Bringing back the Beckham
“It’s a path we followed to get to the Beckham, a path we sometimes didn’t understand, but a path nonetheless,” explained the current owner of the Beckham Hotel, Sarah Butler. …
Bringing back the Beckham
“It’s a path we followed to get to the Beckham, a path we sometimes didn’t understand, but a path nonetheless,” explained the current owner of the Beckham Hotel, Sarah Butler. She and her husband, Chris, along with five-year old Hannah, are busy returning the building to its former self.
The Butlers have been remodeling old and historic homes for the past decade. They have a full appreciation for the scope and cost of such work and the amount of time and sweat involved.
Before work commenced, they had to be led to the Beckham.
“We were in Mineola visiting,” Sarah recounted, “coming out of a neighboring shop, Chris turned right to walk down the block and I turned left. I then saw the For Sale sign in the window.”
The fortuitous sighting came at exactly the right time for the Butlers. They had just completed their latest renovation in Farmersville. It was their ninth significant project which included three commercial properties and six homes.
“There were so many things that have happened recently, some of which we have no explanation for, which led us to Mineola and the Beckham,” she stated. “Sometimes you have to be willing to be led.”
If the Beckham Hotel was the destination, it certainly appears that the Butlers have the wherewithal, resources and experience to resurrect it.
Sarah and Chris are successful professionals in their chosen field, information technology, and remain employed as they execute the restoration. They recently relocated to Mineola to remain fully engaged in the effort.
It is some undertaking. After confirming the integrity of the basic structure (brickwork, foundation, walls, ceilings), a sequenced plan was drafted for restoration. Of note, the brickwork was especially noted as being in outstanding shape.
The plan calls for four steps: structural integrity validation, roofing improvements, plumbing and electrical modernization, and HVAC installation and finishing. Pairing of the tasks means that those tasks can be worked at the same time.
It is a tremendous amount of work; the plumbing estimates alone are $330,000. The Butlers, however, remain confident and positive about the way ahead.
“Knowing that we have excellent structural integrity to start with is most important to the project,” Sarah stated, “Mr. Beckham had it rebuilt to last.”
On the ground floor, the building houses Logan’s Place, the recently opened Ironhorse Bar and Spirits, the Butlers’ office and an antique shop which they also run.
The ground floor also includes a large multi-room suite which is destined to become a conference center for small and mid-sized groups and a large room which will become ADA-compliant lodging. The conference center will have a dedicated kitchen and lounge.
The second floor features the ballroom, with capacity for 200, and hotel rooms. The third floor will exclusively consist of hotel rooms. The boutique hotel will have 27 total rooms with 22 rooms for rent and a few multi-room suites.
The mystique of the building has some distinct advantages. Butler described how the contractors thus far employed on the project have taken great pride in working on a piece of history. Despite the scale of the challenges, she noted, “They just love the project.”
The Beckham’s history is long and full of interesting twists and turns. The date of original construction may be up to debate, but it is either in the late 1880s or early 1890s. Believed to have been built not as a hotel but as a boarding house, it became a centerpiece of the growing downtown. Mr. J.L. Beckham began to work at the hotel in 1911.
In 1921 he purchased the hotel. At least twice the hotel was ravaged by fire, once suffering significant damage. As reported on the front page of the April 26, 1928 edition of the Mineola Monitor, hundreds attended the formal opening of the New Beckham Hotel after significant renovations.
“Few small cities in East Texas can boast of as good a hotel as the New Beckham Hotel…it is indeed a credit to Mineola,” wrote the editor on that occasion.
Throughout much of the 20th Century the hotel functioned as designed providing lodging and meeting spaces for all sorts of activities from poker games to civic clubs and dances. It also served as the original telephone office and as a consolidated bus booking depot of the Sunshine and Redball Bus lines.
The Highway 15 Association (TX 15 was a precursor of US 80) met at the hotel on Thursday, May 23, 1935 to discuss highway improvements and beautification.
The arts always seemed to play a role at the Beckham. In 1929, June Shivers Dancing held classes at the hotel, and in 1949 Texie Waterman offered ballet, tap and acrobatic dance lessons there.
That connection with the arts remained. After ownership of the hotel passed from the Beckham family, renowned musician John DeFoore, Jr., who recently passed, provided lessons and held jam sessions in the ballroom.
In the recent past, the hotel has been the site for unique celebrations. Among them was the awarding of the key to the city to native Willie Brown, who was recognized for his social advocacy.
The Butlers are committed to maintaining the sense of history in the hotel. There are no intentions of removing any existing walls or modifying the structure. Instead, the owners intend on modifying the use of the many rooms to best fit a variety of lodging and conferencing needs.
“This building was built to last,” summarized Sarah, “and we intend to highlight the architectural history it presents.”
So vested are the Butlers in that effort that they have contracted a genealogical historian, Dianne Stringer, to do a comprehensive history of the Beckham. Stringer has already uncovered a possible familial link between the Beckhams and the Threadgill family of Austin, a family of musical repute.
Progress continues apace on the restoration. The Ironhorse Bar and Spirits has opened and welcomes locals every Friday and Saturday night. The establishment uses the former lobby as well as a large, relaxing outdoor garden patio added adjacent to the rear of the hotel.
“We have been very pleased with the clientele for the Ironhorse,” Sarah noted. “It is a relaxing, private place to have a chat and relax. The hotel has a way of pulling people together and building fellowship.”
The grand opening for the hotel, with a target of New Year’s Eve, lies just ahead.
“We have received such amazing support,” Sarah stated, “and so many people want to see us succeed.” She noted the great cooperation received from the city and the Landmark Commission.
With a recently-secured loan from UBank of Tyler, the list of individual improvements is checked off daily. Taking advantage of the work begun by the previous owners, Ron and Connie Meissner, the Butlers are determined to recommission a centerpiece for Mineola.
Perhaps that description of the Beckham Hotel penned in 1928 will be proven to be accurate 94 years later.