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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Alpineís
Holland Hotel

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

On June 19, 1941, a cross-country traveller who had spent the night at Alpineís Holland Hotel picked up a black-and-white postcard of the hotel and mailed it to a relative. While the senderís scribbled message amounted to nothing out of the ordinary, a promotional blurb printed on the card did a good job of summing up the venerable Big Bend hostelry in a catchy way:

The Largest Hotel
In the Largest City
In the Largest County
In the Largest State
In the Largest Group of States
In the World

While all that could not be disputed, the Holland had only 70 rooms, certainly no giant. But beyond being a comfortable overnight stop for motorists passing through on U.S. Highway 90, a major east-west route, the hotel stood as the social center of the Big Bend. Cattlemen drank coffee and made deals there, Alpineís civic clubs gathered there each week and the hotelís ballroom accomodated chamber of commerce dinners, dances, wedding receptions and other events.

Brewster County rancher John Holland built the hotel in 1912 at the corner of Sixth Street and the broad thoroughfare that bears his name, just across from the townís railroad depot. Though Alpine had neither dikes nor tulips, in pondering what to name his new inn, Holland saw Holland Hotel as imminently suitable. Hollandís son Clay took over management of the hotel when the elder Holland died and had it renovated in 1923, adding a third story and bathrooms in each room.

ď[The Holland] is so thoroughly equipped that it will do credit to cities many times the size of Alpine, and the traveling public are invariably surprised as the advantage enjoyed at this modern hostelry,Ē the Marfa New Era bragged in 1924.

The glowing article continued: ďNo one enterprise in this part of Texas has given to this city, and to this part of the Southwest, more favorable publicity nationally than has the Holland Hotel. No trip through this section is complete without a stay at the Holland, and without question one of the pleasantest memories of the journey is the time spent at this hotel.Ē

Three years later, Holland thoroughly transformed the hotel, adding a three-story addition. Designed in the Spanish colonial style by noted El Paso architect Henry C. Trost (his credits also include Marfaís Hotel Paisano and Van Hornís El Capitan Hotel), the new building cost $250,000. According to a special edition of the Alpine Avalanche published when the hotel reopened on March 16, 1928, the Holland had ďcommon battery telephone service, and many other modern conveniences.Ē


By the end of World War II, American travel tastes had begun to change. Railroads saw fewer and fewer passengers as automobiles became the nationís primary mode of transportation. Tourists liked the convenience of motels where they could park right in front of their room, unload their bags and then head for the motel swimming pool. With business declining, Clay Holland sold the hotel in 1946.

A year later, the hotelís new owner got the kind of publicity no innkeeper wants. On March 20, 1947 a married woman armed with a handgun confronted the hotelís assistant manager in the lobby of the Holland and shot him five times. The woman left the man bleeding on the floor and went to her residence, where Brewster County Sheriff Clarence Hord arrested her about an hour later for assault with intent to murder. The hotel employee survived, but whatever its nature, his relationship with the woman did not.

A few years later, Holland figured in a more upbeat news story. In June 1950, rancher Gene Cartledge presented hotel manager Frank Hofues with what he represented as an eaglet. The bird turned out to be a common blackbird, not the majestic and threatened American bald eagle, but Hofues made a pet out of it anyway. Named Blackie, the bird became one of the hotelís permanent guests. But during the day, he made his rounds around town, begging for food or sipping suds at a nearby bar. The bird took particular pleasure in soaring toward some unsuspecting victim from behind, landing parrot-like on his or her shoulder.

The hotel continued through a succession of owners until 1969. That year, the latest owner opted to shut down the hotel, selling off all the furniture and equipment.

Gene Hendryx, local radio station owner and state representative, bought the shuttered hotel in 1972 and restored it as a combination hotel and office building. The Hendryx estate sold the building in 1985 and it again went through several owners. Jennifer and John Jones of Sonora bought the Holland in 2009 and did some substantial remodeling.

The Holland is no longer the largest hotel in Alpine and Texas is no longer the largest state in the union, but itís still popular with visitors. The management even provides ear plugs for guests who donít find the rumble and clatter of passing trains sleep inducing.



© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" August 18, 2011 column

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