Anna Louise Inn opened its doors to ambitious and independent women in Cincinnati looking to start their careers and lives in 1909. Situated in the historic Lytle Park neighborhood, the dormitory-like building has classic, Federal and Victorian style architecture and is surrounded by plenty of green lawns. For the last century, Anna Louise Inn has been a place for women in Cincinnati to get on their feet, whether it be after moving to the once booming city from the countryside or after escaping an abusive relationship. It currently houses 60 women, many of whom relish the inn's location, miles away from the impoverished neighborhoods where rampant crime can easily pull them back to their former lives. But now, after thousands of women have flocked to the low-rent safe haven, Anna Louise Inn is being bought out by a Fortune 500 company that seeks to convert the historic building into a... wait for it... boutique hotel.
For the last two years, Western & Southern Financial Group has been battling Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) for the Anna Louise Inn, offering $1.8 million for the building a few years ago, suing CUB over zoning issues, and ultimately throwing enough money at the problem that CUB and Anna Louise Inn backed down. CUB leaders stated they sold the inn reluctantly, stating that they couldn't afford to continue the battle with Western & Southern, which reported $53.9 billion in assets owned and managed in 2011. The inn was sold for $4 million, and the deal agreed upon between the two parties allows for women currently housed there to stay at the Anna Louise Inn until a new Anna Louise Inn is finished. The new inn will be built in a run-down neighborhood a few miles away, a far cry from the secluded Lytle Park where women have found shelter in the past.
"It's quiet, it's peaceful," said Wendy Gonzalez, a resident of the inn. "Looking out here, you don't see your average thugs walking down the street… It's just nice to know you're safe." Gonzalez came to the inn after leaving an abusive husband who forced her into prostitution and to cope with her meth addiction. "I thank God for the Anna Louise Inn. Without it, I don't know where I would be," said Gonzalez.
Western & Southern's CEO, John Barrett, has been the company's face in the battle for Anna Louise Inn. He's been marketing the deal as a "win for everyone," but Barrett's comments in the past indicate he doesn't really care for the type of women housed currently housed in the inn, reportedly referring to them as prostitutes and stating that they don't belong in the otherwise pristine neighborhood.
In place of the historic shelter for struggling women, Barrett and Western & Southern plan to create a trendy boutique hotel that will simply light up the neighborhood: "Our plans in Lytle Park will preserve the building while converting it into a vibrant new hotel, beautifully lit and maintained." Oh, cute! I love historic buildings with amazing lighting! Nothing says chic like vintage mixed with modern!
But struggling women seeking to make a new life for themselves? So not chic. "I'm upset with them that they would be that greedy to take away what's been here for so long for women," said Robin Howard, a two-year resident of Anna Louise Inn who came there after an abusive relationship. "We have rights too. This is a home. It's a safe haven."
Image via Associated Press