Tidbits of Shelby County History
This week’s article will give a brief history of the Polley Hotel. From research there were 2 buildings in Center that were the Polley Hotel. Much of the information was obtained from articles written by Evelyn Biggar.
The Polley Hotel on the east side of the square in Center had welcomed guests for ten years when early one morning the first week of June 1916 a fire swept through the structure. According to early citizens of the city, the hotel was a large two-story structure up a little from the southeast corner of the square. The building was owned by O.H. Polley and was run by the Beattys. The building being frame and dry and probably made from “good heart pine” went very rapidly. No attempt was made to save it, nor the servant house behind it. Besides the family and the regular boarder there were four overnight guests, one of whom said he lost his hat and watch. J.E. Carriker had cotton seed meal, some wagons, and automobiles stored in a building facing Shelbyville Street. This building caught from the sparks and burned, but the wagons and cars were saved. The Champion on June 7, 1916, stated, “The fire department did splendid work in confining the fire to the property burned and keeping down a much heavier loss. Water was scarce and those who directed the fire used skill and judgment… There was a splendid opportunity for a sure enough big fire to occur.”
After the Polley Hotel burned, there was the need of a larger modern hotel. The local paper mentioned the Padon House, and Adams House as now being crowded. Places to stay seemed to be scarce.
The new Polley Hotel stated out as a community project – people bought stock. It was built on the south side of the square probably on the site of the Smith Hotel and livery stable. (Note: located near the Citizen’s Bank). Constructed of red brick it was the pride of Center, and the newspaper spoke of it costing $50,000 to erect. It opened December 28, 1920, with a $5 a plate dinner for 100 – the senior class of 1921 had their graduation dinner there, and it was brand new, a guest remembers. The Center Rotary Club held its organizational meeting in the dining room in May 1925. It was the scene of many of Center’s outstanding social events throughout the years.
Somewhere along the way ownership transferred to O.H. Polley, Sr., and it became privately owned. The interior was remodeled in 1929, and it was refurnished, and gas and water added to each room during which time the Shotwells were managers.
For a while J.A. England managed it; then Charty Hotel Cooperation leased it while the ownership remained with the Polleys. O.H. Polley, Jr., operated the hotel in the 1950s, and different people ran the coffee shop, including Mrs. Ida Sanders during the 1940s. The Polley Hotel enjoyed a long period of prominence, but the time of the “tourist court” and “motel” had come. Small downtown hotels were not so popular anymore, and about 1962 the Polleys sold the property to the First National Bank and building was demolished.
In an agreement between Minta Polley Hervey, Administratrix of the estate of O.H. Polley, deceased, of San Benito, County of Cameron, Texas and J.A. England of Ashdown, Little River County, Arkansas dated October 1939 leasing the Polley Hotel states.
That portion of lots Nos. 7, 8, and 15 in block 4 as shown by the map and plat of the City of Center, Texas, on which is situated what is commonly known as the POLLEY HOTEL, including the vacant lot between said Polley Hotel building and the garage building now occupied by the Runnels Chevrolet Company, and including the vacant lot lying south of the main Hotel building, and north of the private garage and fence situated immediately south of said hotel building and personal property listed in the inventory hereto attached and made apart hereof.
Said lease to run for a term of three years, beginning on the 1st day of November, 1939, and extending to the 31st day of October 1941 both inclusive, to be occupied, conducted, and used as a hotel with the privilege of sub-renting the rooms or space now used as a barber shop and beauty shop; Said rooms occupying the space in the Northwest corner of the ground floor of said Hotel.
(Note: Dining room of Polley Hotel. Persons in front identified as Christine James, from Queen City, Texas; J.A. England, Evelyn England, J.A. England’s two daughters. People in back was unidentified.)