Monday, January 20, 2014

The Hotel Inverness

In early 1925, Mr. Alfred Olson of Baltimore, MD sought to build a new hotel in Citrus County – a hotel he planned to name Hotel Inverness.  Mention of it was made in the Extra edition of the Citrus County Chronicle:
Citrus County Chronicle - Monday, March 23, 1925 
New Hotel Started
Work on the new Hotel Inverness has been started.  It will be of Spanish architecture and the grounds will be beautified with Palms, Magnolia Trees, Tennis and Roque Courts.  Winding drives will lead up to its entrance.  Come to the BOOSTERS MEETING at the COURTHOUSE TONIGHT, and see the Beautiful hand painted perspective which will be shown, “advises Mr. Olson”. 
“Show your confidence in Florida, in Citrus County and the future of Inverness by lending your attendance by your subscription to the small amount of stock necessary to bring capital to the County.

But for reasons unknown, Mr. Olson’s vision for his Spanish style hotel was never realized.  By May 1, 1925 he partnered with Albert B. Walter, a “land man” from Kansas City, MO.  Together they purchased the Orange Hotel from Tommie Lou and William Maloy for $52,500.

According to the Citrus County Chronicle, the Olson-Walter plan for the hotel included immediate expansion of the hotel. “The present building which is of frame construction, and 162 feet frontage on Main Street, is to be swung around at right angles so that another wing of similar length can be built with a block of sixteen stores replacing the present structure on Main Street.  An additional expenditure of $150,000 is to be made to carry out the development which will supply a long-felt want in the city for a combination tourist and commercial hotel.  An arcade between the two wings is also a part of the plan, Mr. Walter stated this morning.  There will be will be 100 rooms in the new structure which will occupy a space of 162 by 312 feet, facing on two streets.  The property is located in the heart of Inverness.”

But just four and a half months later, plans had changed and a new player was introduced.  Mr. Olson was out – replaced in the Orange Hotel deal by Mr. Edwin J. Geittman – a former lawyer and banker from Kenosha, WI.  On September 18, 1925, the Chronicle announced “Deal Closed” on the Orange Hotel purchase– and that the new owners would “take charge on Sunday, September 20th.”

Mr. A. B. Walter and Mr. E. J. Geittman formed the Walter-Geittman Corp., a development company which had ambitious new plans for the expansion of the Orange Hotel – plans which dwarfed those announced just months earlier by the Olson-Walter partnership.


Citrus County Chronicle – December 4, 1925 
From the article: 
Plans Ready for $500,000 Hotel and Business Block at Inverness 
Seminole Tomkins Corner to be Hub Of Inverness 
Startling and infinitely progressive changes are to take place in and around that intersection in this city known as Seminole and Tompkins streets.Fronting on Seminole streets, the imposing new Orange Hotel annex now being moved, will stand three stories in height, with a handsome 177 foot sun porch, beneath which will be built fifteen modern, and attractive stores and shops, leases for which are now being made.

Citrus County Chronicle, Friday January 8, 1926

Across from this, the new fireproof Orange hotel will rise four stories at first and later six or eight stories as the need demands – and will contain 90 of the finest and most attractive and comfortable rooms to be found in any hotel in Florida, according to its builders.  The new Orange hotel front will be of brick and stone and every room will have an adjoining bathroom, it is stated.

Orange Hotel Building. Inverness, FL, 1925. Hedrick and Schoeppl, architects. Sanguinet, Staats and Hedrick collection, The Alexander Architectural Archive. The University of Texas Libraries. The University of Texas at Austin. The university collection contains a complete, detailed set of drawing for this hotel which include plans for all the floors as well as heating and plumbing.

The Orange Hotel Annex Expansion In More Detail

The building was enlarged in 1926 when it was moved to its present resting place on Seminole Avenue.  The two story structure became three when the original two floors were moved from Main Street and hoisted up in the air on top of a new first floor lobby.   Then the guest room count was expanded to 40 when wings were built on both the North and South ends of the hotel.  Notice the two brick walls protruding through the roof line, dividing the hotel almost into thirds.  These walls mark the original ends of the structure before the gabled wings were added.  The center section - between the two brick walls - is the original Orange Hotel.

Despite the fact that construction of the new Orange Hotel Annex was far from complete, by January 8, 1926, the Walter-Geittman Corp. was already placing ads in the Chronicle announcing the opening of the hotel dining room.

Citrus County Chronicle, Friday, January 8, 1926

It was the roaring twenties in America.  Walter and Geittman had come into Citrus County with a bang – announced big plans and began to deliver on them.  A former lawyer, Geittman had a way with words and his speeches inspired local businessmen.  

Citrus County Chronicle - Friday, January 15, 1926
Geittman Makes Stirring Speech
One of the most inspiring speeches ever delivered before Inverness business men was made yesterday noon before members of Inverness Kiwanis club by E. J. Geittman, former Kansas banks and one of Inverness’ greatest city builders, Orange hotel proprietor.
Mr. Geittman’s address on “the wave of speculation, development during the coming year, our disadvantages and how to remedy them, transportation, public utilities and private business enterprises, what should be done to make Inverness one of Florida’s foremost cities,” will be printed in Tuesday’s Inverness American in detail, extra copies of which should be ordered in advance.  Watch for it.

Despite their enthusiasm, construction on the ambitious new fireproof Orange hotel across Seminole street had yet to begin.  Walter & Geittman instead focused first on the completion of what they referred to as the “Orange Hotel Annex”. 

But on Sunday, March 14, 1926, a little less than three months before the official opening of the new Orange hotel annex, everything changed.   Forty-four year old Geittman suffered a sudden stroke and died.

Left to helm the Walter-Geittman Corp. alone, Mr. Walter vowed that work on the hotel would continue without interruption.  But as a result of Geittman’s death or not, Walter’s idea for the hotel development changed yet again.  Plans to build the new fireproof hotel across Seminole were scrapped.  Now, the “Orange Hotel Annex” would, in fact, be the complete, new hotel.   And perhaps because these sharply altered plans no longer reflected his original vision, Walter looked into his not-too-distant past for a new name for the property.   On June 4, 1926, Inverness celebrated the opening of a brand new hotel – the Hotel Inverness.

Citrus County Chronicle – Friday, June 4, 1926 

Opening To Be Held Friday Night With Fitting Ceremonies 

County Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club of Inverness Join in Banquet to do Honor to Momentous Occasion  

Brilliant Dance To Be Held In Sun Room 
THE CITY of Inverness, with many guests from surrounding towns, will join tonight in appropriate festivities to celebrate the completion and opening of the new Hotel Inverness, just completed by the Walter-Geittman corporation. 
As a mark of appreciation for the erection of such a magnificent structure in Inverness, which will without a doubt attract many people to the city, the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club have co-operated in the staging of an elaborate banquet to be held tonight in the hotel dining room at which time will be a fitting program in honor of the occasion and expressing the gratitude [missing text] of the citizens of Inverness to the men behind [missing text].  For days the men in charge of arrangements have been busy in elaborate preparations, and the occasion promises to be one of the most brilliant and delightful in the history of Inverness.  
The ceremonies of the evening during the banquet hour will be in the capable hands of Judge E. C. May, president of the Kiwanis Club, who will act as toastmaster.  A number of speeches have been announced, including which G. L. Jacobs, cahier of the Citrus County Bank, will extend felicitations to the new hotel and its management on behalf of the Chamber Of Commerce.  Judge Mathias Mahorner, of Inverness, will represent the Kiwanis Club in the same capacity.  I. O. Fender, cahier of the Citizens Banks of Inverness, will represent the citizens of the city in an appropriate address. 
The response to the spokesmen of the community on behalf of the hotel will be given by George A. Maher, vice president of the Walter-Geittman corporation.Preceding and following the banquet the new hotel will be thrown open to the public for inspection. 
As part of the housewarming program a dance will be held in the spacious, glass enclosed sun parlor on the second floor of the hotel, beginning at 9:30 and continuing until midnight or after. 
This beautiful hostelry, the architecture of which is especially fitting for this section of the country, was built by the Walter-Geittman corporation and is the acme of everything a hotel should be for the comfort and pleasure of its guests.  Pending its completion, this company has been operating the Orange Hotel in a building directly south of the new structure.  Although it was generally accepted that the name would be transferred as a matter of course to the new institution, the officers have announced that it will instead bear the name of Hotel Inverness, thus linking itself more closely with the city in which it is located. 
Example of Taste and Beauty 
Perhaps no more beautiful and luxurious a hotel can be found in the state of Florida.  True, there are larger ones, but for painstaking care in planning for the comfort of its guests, for artistic furnishings and quiet and genteel taste, none can surpass the Hotel Inverness. 
The Structure is three stories and has been built for the accommodation of one hundred guests. 
The first floor devoted entirely to the lobby, the main entrance of which is located in the center of the building, and ten attractive business rooms.  At least half of these have already been leased and some have been occupied for some time, long before the completion of the building. 
On the second floor is located one of the chief attractions of the inn and one of the features which make it distinctive – the large sun parlor, eighty feet long and twenty-four feet wide, enclosed on three sides with glass.  In the twinkling of an eye this charming room can be changed into an ideal ballroom.  It has a floor especially designed for dancing. 
The sun room is furnished in willow of soft yellows and sapphire blues with settees and peacock chairs.  Lighting fixtures are more than mere equipment for furnishing light, but add the touch of beauty that lifts the whole room into the sublime.  They are of sparkling crystal with dangling prism pendants, catching the light and converting it into rays of every hue. 
On the same floor at the top of the stairs and connecting to the sun room, is the reception floor.  Furniture in this room is also of willow in yellow and orange.  There are deep seated chairs and davenports with rich satin damask cushions.  Over the mantel is an exquisite tapestry which evidently furnished the decorator with the keynote for this color scheme. 
Windows in the sun and reception rooms are hung at the top and bottom with narrow casement bands of Lanvin green gauze, and the hangings are of silk striped rep of gold with an iridescent cast.  The lights in the reception room are also crystal. 
Guests entering the lobby will be greeted with a pleasing picture – tile floors, walls of antique Spanish finish in a soft tone of yellow with ceiling of drop stone silver high light.  The furniture is of mahogany, the chairs being upholstered in black velours with large tan and blue figures.  The tile floor is red. 
Desk and counter are of mahogany and the broad stairway leading to the second floor has balustrade and newel post of mahogany with ivory spindles. 
All bedrooms are equipped with bath or connecting bath, telephone, steam heat and electric lights.  The bathrooms are beautiful in white tile with built-in tubs.  A spacious closet in each room will add to the comfort and convenience of the occupants.  Furniture is of mahogany with steel beds. 
Rugs all over the building are the same.  They are more or less of an innovation, being of a linen texture known as Klearflax.  The color scheme heather which blends beautifully with decorations and furnishings. 
Open porches on the second floor are furnished with old hickory furniture. 
Retiring rooms for ladies is located on the second floor.  The men’s retiring room is off the lobby. 
The Men Behind The Hotel 
The organization of the Walter-Geittman corporation is composed of A. B. Walter of Kansas City, Mo., president; George A. Maher of Detroit, Mich., vice-president; and E. B. Webb of Sarasota, Fla., secretary-treasurer. 
In an interview with a member of the corporation on Tuesday, he said, “Mr. Walter ‘discovered’ Inverness as a city most promising for the building of a hotel such as the new Hotel Inverness.”  Mr. Maher and Mr. Webb represent the capital invested in the hotel and realty holdings of the corporation. 
“E. J. Geittman, whose death occurred in March,” he stated, “represented the capital invested in the hotel proper, until his death, when the work was slowed up until Mr. Maher and Mr. Webb could make a survey of the situation and make arrangements to complete the project, which was about two-thirds finished.” 
Both Mr. Maher and Mr. Webb will spend the greater portion of their time here during the next few months in completing the organization to operate the hotel and in becoming better acquainted with the people of Inverness and Citrus County, realizing as they say, that the success of the hotel is most dependent upon the patronage and support of the local people and that it cannot be profitably and successfully operated without such support. Mr. Walter, president of the corporation, is at present in Kansas City looking after his interests there. 
The management state that the facilities of the hotel will be available at all times for dinners, luncheons, receptions, dances and all social functions of a like nature. 
Paul Baum will be the assistant manager and Mrs. Florence Shellenberg will have charge of the dining room.  Both have been active in the operation of the Orange Hotel. 

Entering the winter season of its first year in business, the Hotel Inverness announced special rates to attract guests. 
Citrus County Chronicle – October 1, 1926
Winter Rates Are Announced By Local Hotel
New winter rates of the Hotel Inverness, one of the most attractive and most beautifully furnished hotels on the West Coast, were announced Thursday by Paul James Bumb, assistant manager of the hotel.
The rates are more than reasonable and will appeal to the traveling public as very attractive, considering the beauty and comforts of the hostelry and its appointments.  They will be maintained without change throughout the season, states Mr. Bumb, and are widely advertised by circular letter and otherwise throughout the north.
The stand of the hotel management to maintain standard and reasonable rates throughout the winter season will do much toward attracting newcomers to Inverness, many of whom will in all probability remain for weeks, months or even permanently.
The new rate schedule is as follows:  Single with bath, $3.50 per day: without bath, $3.00 per day; weekly with bath, $17.50, Double with bath, $5.00 per day: without bath, $4.50 per day; weekly, with bath, $24.50.
The public will be pleased to learn that the dining room of the Hotel Inverness will re-open for the season on November 4.

The Hotel Inverness in its first year of business

About a month and a half later, on Friday, November 12, 1926, management announced the reopening of the Hotel Inverness Dining Room celebrated by a banquet and dance in the hotel’s sun parlor.  “C. R. Wilson of Chicago and Tampa, steward-chef of many years’ experience, will be in charge of the dining room.  Mr. Wilson was formerly connected with the Tampa Terrace Hotel and Marshall’s, Inc., a chain of high class restaurants in Tampa.  He has also been employed in a number of leading hotels in the North.”
It appeared as though the Walter-Geittman corporation, its officers and staff were off to a healthy start with the new Hotel Inverness.   But the great depression was right around the corner and by many accounts, banks began failing early in Florida. 

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