[dropcap]The[/dropcap] Eskridge Hotel Museum stands in the heart of Wynnewood in southern Oklahoma. The reason for the hotel’s existence (and one could argue the existence of the entire town) lies a few blocks away in miles of railroad tracks. Today, the Eskridge is a museum chock-full of late-19th century and early-20th century items of interest, but it is also the center of the community, just like in its heyday a century ago.
Pinckney Reid Eskridge, a cotton salesman with an entrepreneurial spirit, saw a need and met it. He spent much time traveling on trains between Oklahoma City and Dallas during the last part of the 1800s, and none of the hotels available was particularly pleasant. So he built his own and designed it to meet the needs of his fellow traveling salesmen – with comfort and good food.
Eskridge outfitted the beds with top-of-the-line Ostermoor mattresses and even had some extra long beds for taller men. The restaurant in the hotel was famous for its fried chicken dinners and was a favorite spot for locals and travelers alike. The Eskridge gained the reputation as the finest hotel between Oklahoma City and Dallas.
“It was a hub of activity because of the salesmen who stayed at the hotel while they were on the road to sell their wares,” says Luann Sewell Waters, the Wynnewood Historical Society secretary and treasurer.
When the Eskridge Hotel opened in 1907, it became the lifeblood of Wynnewood.
“Community groups, such as the Kiwanis, had their meetings in the hotel dining room, and families came from far around for meals and fried chicken on Sundays, as well,” Waters says.
Locals met with family, friends and neighbors in the restaurant, and the dining room was a popular place to hold parties and meetings for community groups. Some of those traditions continue.
“Today, it is still a place for meetings, receptions and special events and is the location for many of the community library’s summer reading programs,” Waters says.
The museum showcases items from the beginnings of Wynnewood dating to the 1880s.
“The Eskridge is a storehouse for the community’s history and an opportunity for a ‘stroll down memory lane’ for a lot of people,” Waters says.
There is a fascinating collection including turn-of-the-20th-century and older clothing, as well as displays of the period’s medical and dental equipment, a barber shop complete with chairs, funeral parlor, doll collection, kitchen and general store. Each of the old hotel rooms holds treasures from the past and many are arranged in carefully curated displays.
The Eskridge Hotel Museum is owned and operated by the Wynnewood Historical Society, and tours are available by appointment.
Once a monument to modern convenience and comfort, the Eskridge Hotel shows its age in many respects. But, due to the hard work and dedication of its fans, the stately building stands as a tip of the hat to the past – a reminder of where we’ve been and whence we’ve come.