In 1918, Eastland County, Texas was in an oil boom. From 1910 to 1920, the population of the county more than doubled, and what had been a farming area became the tenth most populated county in Texas for a time.
The growth meant new businesses, including the three-story building one block from the courthouse that is now the Eastland Historic Hotel.
When the hotel opened in 1918, the first floor housed the Princess Theater, which showed silent films, and the Stanley Café. The second and third floors were the Stanley Hotel, which originally had thirty-four rooms and ten shared baths.
From the twenties until the nineties, most of the history of the building has been forgotten other than a few tidbits.
From a hand-written note on a yellowed cloth napkin I found in a drawer on the third floor, I learned that there was a fire in the Stanley Café some time in the 20’s which caused the customers to “run for their lives.” And the Princess could not compete with the Majestic Theater next door. From photos, it appears that both were out of business by the 1930’s, when the whole building was the Maverick Hotel.
Despite a few rumors, the hotel is not haunted, but two interesting deaths occurred there in the early days. In 1929, Marshill Ratliff, the notorious Santa Claus Bank Robber, was lynched by a mob on the back corner of the property. The museum across the street still has the rope on display. Also in the twenties, a stage actor who was in town to perform at the theater next door turned on his gas lamp, went across the hall to borrow a match, and then died from the explosion he accidentally caused when he struck the borrowed match. Neither person has been seen in our halls, at least in several decades.
Mike and Anne Zoellick, both former Navy pilots, bought the building in 1995 and began renovations, which spanned twenty years. The building now has four extended stay apartments (including the owner’s) and nine hotel rooms. Rooms still have original doors, high tin ceilings, and other features from the old days, including antique furniture. Unlike the old days, each room has its own bathroom and television, and they all have Wi-Fi.
In the back of the building is a nice pool, complete with pool house, surrounded by a privacy fence and courtyard. There is also an inside gym with free-weights and a powerlifting platform. Second floor guests have a fully stocked breakfast bar to help themselves to, and much of what Eastland has to offer travelers, including the grocery store, is within walking distance. The hotel itself is a bit of a museum with many quirky old things to see, such as an antique beer can collection.
The owners work hard to create the right atmosphere. Sinatra is often playing in the lobby. Hot wassail and cookies are available by the fire for guests on cold days, and the hotel is kept spotlessly clean, as you’d expect when the owners themselves are the ones who scrub the toilets.
If you are ever making your way through Texas on Interstate 20, please plan to visit the Eastland Historic Hotel; you will be glad you did.
For more of Jason Frels’ photography, go here.