By Bruce McIntyre, Dan Warner, and Helen Waterhouse
Beacon Journal staff writers
(Originally published April 30, 1964)
The downtown Howe Hotel was order padlocked today as a fire hazard and two of its operators were charged with illegal operation of a convalescent home.
City and State officials meanwhile hurried to find new homes for the tenants, including 36 elderly people who were hastily transferred this week from another hotel operated by the same management in Cleveland.
City Law Director James Barbuto, who led a room by room inspection of the 50-year-old hotel Wednesday, lashed the “callous” method by which the 36 were moved. Some are in poor physical and mental condition.
Booked at police headquarters today after surrendering themselves at the City prosecutor’s office were Eugene H. Woods, 40, and Angela Mahl, 29, who have been running the Howe. Both are from Cleveland but listed the hotel as their address.
“Woods told a reporter he will get an injunction if the City tries to close the hotel and added, “I will continue to operate it as a nursing home.”
Barbuto, however, made immediate arrangement for removal of the ailing tenants and said the hotel management will get no additional time to correct building deficiencies.
It was revealed today that the City Building Inspection Dept. ordered the Howe to make a number of repairs last Nov. 7, including connection of a water standpipe for fire-fighting purposes.
Without this standpipe, fire officials believe control of a fire there would be highly difficult and the lives of tenants, particularly on upper floors, would be endangered.
On Jan. 15 the City gave an indefinite extension of the order. Said Barbuto today, “They’ve had enough consideration. God knows what could happen here, and we’d never forgive ourselves if something did.”
Woods and Miss Mahl were freed on $1000 bond and were due in Police Court later today for hearing. At the police station, Miss Mahl went while Woods stood in front of her to block news cameras.
Barbuto assigned Asst. Law Director Stephan M. Gabalac to work with Aid for the Aged representatives in the removal of the tenants.
“I can’t understand how people can be so callous,” Barbuto said: “These old people were shuttled from place to place without care or attention or love. It’s a crime…it ought to be a capital offense.”
A number of hotel personnel quit immediately following the surprise City inspection. Desk clerk William Logue, on duty today, said other clerks had left and he had working since 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Many of the 36 people “displaced” from the Regent Hotel in Cleveland, which Woods also managed, did not know where they were or why. Some complained of being moved suddenly and without their belongings.
In Cleveland, Arnold Phillips, president of the GPS Corp. which owns the Regent, said that Woods’ Senior Citizens of America Inc. had been evicted effective Wednesday for non-payment of rent. The Woods group had leased the entire hotel.
The Howe is operated by another Woods firm, the Dennis Corp.
Barbuto said that Woods is in effect, the caretaker for some of the old people at the Howe. It was not immediately clear where all of them had come from originally, but a representative of State Aid for the Aged said that some had been released form mental hospitals.
The Howe’s owners had sought City permission to operate a convalescent home last year, and although the necessary zoning variance was granted no license was ever issued.
The hotel had been operated partially as a senior citizens’ residence (about a quarter of its 100 rooms) but Barbuto said the City was under the impression that the convalescent home plan had been dropped.
The city acted after two elderly men wandered away from the hotel and after the Visiting Nurse Association reported treating five people at the hotel.
Tenants seemed frightened and confused by the sudden event. As inspectors and reporters swept through the 11 story building Wednesday, the old people told how they had been “transplanted” from Cleveland.
One said Woods had told them, “Get on your hats and coats. We’re going for a little bus ride.”
Several aged men said they were told they were going to “a little party.”
Said 68-year-old Mrs. Charlotte Wylle, “The manager asked me Sunday if I’d like to take a ride to Akron. When we got here he led me to a hotel room and told me he would pick me up in the morning and take me back to Cleveland. But when morning came I found he’d already left for Cleveland.”
Mrs. Mary Schinkel, 82, wandered through the lobby saying, “I don’t’ know where I am or where I’m going.”
Several tenants were unable to give reporters their names. One man is paralyzed in the legs and cannot move without help.
Frank Piklowsky, 85, mourned, “Here I am without a single handkerchief. I don’t know where my clothes are.”
Most of them live on Social Security or Aid for the Aged and their relatives are far away.
Dr. Robert Fladen, City health department physician, said a “fair number” of the tenants need more care than they are now receiving.
Many should be in a convalescent home, he said.
Dr. Fladen examined the residents late Wednesday and said he found ills ranging from heart disorder to severe hernias. He recommended that one man be taken to a doctor within 24 hours.
Mrs. Margaret Smith, Aid for the Aged executive here, said she was contacted by the Cleveland office to find how many clients of their office were involved. She said she located 12 and that the Cleveland office is arranging to transfer them elsewhere.
Chief representative of the hotel management on the scene Wednesday was Miss Mahl, a registered nurse who is listed as administrator of Woods’ senior citizens’ operation.
She objected violently when reporters accompanied City inspectors through the hotel. At first she objected even to the City personnel going upstairs. Then she followed the City Inspection teams.
The Law director said he is convinced the majority of the 36 new tenants at the hotel need nursing or custodial care.
Barbuto said Woods’ relationship with the elderly tenants differed from that of an ordinary hotel proprietor.
“He probably would be called the custodian of these people. They were entrusted to his care. He cares for them just as if he were a bone fide convalescent home operator.”