By CHRIS GOURAS
On any far or extended trip a hotel is a necessity, ask any family that's been traveling for hours, a hotel can seem like a small paradise. Some of us take for granted the convenience that a big chain hotel is, but 160 years ago there was no such thing. You could travel 100 miles and not see a single place to stay for the night. Back before interstate highways, the only place a person could find a place to stay would have been a town or settlement that might have a hotel or boarding house. Palestine was lucky to have a fine place as the Hunter Hotel. Built in 1849 by David Clark Hunter, the Hunter Hotel was located on the northeast corner of the Courthouse Square. Today it is no more than an empty lot, but when the hotel was standing it must have been a beautiful site for the tired traveler to see. The building stood three stories tall with deep verandas that stretched across the entire front of the building on all three floors. The Hunter Hotel rather resembled a plantation mansion of the era.
The Hunter Hotel was by no means a luxurious five-star accommodation. There were no electric lights or air-conditioning, not even a ballroom. However, the hotel was known for its kind hospitality and excellent standards set by Mr. Hunter. It was also known for its New Years Ball each year. Guests such as Sam Houston and his contemporaries stayed at the Hunter Hotel while visiting Palestine, often giving speeches or merely talking with the locals. They may have even enjoyed listening to Mr. Hunters daughter, Julia, play the square grand piano that sat in the reception room. The hotel would stand witness to the many brave men who marched off to fight in the Civil War. During the war, one floor of the Hotel was turned into a hospital ward to care for the wounded that came back from battle. Sadly, many men would never return to Palestine following the war.
By the 1870s the I&GN Railroad had arrived to Palestine and much finer hotels were built in “New Town” closer to the depot. By the 1880s the once fine hotel that had been home to the New Years Ball was nothing more then a deteriorating tenement house. By the 1890s the dilapidated, but still stately structure was finally demolished. In 1962, when the lot was being leveled, bulldozers discovered the old hotel's brick cistern. 40 feet in diameter, it was covered over and the lot was paved; now another footnote in local history.