The hotel committee was appointed and teams organized by the Chamber of Commerce.
A large and desirable corner lot in the business district was secured—the drive was on and in short local people subscribed order stock for a modern 40-room hotel with all conveniences. Hotel Chester was good enough to be in any city!
It was popular with the traveling people and crowded to the limit. Make reservations with Mr. Watson in advance the people were told. The only criticism ever passed upon it is that it ought to have 80 rooms.
So it was that The Hotel Chester constructed in 1925 acts as the eastern terminus of Starkville’s historic central business district.
As the largest single structure in the original business district, the Spanish Colonial Revival building represents an architecturally ambitious undertaking and is a high significant local landmark.
The famous architect, N. W. Overstreet, a former A & M student, having graduated in 1908, designed it. He then went to the University of Illinois for his degree in architecture. He was a classmate of Arthur L. Goodman of Starkville in whose home he frequented. Mr. Overstreet is Mississippi’s most prominent 20th-century architect who also designed the YMCA at Mississippi State University
The Hotel Chester was fostered and financed by Starkville citizens with the Chamber of Commerce acting as the organizing body.
The Starkville Hotel Corp. purchased the site of the hotel on January 30, 1924 and constructed the building at a cost of $80,000. Furnishings and equipment amounted to approximately $15,000. Named for Chester Jarnigan, President of the Oktibbeha County Chamber of commerce, the hotel was constructed by D. D. Thomas & Son, a Memphis contractor. Mr. A. H. Alvis of Jackson, MS was the initial lessee of the property. Mr. Alvis also operated the Heidelberg in Jackson, the Alvis in Baton Rouge, the Yarbrough in Huntsville and the Gordon in Albany, GA.
The building was known as the Hotel Chester until 1940 when the name was changed to the Stark Hotel. Named in honor of John Stark, a hero of the American Revolution.
The Stark Hotel remained the property of the Starkville Hotel Corp until July 21, 1965.
John Curtis Page purchased the building in 1965 and converted the structure to business offices on the ground floor and student apartments on upper floors.
December 3, 1969, Citizens Realty Company purchased the property. The building was sold again on July 2, 1976 to F. Harrell Josey.
On May 8, 1984 when the property was sold to Pryor Spencer Bailey, III and named the Ivy Guest House. Today it is once again named Hotel Chester.
A 1925 description of the hotel described the hotel as follows.
The lobby was spacious, well equipped, and furnished and was entered from the center door from the front on Main Street.
Directly in front as you entered was the office where the manager, the clerk, the bookkeeper and the telephone operator all whose duty was to “service” were found.
To the right as one entered the lobby, was the cigar and newsstand.
Here one was able to supply their wants in cigars, cigarettes, news, and periodicals.
In addition, there was a “Drive It Yourself” taxicab service which was maintained where those traveling without cars could secure it at a nominal sum for the making of trips into adjacent territory.
On the left as you entered, the Western Union Telegraph office was located under the management of Miss Bonnibell Boykin.
In the lobby of the hotel were found pay telephone stations, handsomely closeted and proof against interference or interruption.
A hotel switchboard with a private hotel operator was in charge of phones to each room.
A modern elevator serviced the three-story hotel.
The dining room of the hotel was under the supervision of Mr. Stewart Hobgood.
Not only were the regular dining room services offered, special banquets, dinners, or lunches for those organizations or individuals ordering them could be booked.
Mr. Hobgood also operated a modern coffee room. It was equipped with the Wright Enamel Lunch Counters, the latest and most sanitary method of serving.
There was also a Private Dining Room, tastefully decorated with blue draperies, table linens to match and a Baldwin piano which could be called into service as occasions demanded.
The dining room and kitchens were equipped with the finest and best furnishings and cooking equipment installed by Loubat Co. of New Orleans.
On the ground floor easily accessible was the Sample Room where sample cases could be opened and goods displayed to the prospective buyers in the most approved way.
The bedrooms were furnished with a fine suite of metal furniture, handsomely finished in walnut and mahogany.
Every room was supplied with desk, writing materials, telephone, clothes closets, and hot and cold water.
The window shades, the very best to be had were furnished by Philip Goodman while the draperies that added so much to them were supplied by another local firm, Blumenfeld and Fried.
Adjoining the lobby on either side, on Main Street were the following businesses which occupied space furnished by the Hotel Chester: Mingee’s Men’s Wear, a gentlemen’s shop of rare splendor where all manner of men’s wear was kept in latest fads and fancies; Hogan’s Insurance Agency, the oldest and one of the most reliable and best equipped institutions of its kind in the State; and Ballard’s Barber Shop with good barbers; a pressing department; and a laundry agency for the convenience of hotel guests and the public.
It has been said that the Hotel was the Show Window of the City of Starkville!
Mrs. Beverly Robinson remembers...
I remember my uncle John Hogan’s Insurance office being in the Hotel Chester and the show window! It was very nice.