The building was built in 1875. It was originally established as a blacksmith shop by Charles Schneider. In the photo above you can see an archway on the left side of the building where it is presumed horses were led in. This area has long since been bricked over, leaving one metal door as the entry point into the front of the main level (the bar area). In 1876 Mr. Schneider made additions to the structure and it became known as the Commercial Hotel. The photo shows the beautiful facade at the top of the building, with its name engraved in stone.
The above photo was taken in 1884 from the corner of Second and Locust Streets. The arch was for a rally in which William F. Vilas, later a U.S. Senator, was the main attraction.
In 1904 the business was sold to Dennis Cavanagh, who then sold it on September 29, 1905 to S.V. Quale for the sum of $10,500. In 1911 Col. John R. Hanley purchased the business. Col. Hanley renamed it the Hanley Hotel. He, and later his son Allen, operated the hotel until Allen and his wife Elizabeth sold the business.
Evelyn and Robert (nickname “Dibbo”) Means became the new owners in July of 1945. This is where the establishment received its unique name, Dibbo’s, that stayed with the building until 2013. As new proprietors, the Means completely remodeled the first floor of the hotel, installing a modernized coffee shop, dining room, kitchen and bar. They operated Dibbo’s until 1953 when it was sold to Henri and LeRoi Westin. Mr. and Mrs. Westin, after a short ownership, then sold the business to Vic and Bertha Fenner in 1956.
These two photos depict Hudson’s Business District in the 1950’s. The hotel can be seen as the tallest structure visible in both photos. The bottom photo shows a 1955 Pepper Fest parade.
In the 1960’s the Fenners converted a large storage area near the rear of the building into a nightclub they called the “Rainbow Room”. In the 1970’s an addition to the Rainbow Room was completed. The Rainbow Room became well known for its live music and drew some big names over the years such as Tommy James and the Shondels, Foghat, Molly Hatchet, Headeast, Blue Oyster Cult, The Romantics, Steppenwolf, Great White, Firehouse, Yanni, and Tommy Tutone.
In June of 1977 there was a fire which destroyed the front half of the third floor of the hotel, and the third floor stone facade was removed and not repaired. The third level was not fixed. Rather, the back half of the level was closed up and left as-is. Today, if you stand on the street and look at the front of the building, you can’t see the third level but you can see it from the back of the building if you’re in the Pier 500 parking lot.
Vic and Bertha Fenner continued to operate Dibbo’s together until 2002. Operation of Dibbo’s continued by their daughters Vicki and Vanda, and Vanda’s husband Chuck McGee.
As Dibbo’s, the building had several unique features in addition to the front bar and the back nightclub area. The building had a cafe on the street level, which closed in 2011. The second level of Dibbo’s still had the hotel rooms which were used as a boardinghouse. The third level (which was damaged by the 1977 fire) was accessible but not in use.
Source: Dibbos.com. Thank you to Chuck McGee for assembling this information.