Town boosters were citizens with visions for improving their cities and increasing commerce. With regular travelers and increased rail traffic, pioneers of rail towns saw opportunities to profit off of business and pleasure travel by establishing luxury hotels within a short distance from the city’s railroad depot, making them ideal locations to stay.
The railroad town hotels are architecturally significant. The late-nineteenth century is also known as the Eclectic Era, as architects applied a variety of “period styles”—a twentieth-century term used to romanticize the architectural past—to their designs. Late-ninteenth-century railroad town hotels exhibit Greek architecture with columns and dentil cornices, as well as a variety of Victorian styles such as Italianate and Second Empire. Many historic commercial buildings have been “restored” to appear as picturesque structures inspired by these historical trends.
Although many towns prospered according to their boosters’ visions, there were periods when hotel businesses still went into decline. As sites of economic growth, over time, railroad towns’ populations of residents and travelers increased, and more hotels were built. Unfortunately for the early hotels, the new businesses created new competition. Hotel owners had to adapt to progress or falter.
Some landmark hotels of the late-nineteenth century went into decline and have since been used for other purposes. Other railroad town hotels still stand for their original intent, as a place for tourists and travelers to stay and see the city. To survive nearly one hundred years or more, the owners of these hotels have adapted to modern expectations by appealing to history buffs, architectural enthusiasts, and the general public in need of a comfortable place to sleep. This tour highlights five landmark hotels that have architectural history, a rise or a decline, and current significance.