This original photo has no identification written on the back, but remakes of it have been made with a description of the Occidental Hotel on the east side of the square, dated about 1865-1870. However, there are a couple clues that it more likely was taken some time after that.

The first clue is in the 1879 Illustrated Atlas of Bartholomew Co., IN. The map shows four even lots (#5 - #8) on the east side of the square, with Lot #5 on the north end and Lot #8 on the south end. The drawing simply shows a rectangular shaped building on Lot #7, marked as the Willards Hotel.

I have not been able to find any information on the Willards Hotel, but sixteen years later, in the same location, is an L-shaped building on the 1896 Sanborn Map, marked as the Occidental Hotel. The map key describes it as a two-story framed building having a two-story porch in front with a slate or tin roof. There is also a one-story porch on the side and on the back, both with a shingle roof. If you look closely at the building, you can see the second clue. There are no porches visible on the front or side of the building, suggesting the photo was taken prior to this map in 1896.

The 1901 Sanborn map has the same exact description, but the 1910 Sanborn map no longer shows the building at all, as it burned to the ground the year prior. The Columbus Republican, dated 30 Dec. 1909, describes the fire in great detail. It reported the Occidental Hotel, owned by John Gilliland and Jasper Shields, burned and all the contents were destroyed. Two guests who were sleeping upstairs jumped from a 2nd floor window, neither seriously injured. The Hotel Landlord, Frank Boyle, and his family were sleeping downstairs, but all escaped unharmed. The origin of the fire was unknown but believed to have started from an electric wire. The total loss was estimated between $4,000-$5,000. There was no fire department in Hope. So, when the alarm sounded, the citizens of the town rushed from their beds and formed themselves into a bucket brigade. Realizing they weren’t going to save the hotel, they worked on the nearby buildings and were able to save them. This might have been the start of our first fire department as the article concludes, “The destruction of the hotel and its contents has started a movement for the establishment of a fire department for the town, and it is believed that one will be provided in the near future.

The article also states the Occidental was among the oldest buildings in Hope and was built almost a half century ago. This means the Occidental and Willards Hotel were the same building. Since the above photo shows the addition, we can date the photo to sometime after the 1879 Atlas. We can now determine the photo was taken some time between the two maps, 1879-1896.

Among the owners of the Occidental were Joe Wooley, Rausal Shirley, and John Shore. There were a few advertisements and interesting tidbits found in the Hope Republican during 1893-94 when Rausal Shirley was owner. On Aug 31st,1893, the news reported, “Rausal Shirley is moving into the Occidental Hotel this week. He is putting in new furnishing and will give the traveling public first-class accommodations.”

A month later, the news was much more amusing, “The proprietor of the Occidental is sometimes absent minded. Monday morning his wife informed him that meat was needed for breakfast. He hastened to the shop, bought a nice piece, paid for it and returned home leaving the meat lying on the shop counter. No grass grew under his feet when he made the return trip.”

Note by David Webster: As I was reading Kim's excellent article in “The Trail Mix,” published by the Yellow Trail Museum, I was thinking a small hotel or bed & breakfast could do well in Hope again. We have numerous events on the town square, and there are several historic places and others that would hold the interest of guests. They could easily spend much of a day in one of the best small-town museums. Of course, Hope would need to be in the name. Bed & Breakfast of Hope or Hotel of Hope sounds quite inviting!