898 John N. Conover built a fine brick hotel on the northwest corner of the Public Square. It was the finest and most modern building in Columbia for many years. Built on the site of a previously burned hotel, Mr. Conover's hotel contained twenty-eight rooms and fronted on Greensburg Street and the Square. Managed by Mr. and Mrs. George Coffey and Mrs. Kate Smith, there was a gala opening on 7 December 1898. The hotel was known by several names, as many persons operated it over the years.

First it was the Conover Hotel; later known as the Marcum Hotel, it was operated for several years at the turn of the century by Marshall H. Marcum. He had previously operated an undertaking business in Columbia, and served two terms as County Court Clerk as a Democrat. Mr. Marcum died in April of 1904 and his wife, Mrs. M.E. Marcum, continued in the hotel business for some time. Mr. Conover sold the hotel building to J.B. Barbee in October 1904 for $10,000, a princely sum for Adair County real estate, even on the Public Square.

Mrs. Marcum continued to operate the hotel for a time; she later ran a boarding house in Columbia. Gus Jeffries owned the hotel, called the Jeffries Hotel, in the 1920s. It was next owned by J.C. Miller, called the Miller Hotel, and received a face-lift during his tenure. Then the William Hughes family took over the hotel in 1937 and it became the New Adair Hotel. Gordon Clark became manager in 1948. Owen Rowe took over the hotel in the 1950s and he and son, Hack, operated it for some years. Hack Rowe was owner and operator when it burned in November 1977. In this terrible fire, five people lost their lives. For more complete details on this structure and the business operated on this site, I direct the reader to the excellent volume by "Jim" titled The Conover Hotel--see a copy at the Adair Genealogy and History Research Center of the Adair County Public Library. See also: JIM: New Adair Hotel went by many names in 79 year history

This story was posted on 2021-07-16 09:40:15
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Glimpses of a landmark lost to fire

2021-07-15 - Downtown Columbia, KY .
One of the most popular scenes among our Columbia Magazine history pictures is of the Miller Hotel. The black and white is from the Adair County Public Library and the cars in the photo will provide the approximate years. The lower color photo was made by Maurice Hoover. The Hotel Miller stood on the present site of the Adair Annex, 424 Public Square, Columbia. He made the photo in 1971, shortly before a tragic fire destroyed the famous landmark.

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Conover Hotel and JB Barbee Stagecoach

2021-07-16 - Columbia, KY - Photo courtesy Mike Watson.
In 1898 John N. Conover built a fine brick hotel on the northwest corner of the Public Square. It was the finest and most modern building in Columbia for many years.

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