The Rogers Lot - Downtown Waxahachie


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from This Was Ellis County

A publication of the Junior Historians, Waxahachie High School, 1979

 Parade Of Buildings - The Rogers Lot

By Brian Bennett

In early days of Texas statehood the spot was a virgin prairie, the home of buffalo and Indians. As restless settlers moved into the area the spot saw a parade of buildings - a tent, a log cabin, a two-storied frame hotel, a two-storied brick hotel, and a four-storied brick hotel - all called modern for their day.

       

Emory & Nancy Rogers

Emory and Nancy Rogers constructed the first building on what later became Lot 1, Block 1 in the town of Waxahachie.

Rogers had obtained a headright (640 acres) from the Republic of Texas in 1839 and in the next year, B. J. Chambers, surveyor of the Robertson County Land District, surveyed this headright. Rogers visited his future home on the frontier in 1844. After moving to Smith's Station (near present-day Milford) Rogers sent a hired hand, Thomas Stephens, in 1847 to begin cultivation of a farm on the headright. In the fall Rogers and his family moved to the land and lived in a tent while construction of a log cabin progressed at the site that is now Rogers Hotel. This was the first building in what later became Waxahachie.

As time passed the Rogers' cabin became a hospitable place on the frontier where weary travelers and even Indians were accommodated to a bed and a meal. The cabin was open to those in need. A spring of fresh water utilized by the Rogers family was located beneath what later became the Waxahachie Laundry Building at the junction of College and Water Streets.

In the earliest days of Waxahachie the generosity of the Rogers family was of note to those who visited this home. The home served as the site of most social gatherings such as religious and town meetings as well as a primitive frontier hotel of the area. It was reported that Nancy Rogers acted as a minister in the religious services held at the cabin. With ten members, the First Methodist Society in Waxahachie was organized in the cabin in the spring of 1849.

After the formation of Ellis County, the election for the location of the county seat was held in the Rogers' cabin in early August of 1850. Probably due to Rogers' offer of land for the county seat, the cabin was chosen over Grove Creek and Reagor Springs as the site. The county seat was named Waxahachie as prescribed by the legislation creating the county. The county commissioners met at the Rogers' cabin on August 19, 1850 to plan the construction of the first Ellis County Courthouse. The town site was surveyed and one half of the lots were deeded to the county by Rogers. The present Rogers Hotel block and the block east of it were retained as the Rogers' homestead. This cabin existed for several years after the Rogers' arrived in the area.

Before the Civil War, Rogers had a two-story building constructed. He obtained lumber from Trinity River bottomlands and from East Texas. The main house entrance faced Main Street, but a hallway opened on College Street. This was done in 1855 or 1856. Rogers then placed an advertisement in the Dallas Herald:

 

ROGERS HOUSE

Waxahachie, Ellis County, Texas

The subscriber respectfully announces to the traveling public that this large and commodious hotel is now open to the public. His constant and unremitting efforts will continue as before, to be given to render who may favor a call comfortable and "at home." His table is constantly furnished with everything that can be procured in the market, and his stable is supplied with the best provender and attended with an attentive host. He refers to the traveling public generally.

E.W. Rogers

N.B. Hicks will be kept on hand to convey passengers to any of the adjoining towns or points.

This advertisement ran periodically in the Herald from July 5, 1856 until February, 5,1862. Tandy, Rogers' son, helped his father operate the hotel until the late 1860's when he took over the management. It was reported that slaves helped to run the hotel before the emancipation. Upon the death of Tandy Rogers, his father sold the hotel in early 1870. In 1870 John S. Siddons purchased the Rogers House. He placed the following advertisement in the July 30, 1870 edition of the Waxahachie Argus:

Roger Hotel

Waxahachie, Texas

J. S. Siddons, proprietor

The proprietor begs leave to inform the public he has bought this well-known Hotel and solicits a continuation of the patronage here, therefore so liberally bestowed. No pains shall be spared to make guests comfortable who may favor him with a call.

North/Northeast corner of downtown Waxahachie, c. 1871. The building on the left is Marchbank's Grocery and the building on the right is the Siddon's Hotel. The present day Rogers Hotel sits on the site of the Siddons. White material in foreground is construction material for third courthouse.

Siddons also ran a similar advertisement in the Ellis County News in 1874. Siddons managed the hotel during this time. Dr. J. W. McGee, a dentist from Dallas, became the operator of the hotel in late August of 1877 and changed the name of the hotel to the Waxahachie Hotel. However in November, he closed the building and left town. Siddons then reopened the hotel under the name of Siddons Hotel and operated it until the Waxahachie Real Estate and Building Association purchased it from him for $5.500 in September of 1881. Mrs. Horton then became the operator. In March of the following year the Real Estate and Building Association hired Mr. Wilson, a Dallas architect, to draw plans for a new hotel. The planned hotel was to be three stories. On the lower floor were to be business houses fronting on College Street. The office and dining room were to face Main Street and guest rooms were to be located on the second and third floors. The planned dimensions of the building were 84 by 125 feet. Within two months of the announcement of these plans, tragedy struck.

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On Tuesday, May 9, 1882 at 1:30 a.m., with the ringing of bells, the shrill whistle of the railroad engine and the cries of "Fire," the town awoke to see that the Siddons Hotel was burning. The fire had started in the kitchen or north end of the hotel. The losses were great. In addition to the destruction of the hotel, insured for only $1,800, and losses of possessions to occupants, the city lost one of its outstanding citizens as a result of the fire. Stephen A. Clift had an attack of paralysis and his death followed. He had been one of the townsmen who fought the fire.

Plans for rebuilding the hotel were continued soon after the fire, but the Real Estate Association made some changes. Contractors Berry and Grant of Dallas began construction of the new brick hotel on Tuesday, May 30, 1882. The building was to be 123 by 85 feet and was to contain business houses, an office, a dining room and kitchen on the lower floor, plus about twenty-five rooms and a court on the second floor. An awning ten feet wide was erected on the south and west sides of the building. In June, the corner room of the hotel's first floor was rented to T . A. Mottox who was to start a first class saloon there. The Real Estate Association purchased three-ply Brussels carpet from Sanger Brothers of Dallas to cover the nineteen rooms. They also purchased a supply of fine quality furniture. The hotel construction was completed by late September or early October and Mrs. Brown of Corsicana rented the hotel from the Real Estate Association and became the operator for a $125 monthly rental. She named the hotel Rogers House. In its annual statement in 1883 the Real Estate Association reported that the hotel had cost $18,186 to build and that the furniture had been installed at a cost of $1,587.

This hotel later known as the Rogers Hotel housed most of the visitors who came to Waxahachie during its period of industrialization. Railroad men, salesmen, bankers, politicians, and businessmen all were accommodated as they took their part in the building of Waxahachie and Ellis County. Arrivals at the hotel were newsworthy enough that the Enterprise recorded them weekly. The hotel was the outstanding hotel in Waxahachie until it was destroyed by fire in 1911.

On Sunday, November 12, 1911, the Rogers Hotel again met destruction at the hand of afire. At the time of the fire, the hotel was full of guests who lost most of their belongings. The fire began at about 3 a.m. in the north wing of the building. By about 6:30 a.m., firemen finally had the blaze under control, but not until the hotel had been completely destroyed as well as the Odd Fellows Building, the hotel annex and the Express building. Firemen faced great difficulty in fighting this fire because of a brisk wind and the temperature, which was so low that fire hoses froze. The hotel had been valued at $35,000 but the insurance amounted to only $12,000. Hotel furniture was valued at $6,000, but there was only $4,500 insurance coverage. At the time of the fire, Robert Harrison, the manager, was in Galveston attending a hotel convention.

View looking west at downtown square area, 1911-1912. Rogers Hotel is the building under construction. Photo taken from a grain elevator on Jackson street.

Soon after the debris was cleared away, the construction of a new hotel was begun. C.D. Hill and Company of Dallas drew the plans and J.C. Davis superintended the construction of the building for the Real Estate Association. The Will Moore Hardware Company of Waxahachie furnished the new hotel with Sargent locks and other general hardware. Built at a cost of $120,000, the hotel was opened in early April of 1913. Robert Harrison leased the hotel from the Real Estate Association and became the manager. The hotel was convenient to all the railroad stations and the interurban line. It was four stories high except for the annex on College Street. It had a full basement.

  

Left photo is the Rogers Hotel circa 1914. Right photo was taken on the roof garden of the hotel.

The building was constructed of reinforced concrete with dark mottled brick trimmed with Bedford stone. The hotel was supplied with pure soft artesian water and each room was provided with hot and cold water and part of the rooms had private baths. Steam heat, electric lights, fans and a vacuum cleaner system were added for the benefit and comfort of the guests. All rooms had a telephone directly connected to outside lines through a switchboard in the office. There were parlor rooms and sample rooms. The dining room was supplied from the model kitchen and serving pantries, which were located in a separate wing in the back of the dining room. There was a dumb waiter service available to every floor and the roof garden. All the outside openings were screened. The office was located near the center of the ground floor. Such a location enabled the clerk to view all entrances and exits including the stairway, elevator, dining room and the service areas. The lobby and lounge or writing room was large and roomy, well ventilated, lighted and finished in tile. The mezzanine floor extended over the office and was accessible to the dining room by a stairway and an elevator. Two telephones were located under the main stairway. Apart of the annex on College Street was used as the interurban station.

The stairway or elevator reached the second floor. There were French windows opening onto a court, which could be utilized as a summer garden. The suites, which adjoined the court, also were supplied with a similar connection so that a reception or entertainment could be held. A dumb waiter was provided. Large sample rooms were located in the annex with a freight elevator to handle trunks and other large items. These rooms were also used for banquet rooms.

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Basement (left), 1st floor (center) and 2nd floor (right) floor plans. Click on thumbnails to see the large images. They load slowly so please be patient. Use your browser's back button to return to this page.

The third floor was the same as the second except there was not a parlor or annex. All the rooms were sleeping rooms or suites.

The fourth floor was the same as the third.

The roof was divided with the western half being arranged for a roof garden for parties. The eastern half was used for the erection of tents for the open-air enthusiasts. Each roof was accessible from the elevator by a separate entrance.

The basement of the hotel could be entered by a stairway from the street or by inside stairs or by elevator. There was a billiards parlor, a barbershop, a bath and a trunk room located there.

D. A. Newman of Bonham, who operated hotels in Corsicana, Bonham and Quannah, took charge of the Rogers Hotel on January 1, 1921. He purchased it from the Waxahachie Building Association for the price of $111,000. D. R. Newman, his son, and his wife came to Waxahachie to operate the hotel. Robert Harrison, the previous manager, sold his holdings, fixtures, and furniture to Newman, thus ending a sixteen-year association with the Rogers Hotel. The hotel operated until late 1964 with Ernest Newman being the proprietor. After World War II, the hotel business had declined and was no longer profitable. The hotel was sold to C. A. Wilson Company was closed for guests for many years.

Around 2000, the building was restored and today it operates as a hotel again.

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