Over the years, Don and I have done some exploring in the Missouri Ozarks. We only learned recently about the town of Hollister. We were excited when we heard the small town had an historic hotel.
That's because there wasn't much to talk about. By the 1960's tourism had fizzled in the old resort town.
Back in the Day!
It was just this past year that Don and I both became aware of the town. It was my grandmother's "A Line A Day" diary that mentioned Hollister frequently.
In the early 1920's, my grandmother Daw, was a young woman. For a number of years, she jotted notes in her little red book about her daily activities. I was most intrigued when she talked about the long weekends she spent with her sister and friends in the town of Hollister. She never mentioned Ye English Inn, but she wrote about swimming and picnicking and she used the word camp a lot. I wondered about this river resort area, with all its clubs and camps.
England in the Ozarks
Don was equally curious, so in November we headed for Hollister, to spend a night at the inn. The winding drive through the Ozarks reminded me of childhood trips, riding through "hillbilly country" in the station wagon, with windows down...
But when we arrived in Hollister, we saw no cedar shacks or wild west facades. All the buildings on Downing Street were stone and timber. The little English Village faced the train tracks, almost like an Elizabethan version of Silver Dollar City.
Hollister got their first post office in 1904, about the same time Daw and her family took the train to the St. Louis World's Fair. There were no trains or tourists in Hollister at that time.
Hollister was a remote town when the train depot opened in 1910. William Johnson was the realtor who predicted a boom in tourism and built the English style hotel, 2 years later. In 1913 it was decided that all the buildings on Front Street, should have half-timber exteriors. The street name changed to Downing in 1963.
This vintage photo shows what passengers would have seen around 1912, when their the train pulled into the Hollister Depot.
The Bank of Hollister was on the corner next to the inn. The hotel only had two stories then. The words on the window said "English Inn Hotel". Maybe the "Ye" came later. I know the "Olde" didn't get added until a decade ago.
Folks can't do their banking on the corner anymore. The bank closed in 1934.
However, I could have stopped in and had my hair and nails done inside the cute little building. Sadly, many of the shops past the hotel, were not open.
By the 1920's, tourism was booming in Hollister. The hotel expanded to 3 floors and a dining room was added. Tourists would line up on the sidewalk for Sunday's meal, served on white tablecloths.
I'm not sure if Daw ever enjoyed a Sunday meal at the inn. She did mention going to some church revivals, though. I so wish I could find old photos!
Today, Downing Street Pour House Restaurant & Bar occupies the space on the right, under the awning. No lines, but the place was hopping by evening.
In We Go!
I was excited to step inside, since the website photos kind of confused me. I needed to be convinced that the stone fireplace and timber accents were original.
At a glance, the interior stonework did have sort of a stage set feel. But the chunky limestone rocks were solid. The lobby matched up perfectly with a vintage photo from over 100 years ago.
What a crazy design, with all the curves and primitive stonework! Evidently there were some fun things built into the rock. I'm afraid I didn't find the fish and ship, in the stonework. I should have asked.
I snapped more pictures while Don checked us in. From the entrance, the stairs seemed to disappear into a hole in the ceiling.
When I walked past the stairs, I could see that the steps led to an s-shaped balcony. There were beams in the ceiling and stucco on the upper walls. None of this looked like a turn of the 20th century hotel, in Missouri.
Flood of 1943
Across from the stairs there was a mark on the wall, to show how high the water rose in the flood of 1943. Another photo showed the owner paddling a canoe in the lobby.
The town and hotel had already been suffering from a decline in tourism. Frequent flooding and The Depression didn't help. Sadly, the popularity of car travel lured tourists to other places. The hotel closed in 1951.
A quick peek at some adjoining rooms, made me see that the space had been remodeled in recent years. We asked our chatty host a few questions.
She didn't know much of the hotel's early history, but she knew the inn was purchased in 2010, by a writer named Janet Dailey. We learned that she died a couple years after opening.
Janet Dailey had an appreciation for the hotel's history. She and her partners renovated and reopened in 2011. As we climbed the stairs I thought about what we had learned an hour earlier from another local, in the coffee shop.
As we reached the lounge area on the second floor, I wondered about the hotel's eerie past. The local woman told us there had been 2 deaths in the hotel and that she had been asked to help with a visiting ghost hunter team. Yikes.
Up to Third Floor
Don and I headed up to the next floor, even though our room was on the second. This was the "newer" addition, but it felt older and creepier.
The curling stairway took us up to a hallway, with a thick archway and dark red painted walls.
Let's just say that both deaths occurred when guests died peacefully in their sleep... way down that hall... away from our room.
We booked "The Buckingham" room, which was tucked into the corner of the second floor sitting area.
The red and brown decor was a little kitschy, but I was all for it. I'm glad Ms. Dailey and her crew did not come in and gut the place. I like to visualize the past. Plus, swanky hotels have swanky rates.
Don and I usually pick lower priced rooms when booking, but we could afford one of the hotel's bigger rooms.
We had ample space, with robes and reading lamps... and lots of history, for just over $100. And how about that red carpet!
There was a ceiling light with a hidden fan and a floor heater if needed. There was a TV, but we didn't use it. We did make use of the luggage rack and the bench at the foot of the bed. Nice perk for people who live out of suitcases!
A Room in the Old Part
I was glad our room was in the front of the older section. In the exterior photo, our 2 windows can be seen on the left.
I loved having a set of chairs and windows looking down, over the train depot.
It was just November, but things were starting to look festive.
I was glad to have a window in the bathroom as well.
It was Friday night, so we made good use of the adjoining restaurant. The tables were all filled with what appeared to be locals at 6:00.
Don and I grabbed seats at the bar. We were happy the place seemed to be popular.
Even though he was super busy, Adam took good care of us. He also had some interesting trivia about the history of Table Rock Lake. He was much more entertaining than the guy with lame jokes, sitting next to Don. No photo of him.
We ordered dinner at the bar. Onion soup, salad, burger... all delicious. I had a good time studying the old parts of the bar... and doing a little people watching through the mirrors.
Coffee & Fire
After dinner, we got an Irish Coffee and shared it by the fire.
We flipped through old scrapbooks with hotel history and photos.
Checking on Things
Throughout the evening, I had to check on things repeatedly. Now and then I dashed upstairs to peek out our window.
We had a great view of the Branson Scenic Railroad, when it came through and stopped a couple of times.
I also had to step outside and check on the Christmas decorations. There was a lot of activity with Santa and Elves, when the train stopped. I'm not sure what that was all about!
And I had to check on the weather. Those are big raindrops, not snow. Snow would have been nice.
We slept well and heard no train whistles in the night. I wouldn't have minded.
In the morning we rose early and grabbed coffee, just outside our door. There were a few food options, but we headed off early to explore.
Wandering in Hollister
The town was quiet on Saturday morning. We had a nice walk and met a nice man and his dog. Here are some photos from the morning and the day before.
We found some old houses up in the hills and we found 230 steps that children once climbed, to reach the school. We found a closed antique shop and a park. I wish we'd had time to explore Turkey Creek or White River. That's probably where Daw cooled off in the summer.
We stayed in a British style inn, with gables and stone and timber... but we were in the Missouri Ozarks. That's unique right there.
Most of all I loved feeling connected to the area, through my grandmother. I so wish Daw was still with us, so I could ask her questions.
Just yesterday I called my dad in Springfield and asked him what he knew of the town. "Hollister!" He answered, "We used to stay in cabins in Hollister when I was a kid." What!? Next time we visit Missouri, we'll take Dad as our tour guide!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!