The Greathouse Hotel
Old places have a soul. ~Sarah Anderson
Only when you see the peeling paint, thread-bare carpet runners, scuff marks and stained tin ceilings can you truly get a sense of a building’s history. How can you not appreciate all that has gone on inside the limestone walls? Each scar has a story to tell.
The Greathouse Hotel came into being in 1922 during a period when train travel and horseback were the mode of transportation. Decatur had the unique geographical position that made it an excellent stopping place. The hotel mainly catered to traveling salesmen. As large manufacturing companies grew, more men left their families for extended
periods of time in order to achieve the American dream. They would travel about the country creating desire and demand for many new products. The men would stay in well located hotels where they could reach the maximum number of contacts. The Greathouse Hotel offered spacious rooms to weary travelers.
Today, entering through a door that seemingly leads nowhere, a time capsule emerges. Guest rooms line both sides of the hall. Original screen doors (some with a dish towel hung for privacy) and large transom windows speak of a time before central air.
Tin ceilings added a touch of style. A closet full of original heaters occupies one end of the hall. An exhausted salesman can be imagined huddled in front of one after a long day of chasing sales. The original claw foot tubs are in each bathroom.
Simple iron beds and a wooden wardrobe were the only embellishments. A communal lounge with windows opening over the rooftop occupies a large corner at the far end of the building. Pictures of guests gathering to listen to the radio or for companionship while away from families unfold.
With a turn to the left a separate, smaller section of the hotel comes into view. Who stayed here? Cattle-ranching was big business, and the cowboy was integral to the operation. The trail ride was long and hard with constant threat from weather and Indians. The end of the ride was the time the cowboy got paid and could let down and be rowdy. Such activity mostly entailed drinking and practical jokes. As a result, they were considered the “lower class” citizens of the hotel and housed in a discrete area…hence the “Cowboy Hotel”. If you squint down the impossibly long hallway with light streaming in from floor to ceiling windows you can see shadows of cowboys collapsing from a night of hard drinking. There is not much of a bathroom, because they really did not deserve it. They were dirty and gamey. Was it noisy in this section of the hotel or just the rumbling snores of those sleeping off a hard ride? If only these walls could talk. Single, naked light bulbs hang from original knob and tube wiring. A few scuff marks from spurs are still visible.
Time has passed the beautiful hotel by. It has been decades since its most famous visitor, Amelia Earhart stayed. It is hard to believe the hotel operated past 1940. However, the doors stayed open until 1974. The building is still owned by the third generation of a family that purchased it in the 1930’s.
When all is new and modern, the nondescript building proudly and staunchly holds on to its original character and intent giving a glimpse of an era that exists for many only in novels.
Celebrating #decaturtownsquare on Good Morning Texas!
On Friday morning Decatur Town Square gave Good Morning Texas a warm welcome!
Ghosts on Decatur Town Square?
It is the time of year of misty mornings. The wind picks up tugging leaves from trees. A nip is in the air, or…is it the feeling of something nearby? The Fall season conjures up ideas of ghostly apparitions. One wonders…could there possibly be ethereal beings who inhabit the old buildings on the Decatur Town Square?
A trip downtown is in order.
What experiences have the locals had?
Legend has it that a person either jumped or was pushed out of the tower on the Wise County Courthouse. Could this person perhaps be the one that causes the elevator to spontaneously go up and down in the wee hours of the morning? How do courtroom doors slam when no one is in the room and there is no way in or out? An unfortunate district attorney died in the basement. Some wondered if his death was by natural causes or was it murder? Maybe he has come back to avenge his death.
Does anyone know the identity of the face that randomly appears in the beautiful 1917 Victorian mirror housed at 113 N State Street? A former proprietor?
People who work on the square have reported sounds of doors slamming, boxes being moved, footsteps and murmured conversations. Some have even experienced chills. Hmmmm….a “visitor” coming or going?
Guests staying at the Courthouse Suites B&B describe hearing the sound of boots with spurs walking the hallway as well as children running and playing. You might think it was other lodgers, but no one else was staying at the time.
One shop has affectionately named their ghost “Ada”. She is not fond of one style of Brighton shoe that is carried in the store. Many mornings employees have opened to find this particular shoe thrown across the room. Other times, Ada does not seem to mind the shoe if it is placed in an area which she approves.
An employee once heard gunshots and even smelled gunpowder. The back door to the store was open prompting her to call the police. Strangely, upon investigation, the back door was found shut and dead-bolted from the inside. No evidence of anyone or anything was found on the premises. A renegade cowboy from the old cowboy hotel?
Three neat, well-dressed spirits have been detected in the old First National Bank Building. The description of 2 men and a woman perfectly match the 3 children of pioneer Decatur banker, Henry Greathouse.
Rogers Hospital, which once housed a morgue as well as an insane asylum on the second floor, has its share of unease. A few are afraid to be in their offices after dark. Others just feel the building is eerie.
You might be relieved to know the search for paranormal activity in Decatur revealed nothing to keep you up at night. The town ghosts are fairly peaceful. We are reminded through the occasional unexplained incidents that many have occupied these spaces. Might they still be keeping watch over their legacies? I have a feeling many stories are yet to be told.
Trinity Street Coffee Bar
Decatur Town Square is happy to announce we are getting a new coffee shop!
Put your nose in the air. Inhale deeply and you might be able to smell the sweet aroma of fresh brewed coffee coming all the way from Denton. Very soon Decatur will be lucky to have her own branch of West Oak Coffee bar! www.westoakcoffeebar.com
The whiff is inviting you to find a soothing corner, the perfect table or a comfy chair at Trinity Street Coffee Bar.
Imagine a cozy place to gather for lively conversation right on the Square. Uniquely paced to the slower Decatur lifestyle, it will be a place for community and connection.
You will be able to start your day, end your day or anything in between. You can chill out or get your creative juices flowing.
Anticipation and excitement are growing!
Sign of the times: Moran replicates blast from the past
Ifyou haven’t already noticed a new shadow falling across the Wise County Courthouse lawn, look west.
The square’s latest addition can be found hanging above
119 South State Street. Visit Site
Mark Moran, a local entrepreneur who owns several buildings on the square, said he added the sign to make downtown Decatur even more distinct.
“I wanted it to look like its been up there since the 1950s,” Moran said of the sign. “We’ve got a number of buildings around the square, but I think it really helps downtown as a whole.” The brightly lit letters, reading “Majestic,” once signified Majestic Theatres, a name brand in entertainment in the early 20th century. The Decatur square was once home to one of the theaters for roughly two decades.
“There’s a little bit of history here,” Moran said. “There was fire on the west block in 1917. Most of the buildings were destroyed, but one reopened as a Majestic Theatre. It lasted maybe through the ’30s or ’40s.”
Moran said he couldn’t help but notice similar signs preserved in the downtown districts of cities like Denton and Dallas.
“I wanted that for our town,” he said. “I couldn’t ever find [an original Majestic sign] in good shape, and if I did, no one would ever sell it.”
A fabrication company based in Austin helped make the dream a reality. The company provided Moran with plans to bring before the Decatur City Council and Main Street Board, where it was met with approval.
Moran said the sign took roughly two months to manufacture and then three days to place on the building, which is set to house The Leather Guy, a custom leather goods store.
Moran said the marquee will be used to promote public events on the square.
David Talley, Wise County Messenger – Online Edition, WCMessenger.com, 4/6/2016. View original PDF.