Idaho Falls - City of Destiny

Pioneer Hotels of Idaho Falls

The Times-Register, Tuesday, May 31. 1927


Starting With Stage Station Eating House Traveling Public Well Accommodated . . .

The stage station operated in Idaho Falls which community was not distinguished by that name in the year 1865, must have been a welcome sight to the worn and weary traveler by stage 65 years ago.

The Anderson brothers, truly the original pioneers of this section were the "hosts" and many in the tale told today by those old enough to remember the hospitality extended the patrons and guests of the rude log cabin given the title of stage station and hotel, for it was there that the traveler was permitted to rest and refresh himself after the hard ride by stage across the practically trackless desert scorched by the sun in the summer months and lost almost in the snows of winter.

Rude as was the log cabin station and drear the exterior appearance, the inside was as worm and as bright, and as genial as the dispositions of the hosts, the Anderson brothers, natives of Kentucky, later of Missouri, and who brought with them the ideas, ideals and hospitality of the old south. The hospitality was not alone that of the host who greets the "pay guests," but was hearty, honest and the welcome, meant more than just words. True, no live no liveried porter or "bell-hop" greeted the traveler with extended palm expecting "tips," for every service rendered, but in the stead of that service was the honest handclasp and the words of "howdy stranger, light and eat," which meant much.

Before the really excellent food of the stage station was partaken of the hospitality of Kentucky and Missouri was offered in the form very welcome to the dusty and weary traveler, a hospitality now no longer existing legally, but which if accepted or offered at all must be "under cover." The ceremony having been gone through with, the negro cook, in import from "Old Missouri," a freed slave and a master of the pot and skillet, announced that all was ready. The hosts dined with the guests and the fare was frequently what the traveler most relished. No elaborate menu was printed, nor did the "waitress" stand at one's elbow and mutter the list of foods, leaving one in desperation to take the first named. Rather than that the food was all placed on the table at one time and each guest helped himself, or in case of the occasional woman traveler it was always a case of the ladies first.

The fare: Frequently hot corn bread which "sticks to the bibs," and is a more substantial fare than the light bread prepared by the bakers of the day. If not hot corn bread then hot biscuits which were equally well received, consumed and commented upon. The country lived on itself in a large measure, particularly so far as the meats served were concerned. Buffalo, venison, antelope, occasionally a piece of "steer meat" for a change with the "piece de resistance," turnip top greens with fat bacon.

The meal finished the refreshed traveler was bid "God speed" and went on his way with memories of the little and crude way-side station where he was made welcome and which breathed true western hospitality. The traveler by stage, so far as known, was able to pay his way, but had he not been able, the same welcome would have been extended and without stint, as proven by the fact that many a weary traveler, "on his own" was given meals, shelter and welcome for himself and horse.

Thus did the original pioneers make their impress upon the community which is responsible today for the great new and modern hotel which opens its doors to the traveler. The contrast will be great from the rude two-room log cabin without conveniences or facilities for the traveler, which made up the first hotel, if it can be so called, with the present day structure made possible by the public spirited citizens of the community. The buildings are different, but the spirit is the same and it is to that spirit that the community owes its welfare.

The Anderson brothers were builders; the stage station, the toll bridge making it possible to cross the Snake river at this point with safety, the first mercantile establishment, the first telegraph office, the first canal to bring the waters from the Snake, and the first bank which today bears their name and stands as a monument as firm as the famous Rock of Gibraltar. "The first and the oldest bank in Idaho," as it is named and which today stands pre-eminent among the banking institutions of agricultural communities throughout the United States.

The next step forward is the "hotel line" was something really pretentious for Eagle Rock, now Idaho Falls. The cowmen had come into the country, taking the place of the traveler and the Indian and the trapper, so a real hotel was necessary to take care of the wants of the permanent resident, and "Uncle Dick" Chamberlain constructed a real pretentious hotel, two stories in height and which place was a "rendezvous" for all of the local leading lights and men of importance throughout the territory. Many is the tale told of the "doing" and hospitality extended by the host in this typical western tavern and "bar," with the accent on the "bar," which was the clearing house or place of community meeting, just as the new Hotel Bonneville will become.

"Uncle Dick" was a unique character and lived many years, and was able to see the small frontier settlement, which he helped to establish, gather all of the earmarks of the beginning of the present modern community. "Uncle Dick" was liberal to a certain degree and stern when the need developed itself, as history proves, and when visitors to his place stretched the bounds beyond that which even that liberal day permitted, he was always found on the side of law and order, backed by his strong personality and when occasion demanded his "six-gun" which he knew how, and did use.

George Heath, another real pioneer, was the next in the line of succession for the community demanded more than one place where the traveler and the resident might find opportunity for rest and refreshment, and he established an "eating place," not pretentious in its appearance, but taking care of the moment.

George Heath with Orville Buck, was among the first to "take out the water" and established themselves on Willow creek in the year 1874. The good work accomplished in those early days continues, and the descendants of those men are keeping up the work so well begun, and the Heath and Buck families today are prominent in the affairs of the community. "Jim" Buck, as he is well known, son of the original Buck is replete with stories of the early days.

The Burgess house was what might really be called the first real hotel built of "dobe" brick, made on the ground, with George Heath doing the building. The Burgess house was known the west over as a good place to stop. Real hotel service, as it ws often known, was given. Built in the year 1886 it served for years, later being known as the "Brooks Hotel," under which name it continued for years. As the population of Idaho Falls increased and the town grew, and the "south side" lost some of its importance, other places of public entertainment, became necessary, and the Grayle house was built as it now stands, on Broadway, but the Broadway of 1890 was a different place than the wide, prosperous looking and thrifty street of today. Little more than a sand lot, property of the railroad company, believers in the future of Idaho Falls bought and built well. Certainly there was little to encourage but faith and hope for the future, and the future as exemplified by the present proves their faith was not without foundation..

Next in importance are the Eleanore hotel and the Grand hotel, buildings constructed by other pioneers of faith, Wm. Sweeney and John Brand. The building was completed in the year 1914. The two hotels, modern and convenient, occupy conspicuous positions on Broadway and have their decided place in the community. The Eleanore recently was newly equipped and furnished and bears the name of a strictly first-class hotel.

Other pioneers, now residents of Idaho Falls, have contributed much to the needs of the community in hotel building and life. The Porter hotel has at various times been under the management of C. M. Johnson, today a hale and hearty resident of the community, and Mr. And Mrs. A. V. Scott, who built a hotel of 30 rooms capacity on the south side, known as the Scott hotel. Unfortunately the place burned a few months after it its opening in the year 1892, Mr. and Mrs. Scott took over the Grayle hotel, operating it for a short time, when a man by the name of Smith took it over. The name of Ben Jenne, another Idaho pioneer, was connected with the operation of that place.

N. D. Porter, the present 'landlord' of the Porter hotel, took over that building and place of business about 26 years ago and for a quarter of a century has served the community well, as both now do, the house and its management.

In and around that time the "boomers" came to town, Emerson and McCaffery, in about the year 1889m and the name of Eagle Rock was dropped and the new and present name of Idaho Falls given. The city grew and prospered on paper, sub-divisions were created and lots still far out in the sage brush were sold to prospective residents and speculators, and "C" street was laid out as though to be the main thoroughfare. It was a long time before "C" street come into its own, and that object having been accomplished, it is on the program to change the name to Bonneville avenue in order to further honor the man for whom the great new hotel has been named.

The Hotel Idaho, built in the year 1917, built by a pioneer, F. E. Hansen, was truly a pioneer of "C" street, built in what was then considered to be an almost impossible location. The confidence of the pioneer builder has since been justified. The Hotel Idaho was later taken over by an operating company with W. A. Ashment in active charge, and is a modern-day hotel in every respect and particular, and which has been much improved over the original plans.

Other hotels have come into use and existence: the Cutter, the Nelson, which added to those mentioned, with a number of high class permanent resident hotels, gives to the community abundant facilities.

The crowning feature and event is the Hotel Bonneville, the hotel premier of the entire state of Idaho. A place of public entertainment and home, which is the last word and idea in modern hotel construction and management. A fitting place for the community and which will have its large place in the community and a climax to all of the efforts which have gone before; a combination of effort on the part of the today pioneer citizens and those, who have come later, to erect a fitting monument to the original pioneer of the community, Captain Bonneville. The work of the early pioneer in the building of the community has been well carried on, as the present monument and community hotel building testifies. The pioneer built better than he knew, and from his vision has sprung the magnificent structure of today, not equaled or excelled anywhere in the United States when size and population is considered, and which will serve the community for a generation or more to come.


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Bonneville Hotel as of 1980