Inn History

Me, Thomas Beckett, THE original six-toed cat.

Me, Thomas Beckett, THE original six-toed cat.

Greetings, fair visitor to this historic inn. My name is Thomas Beckett and I am a ghost cat – THE ghost cat around here, by the way. Please don’t confuse my name with that of the martyred Saint Thomas Becket, who has enjoyed haunting the Canterbury Cathedral for many centuries.  He’s much older that I. Or with that of the late Samuel Beckett, noted Irish author and playwright; I am far older than he, though I admire his writing. Actually, Thomas Beckett is one of my most recent, of dozens of names given me, throughout the decades. Of all my names it is my favorite. Over the years I have become it's historian and the inn is now named for me.

Inn under construction.

About 1903 a group of men, both locals and their backers from other areas, decided to build a new, modern hotel on Central Avenue, Allerton’s main street, close enough to the railroad depot where it would be a short carriage ride or easy walk in good weather for guests seeking a room and a meal. 

It took until 1909 for the original investors to create the “Allerton Hotel Company” in order to build the hotel itself. An architect named Church was chosen to build it. He had a very good reputation. 

Cat treats: The chandelier in the main dining room comes from the Trenton, MO theater.

The initial construction cost $10,000, plus the original cost of the land and the hotel opened in late 1909 as “one of the finest hotels in the state” with a large ballroom and comfortable rooms where railroad conductors and executives (not many section hands and no porters) would stay and get a good meal as they waited for their next assigned train. Of course I started hanging out around the summer kitchen area for scraps.

Merchant Hotel

The Inn has gone through several hands through the years. Dr. Williams was one of the first having gotten the Inn deeded to him because the owner needed money. By 1914, the Allerton Hotel Company was ready to liquidate its holdings in town and sold the hotel for $6900 to Mr. E.E. Keller. He renamed it the “Merchants Hotel” which was its name for many years thereafter. He often displayed work by local or traveling artists.

Keller had hired Mr. and Mrs. William Lowry to manage the hotel and, at their suggestion, did a complete redecoration of the hotel in 1935. The following year, the Lowrys moved to Corydon and Mrs. Charles Boysal took over the management of the hotel.

Cat treats: The bannister is original and asymmetrical to fit your hand. The front doors have handles that are offset to fit your hand as well.

After Mrs. Boysal, Miss Jessie Holmes managed the hotel in connection with her beauty parlor. V.E. Bettis had his barber shop in the lobby and there was a dining room and office space.

Following Miss Holmes’ departure, Sears and Sprow Insurance took over the space where the beauty parlor had been, followed by O.K. Engene Insurance. A shoe shop and barber shop, at one time during the period rented space in the front of the basement – there used to be an outside entrance next to the front stairway and a dentist office was located in the basement through the Elm Street side lower entrance. The hotel continued to rent rooms mainly to railroad conductors, since Allerton was still the central location for them to change passenger trains.

Cat treats: The tin ceilings are all original.

By the war’s end, in 1945, the hotel was sold to Mr. John Brooks for $1200, then, almost immediately, to V.E. and Fannie Bettis, who owned it for the next decade. 

The hotel now went through quite a few different owners: from V.E. and Fannie Bettis to J. Philip and Mary Burch to C.L. and Mildred Killam to Vernon and Ethel Niday to O.J. and Lagatha Higbee to Charles and Mildred Minor and later Armond and Laura Marie Miner families into the 1970s, finally owned by Leo D. and Nedra Corinne Halfhill.

Cat treats: The chandelier in the ballroom is from the church here in Allerton. They had no place for it when they lowered there ceiling.

When the passenger rail service had ceased to operate through Allerton in 1967 it cut deeply into what little outside business the old hotel could expect. Now simply called the Allerton Hotel it became low-cost housing, primarily for senior citizens. The whole inn including the basement was divided up into small apartments.

Bob Finley

Bob Finley

But then in 1984 Bob Finley purchased the hotel. He turned it into  a fine dining establishment with first-class rooms for guests. It was a few years before the actual renovation began, but when it did, it was done in a flurry. Bob named the inn for the six-toed cat that hung around the inn while he was refurbishing it. Of course that was me and he named me Thomas Beckett. Good man, Mr. Finley.

Finley sold the inn to Norman Shaw and Cheryl Cook Joyner in the spring of 2000, but the Joyners were not as successful as Finley had been and closed the inn for good in 2002. So there it sat, and here I sat.

Wandering by and peaking in the windows Julie Fisher, who had always wanted to have a bed and breakfast, fell in love with my old hotel. Late in the summer of 2003 Julie and her family moved in. They gutted the kitchen and finished restoring the inn. 

Stain glass at the inn.

Stain glass at the inn.

In 2010 the inn passed to new owners, Linda and Larry Murphy and Kay Boam. They also fell in love with my inn. They maintained the inn as a bed and breakfast and continued with catering events and putting on dinners. They also host hunters in hunting season. It's a time when a cat can't get in a good cat nap anywhere but a time when good food abounds.

Now their Niece, Celeste Bivin (and her dog ... Missy Mouse), has moved here and the inn is now owned by her and Kay. I have high hopes for the future as this family sees itself as caretakers of the inn not owners.

I still prowl the halls in the Inn, and occasionally mess with the dog for amusement.... ~Thomas Beckett