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Lessons from Gabes Tower Inn

Posted Private Property
Photo BY: Joe Lowe

Moon Mullins posted a photo of Gabes statue the other day. Gabe used to welcome visitors to Owensboro from his spot at the corner of 18th and Triplett. That was the location of the famous Gabes Restaurtant and the sleek and modern Gabes Tower.

People flocked to Gabes for years. The great food, large meeting rooms downstairs and friendliness of the owners and staff  made it THE PLACE TO BE.

It was the forerunner of the Executive Inn Rivermont. Gabes brought in conventions, meetings, large weddings, proms and banquets. Channel 25 did a daily “Good Morning” show from the pool area with J.B. Embry and company.

The tower was the pride of Owensboro but today it stands in ruin. A mere shell of it’s former importance and beauty. Gabes Restaurant has been replaced by a B. P. service station.

I can remember being sworn in at Owensboro Jaycee President at the restaurant. It was where I met Gov. Wendall Ford and Darrell Waltrip. Kathy and I celebrated more than one anniversary at the Top of the Tower Restaurant. The stuff dreams and lives are made of. 

Today Gabes Tower is listed on the website: along with the following comments.

In late 1963, Gabe Fiorella completed construction of Owensboro’s first tall building. There, on the southern edge of the little world Gabe was building at 18th and Triplett Streets, Gabe’s Tower Inn — a 13-story cylinder of a hotel, clad in a rainbow of pastel-painted panels — was a slice of Miami in western Kentucky. By the time I was a kid in the early 1970s, Gabe’s Tower — swimming pool at the top; restaurant-in-the-round just below; and still rising alone from a field of one- and two-story houses — was the undisputed marvel of Owensboro Kentucky.

Since that time the Executive Inn Rivermont has come and gone. The Big E was my generations Gabes. It featured 550 rooms, seven stories, an open atrium, indoor and outdoor pools, gourmet restaurant and the famous Showroom Lounge. Entertainment ranged from Ray Charles to Dolly Parton. Never in a million years did I think the magic of the Executive Inn would end. In some ways I am glad the “E” didn’t suffer the same fate as Gabes. No “once grand” building should rot slowly away in full view of the public.

It is time to say good-bye to our old friend and leave the good memories of Gabes for those who come after us.

The time to save the old buildings is not after they become old, broken, and eyesores. It is when they are new and viable.

The plan needs to be made now for perserving our current dreams downtown. If not, 30 to 40 yrs down the road someone else will be posting our new Events Center and Hotel on the website.

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