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Travel > Durbin Hotel, Rushville, Indiana

Durbin Hotel, Rushville, Indiana

The Durbin Hotel is no longer serving dinner, but I found some of their recipes on the Internet. It was located in Rushville, Indiana, 45 miles east of Indianapolis, and when the Interstate passed them by, the hotel concentrated on becoming famous for their food.

The Durbin Hotel had a long, interesting history, and was Wendell Willkie's presidential campaign headquarters in 1940.

It was a close election on the popular vote (Roosevelt: 55% popular vote but 85% of the electoral college). Some of the newspapers (probably the Rushville Republican) prematurely announced Willkie the winner, and there was a copy of that front page framed on the wall of the hotel when we were there in 1979.

Wendell Willkie, (good looking, wasn't he?):

Wendell Willkie's house in Rushville, IN. Isn't it lovely?

From USA Today:
"The hotel was constructed in 1831 and was originally called the Carr House, then the Cap Hotel. In 1878, the building boasted the first-ever gas lamp to be lit in Rushville, and it held a place as the town's premier social venue for many decades after that. As of 2007, the building, which retains its original facade, has been used as apartments."

"Rushville Republican

May 2, 2007
The Durbin Hotel: A local landmark lost?

In the years of its operation the Durbin Hotel was known for its effort to preserve the decor, atmosphere and tradition of gracious hospitality. Its history is rich, dating back to the town’s beginnings. Its claim to fame as the presidential campaign headquarters for Wendell Willkie in 1940 remains rooted in the town’s identity.

In 1940, the Durbins were given 48-hours notice that their hotel was to become the site of a national political campaign. Revamping the hotel and making it presentable for the various newsmen, politicians and celebrities from across the nation was truly a community effort.

The Durbins were presented a plaque at the conclusion of the Willkie campaign by the newsmen which read: “To Leo and Mary Durbin in appreciation of real hospitality. The Press––Willkie Campaign, September 12, 1940.”

Interstates and highways came and Rushville ceased to be a crossroads. The hotel’s game plan included shifting its emphasis from providing lodging to serving food. As hotels failed all over the country, the Durbin expanded. Small rooms were combined to make larger, more comfortable ones with air-conditioning and color television. Adjoining lots were purchased to make room for a parking lot and more dining space and a catering service. Mary Durbin’s recipe file and menu plan with directions so exact that the newest employee could prepare any specialty of the house became the envy of other restauranteurs around the nation."

I don't know what has become of the old place - in 2009 it was for sale as a 30-unit apartment building, and according to Google Maps Street View it is still standing - I saw it with my own eyes!

posted on Apr 9, 2012 8:22 AM ()


I thought it was Truman he was running against when the papers prematurely declared him the winner. Interesting story about the old hotel.
comment by redimpala on Apr 11, 2012 6:18 PM ()
It was FDR who was Willkie's opponent. Truman became President in April 1945 when Roosevelt died.
reply by traveltales on Apr 12, 2012 12:29 PM ()
Will Louisa be posting some of those recipes? Being a once a month cook, I need detailed instructions.
comment by nittineedles on Apr 9, 2012 7:57 PM ()
I'll talk to her about those recipes. She's been flakey lately.
reply by traveltales on Apr 12, 2012 12:22 PM ()
I remember the old boy.He was an interested person.Loved the photo that you took and the history that goes along with it.
comment by fredo on Apr 9, 2012 9:54 AM ()
It was our first cross-country road trip as newlyweds, so it brings back some good memories.
reply by traveltales on Apr 12, 2012 12:25 PM ()
It is lovely.
comment by elderjane on Apr 9, 2012 9:04 AM ()
I think that house is so pretty.
reply by traveltales on Apr 12, 2012 12:23 PM ()

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