Hotel Roodhouse, Roodhouse Illinois

Date added: October 20, 2022 Categories: Illinois Hotel

The Hotel Roodhouse provided first-class lodging and dining to railroad travelers, railroad management and line personnel as well as business people. It is the only remaining hotel in Roodhouse retaining its original integrity which was built during the period when the town of Roodhouse was a thriving railroad center.

Roodhouse's development had its earliest beginnings in the 1850s, when the area on which Roodhouse was founded was referred to as "The Crossroads" - the place where a state road crossed another public road and connected the Illinois River with the eastern part of the state and the country. John Roodhouse, who had moved from Tazewell County in 1854, purchased 400 acres of land in this location which was to become part of the town of Roodhouse.

Roodhouse's evolution into a vital railroad community began in 1860 when the Chicago and Alton Railway (C & A), which had proposed to extend its tracks to Jacksonville, surveyed the area of "The Crossroads". Based on the results of the survey, the C & A determined that "The Crossroads" was not an appropriate site for a depot, flag station or a switch. However, John Rawlins, who was determined to have the railroad stop at "The Crossroads", reached an agreement with the C & A that the people living in the vicinity would build a depot and a warehouse if the railroad would put in a switch.

Although the railroad tracks were not scheduled to reach "The Cross roads" for months, Mr. Rawlins built the depot and warehouse. Known as the crazy young man who had built a depot out in the prairie by a country crossroads, Mr. Rawlins inspired several families to move into the area by 1862. James Thompson had opened a grocery store in an old log hut, Charles Adler had started a boot and shoe shop and Adam Shearer had opened a blacksmith shop and built one of the first homes in the community by the summer of 1862. In April 1866, John Roodhouse had 40 lots platted on his land at the present location of Roodhouse. Roodhouse was incorporated as a city under the laws of the state of Illinois in 1880.

The Jacksonville branch of the Chicago & Alton Railway was constructed in 1862-1863. The first passenger train stopped at the Roodhouse "red depot" in 1863. Mr. O. Ashworth, the General Agent of the B & O, described that arrival in a speech he made in Roodhouse in 1944 which was quoted in Frank A. Hopkins' Tracking Our Heritage: 1866 - 1966, Roodhouse, Illinois.

"Now let us go back for a moment to that day in 1863 when the people were shouting 'Here she comes!' --- People lined up on both sides of the track as they see approaching a small dinky locomotive with a hopper or bell-shaped smoke stack pulling one or two small wooden coaches, and as it comes to a stop to receive and discharge passengers, there must have been a great deal of interest in what they would like to know."

In 1871 the Louisiana (Missouri) branch of the Chicago and Alton Railroad was built. This branch line connected the Jacksonville branch with Louisiana, Missouri, and points further west. With this connection, the railroad was able to furnish transportation to outlets to the west opening up the area for trade and settlement. The Louisiana branch terminated at Roodhouse and the city became a major junction for the two branches. The headquarters for the Missouri division of the C & A were located at Roodhouse and a roundhouse and locomotive repair shops were built along the railroad in town. The railroad became the town's largest employer and the main economic force in the community. A stock yard was constructed near the depot. In 1890, a large two-story brick depot was built at the junction of the two branch lines.

Roodhouse's population boomed because of the economic opportunities created by the junction of the two railroad branches. In 1880 the city's population was 800. In 1881 it had risen to 1,400 and in 1883 it was up to 2,179. Roodhouse's current population is approximately 2,139.

Between 1863 and the 1880s the volume of passenger train traffic steadily increased with an estimated 24 passenger trains stopping in Roodhouse daily by the early 1880s. In response to the growing influx of travelers, many of whom required overnight accommodations, four hotels were built in Roodhouse during the period from the early 1870's to the mid-1890s.

The establishment of these hotels in Roodhouse was part of the expanding modern American hotel industry which originated with the construction of the Tremont House in Boston in 1829. The 176 room Tremont House boasted single and double bedrooms (each equipped with its own key), trained hotel staff, fine French cuisine and many other amenities. A hotel with private bedrooms was a dramatic contrast to stagecoach inns and taverns where guests often were required to sleep in lots of five, six, or more and the doors were always open.

The success of the Tremont House spurred extensive development of similar hotels in many American cities with the initial hotel boom reaching its peak in the east between 1830 and 1850. This hotel boom subsequently peaked later in the midwest and western parts of the country as settlement gradually spread west.

The evolution of American hotels continued and by the late 1800s, many large city hotels, such as the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, the Brown Palace in Denver and the Palace in San Francisco, were characterized by their grand scale and magnificent ornamentation reminiscent of grand resort hotels and palaces of Europe. In contrast, hotels located in smaller communities were usually one or two-story frame buildings similar to rooming houses which were located near the railroad station.

Gerald Lattin provides the following explanation of the evolution of the American hotel industry:

"At the turn of the century there were two new developments in the United States that were to influence twentieth-century hotel operation. First, as the country's economy expanded, the commercial traveler became increasingly prominent in the business world. As this group grew in number, there developed a corresponding increasing need for suitable hotel accommodations and conveniences to serve it. Second, improvements in transportation made travel easier and less expensive. Ina society seemingly ever restless and eager to be on the move, such a development immediately led to a tremendous upsurge in the number of travelers. Once the middle class of American society could afford travel expenses, it became an entirely new segment of the traveling public."

In response to the need to provide overnight accommodations for an increasing number of travelers and railroad employees, the Kirkland House, which was the first hotel in Roodhouse, was built in 1872. Like many hotels built in small communities, the Kirkland House was built near the railroad station for the convenience of travelers. This hotel was destroyed by fire in 1876 and was subsequently rebuilt. The Kirkland House was a three-story, Second Empire styled brick building with a mansard roof. Although portions of the Kirkland House are still standing, it was extensively renovated in the early 1960s and serves as a warehouse for the Greene Company Manufacturing Corporation. Today, the historic sections of the Kirkland House are not recognizable as the building was almost totally rebuilt and renovated in the early 1960s.

The Globe Hotel, which was built in 1882, housed 23 hotel rooms in a brick, two-story building, and was destroyed by fire in 1894. The Phoenix Hotel, which was located opposite the Chicago and Alton passenger depot, was completed in 1884 and served as the largest hotel in Roodhouse. This large hotel, designed to accommodate 110 guests in 55 sleeping rooms, was also destroyed in a fire in the 1930s.

The Hotel Roodhouse, which was built by John Roodhouse, the founder of the city of Roodhouse, opened on January 1, 1895. According to Wilbur Hicks, author of the Souvenir of Roodhouse (1897), the hotel was the only first-class hotel in Roodhouse and catered to a wide range of railroad management and line personnel as well as wealthier travelers.

An article found in the December 27, 1894 edition of The Roodhouse Eye provides the following description of the Hotel:

". . .The Hotel Roodhouse, built by John Roodhouse, is a most artistic and practical building. It was commenced about June 1st [1894] and is now finished [12-27-1894] and being occupied by J.L. Burgess. The Building is 38 X 70 feet and three stories high, with 28 rooms, not including the basement. It is finished with a complete system of steam heating, heated by double Florida boiler and fitted with hot and cold water throughout. As soon as the company gets in operation, the building will be lighted by the incandescent system of electric lights. The cost of the building is about $8,500."

In addition to providing sleeping rooms to accommodate overnight guests, the Hotel Roodhouse boasted a large dining room, a cigar room and smoking parlor, separate men's and ladies' lounges and a salesmen's showroom. The showroom was used by salesmen staying in the hotel who displayed their items for area merchants. Wilbur T. Hicks wrote in his 1897 Souvenir of Roodhouse that, ". . .The front doors of the Hotel Roodhouse are never locked and a hearty welcome is always assured the weary traveler at any time. .."

In 1904, Theo Dill leased the Hotel Roodhouse from the Roodhouse family. A formal opening complete with invitations to the town's leading citizens, railroad management, and out-of-town guests was held on April 25, 1904. The hotel was renamed the Dill Hotel.

As one of Roodhouse's principal hotels, the Hotel Roodhouse was an integral part of the community's thriving economy. This economic strength is reflected in the town's population growth from 2,200 people in 1897 to its peak population of 2,928 in 1920. This population growth can be attributed to the strong presence of the C & A Railroad, which provided line and management jobs to a number of Roodhouse residents.

The economy was further strengthened by the establishment of the original Big ELI factory in 1906, which manufactured Eli Ferris Wheels to 1919 when the company moved to Jacksonville. Other manufacturers included the Roodhouse Envelope Company which opened for business in 1912 with five employees. By 1918 the company employed twelve. A major employer in town during the 1920s was the Roodhouse Ice Plant who provided over 100 tons of ice daily to the railroads and shippers. In 1925 over 125 were employed by the ice plant. Other employers in town included two feed and grist mills and a printing plant.

In 1921, J. C. Durham bought the Hotel Roodhouse from the Roodhouse family and continued to operate it. That same year there were six northbound trains on the Jacksonville branch, three southbound trains on the Jacksonville branch, and five westbound trains on the Missouri division branch that stopped daily in Roodhouse.

As the only first-class hotel in the Roodhouse area, the Hotel Roodhouse housed many of the management and line personnel from these companies.

As the population expanded, the number of service and social organizations within Roodhouse also grew. The Hotel Roodhouse was the site of many regular meetings for such groups as the Rotary and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. For example, ledgers from the hotel reveal that the heads of all service organizations in the Roodhouse area met at the Hotel Roodhouse several times in 1917 to discuss ways to coordinate charity work in conjunction with the local war effort.

In addition to being a regular meeting place for community service groups, the Hotel Roodhouse actually housed a soup kitchen for the townspeople during the Depression. According to local historians, the soup kitchen served 10,271 people over 2,152 gallons of soup during 1931.

Many area residents as well as travelers frequented the Hotel Roodhouse to enjoy the outstanding food provided in the hotel's fashionable dining room. The hotel's front porch was often a popular place for men to congregate and enjoy a good cigar after an evening meal.

Roodhouse's economy began to take a downturn in the mid-1950s when the railroad passenger service to Roodhouse was terminated. Although the Gateway Western Railroad still goes through Roodhouse, the elimination of the passenger service had a tremendous impact on the community's entire economy. The economy continued to decline gradually as a number of small, family-owned stores in Roodhouse closed due to the increased number of area residents who began to travel to Jacksonville to purchase goods and services. In spite of the slowing economy, the Hotel Roodhouse continued to serve as the town hotel and boarding house until 1972.

The City of Roodhouse purchased the hotel in January 1995 for the purpose of establishing a museum that contains local historical artifacts. A Museum Board, consisting of a number of local citizens, has been appointed to oversee the restoration of the building.

Building Description

The Hotel Roodhouse was built by John Roodhouse and opened for business on January 1, 1895. The hotel is a 2-and-1/2 story Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival styled building with twenty-eight rooms and a full basement. The building is constructed of brick with a stone foundation. The front entry porch features three arches with original scrolled iron work.

The interior of the hotel reflects a small-town hotel of the late 1800's, with its large oak registration desk, 11-foot ceilings, wainscoting and tongue and groove hardwood flooring in the lobby as well as oak woodwork throughout the building. The hotel, which faces east, is located at 303 Morse Street on the southwest corner of Morse Street and Franklin Street in downtown Roodhouse.

The integrity of the Hotel Roodhouse has been well preserved since the building was constructed in 1894. The structure has not undergone any significant interior or exterior alterations since its construction. Although the corner tower on the northeastern corner of the building appears to have been removed, no information is available on the reason or the date of the removal. The wooden porch balustrade was removed in 1972 and replaced with a wrought iron balustrade which is presently being stored in the building to prevent vandalism.

The only minor interior alteration was performed in the 1970s when several non-supporting walls were installed to accommodate the gift shop which was run by owner Dorthea Anthony. These walls have been removed without any damage to the integrity of the Structure. Due to the deterioration of a number of plaster walls and ceilings in the hotel and the possibility of additional damage to the flooring caused by wet plaster, portions of the plaster were removed in early 1995. Plaster was removed from all ceilings on the third floor; all ceilings and walls (excluding the interior hall walls) on the second floor and all ceilings and only the north wall of the Men's Lounge on the first floor.

Many of the original materials and furnishings have also been maintained in the hotel. These materials and furnishings include: the desk in the hotel lobby; the main stairway; wooden moldings, door and window trims, and woodwork; hotel safe; cupboards and "pie safe"; gas light fixtures, various pieces of furniture and light fixtures as well as the original well pump located behind the hotel.

The hotel is located in the business section of downtown Roodhouse with the Roodhouse City Square located directly northeast of the hotel. The Roodhouse Public Library is directly east of the hotel with the First Bank located north of the building across the street. A residential area flanks the hotel on the south side with the west side being primarily commercial property.

The hotel is a brick 2 1/2-story building with a mansard and flat roof. Many of the original windows remain intact with stone sills and lintels. In most cases, these windows are double-hung and are either one-over-one or two-over-two. A decorative metal cornice with stepped-out coursing projects from the east front elevation and wraps around the east front half of the north elevation. A brick cornice with stepped-out coursing is located on the west half of the north elevation. The east front elevation has a three-sided window bay on the south and a square corner tower on the north. A one-over-one window is located on the south side of the basement level. The entryway is located between the window bay and the tower. A brick porch is located to the north of the entry. The original wooden balustrade located on the porch was removed in 1972 and replaced with a wrought iron balustrade.

One window is aligned on each side of the window bay at the south end of the first story of the east elevation. The front entry porch, which is located to the north of the window bay, is arched with scrolled ironwork and a sign "Hotel Roodhouse" built into the archway. Two smaller arches, one on the north and south side of the front entrance arch, also have scrolled ironwork. Large brick and stone piers at the corners of the porch support the arches. The front entry has double wood and glass doors with a rectangular transom over the doors. A large picture window with a transom above is located north of the front entry. A stone string course is located underneath the first-story windows.

Beginning at the south end of the second story are three windows directly aligned above the first-story windows in the window bay. A pair of windows is located above the front entry. To the north in the tower are a pair of windows. A stone string course is located underneath the second-story windows. A stone sign "A.D. 1894" is located near the roof of the east front elevation. A roofed dormer with a window is centered on the third story.

The first story of the north elevation has an entry door located in the middle of the building which leads into the salesmen's room with four, one-over-one windows on each side of the entry door. Beginning at the east end of the second story of the north elevation, there are four, one-over-one windows directly above the first-story windows with one, one-over-one window directly above the entry door. To the west is a false window area which has been bricked up since the building was built and three, one-over-one windows directly above the remaining first-story windows. Three chimneys are located on the north elevation. There are four basement windows all of which have been boarded up from the inside of the building.

The first story of the west elevation, beginning on the north end, has a two-over-two window, a door leading into the dining room, a door leading into the kitchen and a two-over-two window. There is a bulkhead entrance to the basement as well as a basement window that has been boarded up. A detached one-car garage is located west of the building and a well pump is located in the backyard area. The second story of the west elevation has a two-over-two window directly above each window on the first story and an additional two-over-two window in the middle. The west elevation roof slopes gently to the third story which has two, two-over-two windows. The entire west elevation is covered with stucco.

The first story of the south elevation has, beginning on the west end, two basement windows which have been boarded up; two, two-over-two windows followed by an entry door that leads into the back stairway; to the east of the door is a two-over-two window and an entry door leading to the back hallway and three, two-over-two windows. All of the windows have arched brick surrounds. The second story of the south elevation has six, two-over-two windows with a one-over-one dormer window located on the third story. An iron fire escape, a small porch with iron newel posts, and coach light were removed from the south elevation at an unknown date.

The full basement, which can be entered through the bulkhead entrance on the west side of the building has stone walls. The basement is divided into three areas: the boiler room, which is located directly below the kitchen to the southwest; the coal room, which is located directly below the dining room to the northwest and a very large open area.

The hotel lobby at the northeast corner of the building is expansive with a large oak registration desk, oak wainscoting, and tongue and groove hardwood floors. An oak switchback stairway with decorative rosettes leading to the second floor is located to the south of the registration desk. The lobby's four windows, three of which are located on the northern side and one on the eastern side, are original.

An L-shaped central hall, which runs east to west for the full length of the building, has oak wainscoting and tongue and groove hardwood floors. The salesmen's room, which is adjacent to the lobby on the north side of the hotel, has a single-door entrance with a transom. This room also has a double-door entrance to the dining room to the west, two northern windows as well as an outside entrance leading to the north side of the hotel.

The Hotel Roodhouse's dining room, which is located in the northwest corner of the building, has three large windows on the northern side of the room, one large window on the western side as well as a door that leads to the back lawn. The dining room can be accessed through double doors from either the central hall or the salesmen's room. The dining room also features a built-in oak pass-through with doors opening into the kitchen, an original hotel safe, and a swinging door to the servant's pantry.

The hotel kitchen, which is located in the southwest corner of the hotel, has a chimney, exterior doors leading to the west side, the back stairway and the east side of the building as well as two southern windows and one western window. The kitchen features a built-in oak pie safe and an entrance to the pantry. The pantry, which is accessed off the central hall or through the kitchen, has a swinging door into the dining room as well as a door to the basement stairs. A hanging cupboard is located on the northern wall.

Continuing east down the central hall towards the front entrance is the hotel office to the south. It has a door to the women's lounge and a door to the central hall with access to the first public telephone in Roodhouse.

A bathroom is located down a short hall to the south off of the main hall. It has oak wainscoting.

The women's lounge, which is located under the stairway hall, has two southern windows and one eastern window as well as a large oak pocket door to the men's lounge. The men's lounge, which has French doors off the south side of the lobby, has three windows on the eastern side of the room and a pocket door to the women's lounge.

The stairway leading to the second floor is oak with rosettes matching the woodwork throughout the hotel. The upstairs central hallway has oak woodwork and 10-foot high ceilings. A total of 13 sleeping rooms, one bath, and three closets are aligned along the central hall located on the second floor. Each sleeping room door has a transom and a room number. A stairway leading to the third floor central hall and a back stairway leading to the kitchen with an exit to the outside are also located off the central hall.

The third floor houses four sleeping rooms. Each sleeping room has a door with a transom off the hall. Although a portion of the stairway railing leading from the second floor to the third floor has been removed, it has been saved.