Tribe plans to revive landmark hotel

Saturday, February 25th 2006, 11:26 am
By: News On 6

SULPHUR, Okla. (AP) _ The Chickasaw Nation plans to revive this community's landmark hotel, a structure that has been disassembled and reconstructed twice.

The five-story Artesian Hotel was built for the 1905 World's Fair in St. Louis, disassembled, then moved to Oklahoma and reconstructed at what then was known as Platt National Park. In 1906, the building was torn down again and moved to downtown Sulphur.

Hotel patrons paid $1.50 a night for steam heat, electric lighting, a dance pavilion and the best lobby in the state at the time.

``Oh, it was just a beautiful place, and it was the home away from home for a lot of different people _ governors and members of Congress ... people who would come here to enjoy the national park and fishing and the scenery and hot baths,'' said Eldon Cleveland, a longtime citizen and member of the Arbuckle Historical Society.

Fire destroyed the hotel in January 1962. Another hotel was built, but it fell into foreclosure.

The Chickasaw tribe purchased the hotel land in 1972 for $139,000 and built the Chickasaw Motor Inn, which had a modern appeal but lacked the historical beauty of the original Artesian.

The tribe received a $210,000 grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to build the motor inn. Instead of the Artesian's famous bath house, tribal spokeswoman Robyn Elliott said, the new owners added office space for their growing staff.

Tribal officials now view the hotel's proximity to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and southern Oklahoma's growing tourism market as prime reasons to reopen the hotel.

Its new design will be a replica of the original, with the distinctive turret-like towers on the front corners of the building. Special guest suites will extend into the towers so guests can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and parts of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

Architects aim to recreate the original lobby, where guests like Will Rogers and John Wayne passed through.

``It was definitely not a run-of-the-mill hotel,'' said Shelly Sawatzky, executive director of the Sulphur Chamber of Commerce.

Renovating the Artesian Hotel is part of the Chickasaw Nation's effort to expand its hospitality business, officials have said.

Its completion will coincide with the opening of the Chickasaw Cultural Center, which is expected to attract an estimated 200,000 guests annually, tribal officials said.