Submitted by Mercer County Historical Society President Joyce Alig:

Judy Zehringer sent this story about South Bay Motel, located on St. Rt. 127, south of Celina.  She sent this story in honor of her Aunt.  I am sure that many of you remember the motel and restaurant, as well as Otto and Ruth Oliger.

“As you drive north on St. Rt. 127 into Celina, you pass that vast strip of vacant land to the right, with a view of Grand Lake.  Do you wonder, did it always look like this?  The answer is No.  At one time there was a thriving motel and restaurant on this section of land.

It was South Bay Motel, built in 1954 by Otto Oliger and his wife, Ruth (Now).  Ruth was the daughter of past Mercer County Commissioner John Now (1917-1920.) The tract of land north of The South Bay area is called Oliger allotment.  Otto was responsible for the construction of some of the homes along that stretch of road.  He and Ruth lived in the first home closest to the motel.

The motel was begun in 1954, starting small, and adding rooms each year.  The rooms were described as ultra-modern, with TV, telephone, sound conditioned, and air conditioning optional.  A restaurant, with seating for 65 people was constructed and became a nice dining place for people and traffic along the highway.  The restaurant was not your typical building, having a roof with pointed edges jutting out from the walls which gave it a unique appearance.

The Oligers sold the property on land contract to Virge and Orve Wannamaker in 1958.  They managed the facility for many years; the deed was recorded in 1977.  The facility went through a sheriff’s auction in 1981.  The facility was sold to Bruns Development in 2001, who then tore the motel rooms down in 2002 and the restaurant followed in 2004.

The restaurant was still in business in the 1970’s, as I remember going there for lunch and events with the office girls of Huffy Bicycles, and in 1977 a wedding reception was held there.

Otto was an entrepreneur of the 1950’s.  He was born on June 2, 1909, and raised in Maria Stein.  As a young man of 21, he rode the train as a hobo out to Washington State, during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Upon his return a few years later, he married Ruth Now in 1934, and set out to make his mark in the community.  He operated Rustic Furniture and O.H. Oliger General Contracting.  In looking at land records, he purchased and sold quite a few properties in the Coldwater and Celina Communities.

Otto and Ruth retired to Venice, Florida where they enjoyed their retirement for many years, passing in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

Photo caption:  Grand Lake, South Bay Motel, Post Card Credit, Dale Poeppelman

[Mercer County Historical Society President Joyce Alig may be contacted at 3054 Burk-St. Henry Road, Saint Henry, OH 45883, or or 419-852-0092.]