Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Original Orange Hotel

The Orange Hotel as it faced Main Street around 1900. 
("Back Home: A History of Citrus County" by Hampton Dunn, p. 149)

The building which would one day become the "crown jewel" of the town of Inverness, Florida, began simply as a general store.  Originally constructed at the corner of Line and Bay Street in the 1890s by Francis M. Dampier, it was the first general store in Inverness.  At the turn of the century, the store was moved to Main Street and the building was turned into the Orange Hotel.
Orange Hotel dining room 
("Back Home: A History of Citrus County" by Hampton Dunn, p. 149)
Boarders remain still for a photo taken in the Orange Hotel dining room.

But a hotel is only as strong as the people running it.  And the Orange Hotel might have never succeeded without Aunt Tom. 
Tommie Lou Waits was born to Samuel and Emma Waits on March 12, 1875 in Hawthorne, Florida.  Eventually, Aunt Tom, as she was affectionately known in later years, became Citrus County's most successful hotelier.
But Tommie Lou's path to hotel proprietorship took some unexpected turns along the way.  She married W. H. Johnson in 1896 but that marriage ended soon after with his passing.  In 1900, census records show that, at the young age of 25, a recently widowed Tommie Lou Johnson had returned to living with her parents and siblings in the Windsor district of Alachua County.
But on Valentines Day, 1908, Tommie Lou Waits-Johnson married William M. Maloy.  Originally from Franklin County, Vermont, Maloy was a railroad engineer living in Jacksonville, Florida.  He moved to Inverness after marrying Tommie Lou.
While it is believed they purchased the hotel shortly after their marriage in 1908, the exact date and means by which William and Tommy Lou acquired the Orange Hotel is not well documented.  But by 1910, census records show that the couple was living in an Inverness building with four lodgers, the first of which was Tommie Lou's niece, Ethel Waits.

Fishermen proudly display their catch in front of the Orange Hotel on Main Street. 
("Images of America: Citrus County" by Lynn M. Homan and Thomas Reilly, p. 80)

By 1920, the Orange Hotel was proving to be a successful enterprise for the Maloys.  Tommie Lou transitioned fully into the role of a hotelkeeper - managing no less than ten boarders - while William continued his work for the railroad.
A travel guide published previous to 1923 listed the services and rates of the hotel:


W. M.  MALOY, Proprietor


$2.00 Per Day

$2.50 with Bath


Rates by Week

or Month

The Leading

Commercial Hotel

of the City

In the early 1920s, Florida was booming, and soon land men and speculators would make their way to Citrus County, Inverness, and even the Maloys' modest Orange Hotel.

The Orange Hotel (left) on Main Street. 
(Back Home: A History of Citrus County" by Hampton Dunn, p. 262)

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