The Luther Hotel

Matagorda County Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

National Register of Historic Places

Celebrating 112 Years

408 South Bay Boulevard

Palacios, Texas

28°41’58.43”N      95°12’57.32”W       (361) 972-2312



Recorded Texas Historical Landmark

National Register Designation


Texas Treasure Business Award

Bay View Hotel - Hotel Palacios Register 1904-1912

Hotel Palacios and Luther Arrivals

History in Pictures

Luther Family

National Register Marker Dedication


Matagorda County National Register Properties

Matagorda County Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks

Texas Treasure Business Award presentation November 9, 2013
l to r: Palacios Mayor John Sardelich, Palacios Chamber of Commerce President Bruce Webb,
Luther Hotel owner Jack Findley, Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald

The Luther Hotel

The Luther Hotel is a Palacios institution that has its roots in the early development of the town.  With the arrival of the railroad, the first decade of the 20th century was a time of new settlements across Matagorda County.  Between 1901 and 1905, the small towns of Blessing, Buckeye, Markham, Van Vleck, Big Hill, Midfield, Cortes and Palacios sprang up on the prairie.

The Texas Rice Development Company reserved Block C, located between Cary and Duson Avenues, on East Trespalacios Bay for a hotel. The Palacios Townsite Company, a subsidiary of the TRDC, commissioned Victoria architect Jules Leffland to design the hotel, and D. D. Rittenhouse was the contractor/builder. The building materials were shipped from Louisiana via the Southern Pacific Railroad that came to Palacios in 1903.  Longleaf yellow pine was used for the framing and cypress for the siding. The roof was covered with 18-inch shingles. The Rittenhouse family and construction workers lived in tents while the hotel was being constructed.

The new structure was named the Bay View Hotel, and was described in a 1903 Palacios news column as having sixteen rooms.  In August 1904, Charles A. Gonder was the manager and the hotel was reported to have the capacity of 100. By that time, the boom was on and the hotel was too small to accommodate the many visitors to Palacios.  Prospective settlers traveled by rail to Palacios, being lured by “Excursion” rates offered by the Townsite Company, where they were housed in the new hotel.   Several of the managers were from northern states and they advertised the hotel as a “Winter Resort,” because of the milder winters on the Gulf Coast, further enticing visitors with the economical rates.  A new hotel was being planned. The Palacios Townsite Company decided to move the hotel one-half mile from its East Bay location to South Bay Boulevard to be near the new pavilion, which was under construction.  Leffland also designed the Palacios Pavilion.   Maj. J. J. Wheadon of Galveston was the manager of the Bay View in May, 1905.

The original hotel was what is now the center section of The Luther Hotel. During the complicated relocation, the original chimney and porches were removed. The building was sectioned into three parts and pulled by mule teams to the new site, where the sections were rejoined.  The three-story east and west wings were added to the original building and a 300-foot long porch known as the “Longest Front Porch in Texas” was added. The porch spanned the entire length of the south side as well as the east and west ends. A dining room, measuring about 70 x 20 feet, was added on the north side of the lobby with a separate kitchen and a laundry building. The new hotel was renamed Hotel Palacios.

The Hotel Palacios was advertised as having the finest bathing, splendid weather, best fishing, boating, lawn tennis, dancing on the pavilion and NO mosquitoes.

The artesian well behind the hotel provided water to the rooms by forcing the water through the pipes by its own energy. The hotel was lighted from end to end with gas generated on the premises. The fact that the hotel had only outside rooms was a big selling point. The south rooms with a view of the bay commanded a higher price.

During the summer of 1906, manager G. H. Crandall advertised rates as $2 per day, $10 per week for persons over 13 years of age and $5 for 12 years and under.

The lobby had a wide stairway with parlors on either side. The halls were carpeted, and the rooms were furnished with new iron bedsteads, hair mattresses and dressers, and washstands of mahogany, oak or Birdseye maple.

The “American Plan” included “elegant” meals with the room. The dining room had new tables and chairs, with silver, glass and Haviland china. A permanent orchestra was retained by the hotel and provided music for both lunch and dinner, as well as Sunday afternoon concerts. The Palacios Marine band often played on the porch of the hotel for the enjoyment of the guests.

By the end of 1910, the hotel had served the purpose for which the Palacios Townsite had constructed it. On January 1, 1911, the company leased it to an individual [possibly Lillian Belle Parkins] for two years at $50 per month. The operation during the next two years was unsatisfactory to the company and by January 6, 1913, C. M. Rebou had taken charge and was having “a grand clean up.”

During Rebou’s management, the ads included information about a free Box Ball Alley on the grounds. The alley was located on the northeast corner of the hotel property and provided entertainment for hotel guests who preferred not to participate in pavilion activities, especially during the winter months. The alley was a long building on a lot 65 feet long x 20 feet wide. It contained at least one alley (probably two) which had five pins and a ball smaller than those currently used by bowlers. In 1914, the building was turned over to the Palacios Library Association which occupied it until it was destroyed by Hurricane Carla in 1961.

Charles A. "Charlie" Siringo in front of the Hotel Palacios on his 1913 trip to Matagorda County
Horses Rowdy & Pat and Irish Wolfhound Eat 'Em  up Jake
Photo courtesy of Donald Harvey & Betty Rusk

By March 1913, W. W. Nichols took over management, and the American Townsite Company in San Antonio paid the hotel taxes for 1914 and 1915. Mr. and Mrs. Rebou returned in February 1915 and leased the hotel. Joseph Reynolds was the proprietor in December 1917.

J. F. Barnett purchased the Hotel Palacios and various other Palacios Townsite Company properties in a sheriff’s sale for one thousand dollars on April 2, 1918. The hotel was then sold to Charles W. Hess on April 3, 1918 for five thousand dollars. In a deed dated November 22, 1919, Mr. Hess conveyed the hotel to Ben and Mina Ehlers for ten thousand dollars. Ehlers deeded the northeast corner of the property to the Palacios Library Association on August 20, 1920.

A June 22, 1922 Palacios Beacon ad announced the Palacios Hotel was under the new management of Mrs. J. L. Phillips. The big news in July of 1924 was the purchase of the hotel by a party of Illinois men—Dr. W. W. Van Wormer, E. J. Seward and F. O. Jennings.

Palacios Hotel
Photo courtesy of Bobbie Gaspard

The Hotel Palacios was center of social life. It hosted countless banquets, dances and parties. The dining room at one time had even served as a dancing studio for Miss Alvey Wakefield.

On December 12, 1927, F. O. Jennings, Mrs. Mary E. Jennings, E. J. Seward and Minnie May Van Wormer formed the Hotel Palacios Company. Mr. and Mrs. Jennings moved to Palacios to manage the operation of the hotel. This description of the Hotel Palacios was in the company’s charter. “The said hotel consists of a main building 230 feet long by 36 feet wide, two [three] stories high, a dining room, 71 feet long and 20 feet wide, and a kitchen 39 feet long and 30 feet wide. There are 32 rooms and three dormitories in the hotel. The buildings are frame construction.”

The Hotel Palacios as it appeared during the 1930s before it was purchased by Charles Luther and renovated.

By the late 1930s the Hotel Palacios had fallen into disrepair and the hotel was purchased by Charles and Elsie Luther in 1936. Mr. Luther was quoted as saying, “The title was a mess by this time. It took four years and a trip to visit owners in every state in the nation except Washington and Oregon to get it straight according to Texas law.”

The Luthers began a massive renovation of the hotel. The old dining room and kitchen were torn down. The “Longest Front Porch in Texas” was also removed and the cypress lumber was saved. The entire building was refinished inside and out. Work on the hotel included basic structural strengthening, rewiring, new plumbing and private bathrooms which were added to each room. The breeze-ways between the central building and the wings were enclosed. Some rooms were turned into two and three room apartments to provide living quarters for families of soldiers at Camp Hulen.

The cypress saved from the long front porch went into the foundation for an eleven-room tourist court which was built on the west side of the grounds.

The renovation was finally completed in 1941 and Mr. and Mrs. Luther formally opened The Luther Hotel with an open house on April 20, 1941--their 20th wedding anniversary.

The newly-renovated hotel weathered its first hurricane as the Luther on August 20, 1942.

Photo courtesy of Jack Findley, owner of The Luther

A fire on February 27, 1944 destroyed the upper floors of the middle section and the east wing of the hotel. It was the worst fire in the town’s history and required both the Palacios and Camp Hulen fire departments to extinguish the blaze. Mr. Luther immediately began plans which repaired the hotel to a better condition than before the fire.

The Luther was host to several famous entertainers during the WWII era including Rita Hayworth, Carole Landis, Artie Shaw and “Harry” James. Lyndon Baines Johnson, a family friend of Elsie Callaway Luther, was also a guest at The Luther.

Mr. and Mrs. Luther employed several different managers to run the hotel for them. Nellie Jane Luther, Mr. Luther’s sister, ran the hotel for many years until her death in 1961. Elsie Luther’s sister, Jo Milam, served as manager for about 16 years. Later managers included Mable “Bobbie” Anthis, Lenora (Hendrix) Martin, Eileen Lewis, Betty Rusk, Mickey Crenshaw, and Billy and Dolly Hamlin.

In 1965, the State Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission) designated The Luther Hotel as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

During the 1970’s and 80’s, Mrs. Luther often had to hang out the “No Vacancy” sign because the hotel was filled with guests. The hotel was the winter home for several Canadian guests and some from Minnesota who wintered there for 20 years. The Luthers treated their guests as family and had a sign posted at the desk that read, “He who enters here is a stranger but once.”

After Elsie and Charles Luther died in 1987 and 1988, ownership of the hotel passed to their daughter, Claire Joy Dilworth, whose husband, James Colwell Dilworth III, died in 1989. Claire Joy remarried to Jack Findley in 1993 and they owned and operated the hotel until Claire Joy’s death in 2005. Jack moved to Palacios in 2011 to assume management of the hotel, and is today the welcoming face behind the desk.

The United States Department of the Interior placed The Luther Hotel on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.  A marker dedication was held Saturday, July 21st, at 4:00 p. m. Activities included the dedication program, a slide show, a tour of the hotel and refreshments. Anyone who has memories, photos or information relating to The Luther Hotel are encouraged to share them by e-mailing them to .

The Luther Hotel is the premier historic icon of the Palacios area.  As the Bay View Hotel, she welcomed guests of the Palacios Townsite Company, who became some of Palacios’ first residents in 1903.  After her move and expansion on the present site, as Hotel Palacios, and in tandem with the Palacios Pavilion, she epitomized the “City by the Sea,” welcoming thousands of guests, investors and residents.  There is no doubt that the most significant period in the hotel’s history began with the ownership of the Luther family, who refurbished the hotel and operated during the Camp Hulen years of WWII and the post war era.  Then, in the years when the nuclear age came to Matagorda County, The Luther provided lodging for workers during this time of industrial development.  Today, wintering guests still find welcome here, as do birders, sportsmen, travelers and all who appreciate a down-home, family atmosphere. Since the demise of the pavilion, The Luther Hotel stands alone as a testament to the rich heritage of the Palacios area, and remains true to Charles Luther’s motto:  “He who enters here is a stranger but once.”   

Tree west of the courts shaped by the relentless southerly winds.

Residents of the Palacios Hotel Enumerated on the 1910 Palacios Census

Ortman, Joseph B.



Farwell, Herbert B.


Townsite Co.

Farwell, Neal B.

Pay Master

U. S. Navy

Newton, Claude

Book Keeper

Townsite Office

Thrall, John


At Hotel

Wood, Frederick A.


At Hotel

Kirchmaier, Antone


At Hotel

Meadow, Garland

Dish Washer

At Hotel

Mosier, August


At Hotel

Weese, Albert


At Hotel

Weese, Ellen


At Hotel

Lurwick, Bessie


At Hotel

Clements, Marie


At Hotel





Mr. J. B. Ortman, the able manager of the Palacios hotel for the past year, signed a lease yesterday for the building for the next three years. It is the contention of Mr. Ortman to conduct the hotel on the European plan instead of the American plan, as the hotel has been run heretofore. The hotel is being remodeled and when it is finished and running under the able management of Mr. Ortman, it will undoubtedly be one of the finest hotels in the gulf country of Texas.

Matagorda County Tribune, December 30, 1910

New Hotel Manager

The Hotel Palacios is now under new management, Mr. C. M. Rebou having been succeeded by Mr. W. W. Nichols, the transfer having been made last week. Mr. Claude Newton, of San Antonio Townsite Co., was here and attended to all the details incident to the change.

Mr. Nichols is a hotel man of sixteen years experience, and comes to Palacios from the Gunter, the newest and most magnificent hotel in San Antonio, where he has been for the past two and a half years. While the house was gaining a most enviable reputation under the management of Mr. Rebou, it is a great pleasure for us to say with entire confidence that our hotel will gain still larger renown and add greatly to its popularity under Mr. Nichols' skilled management. We are glad to have Mr. Nichols as a citizen of Palacios and we can assure our readers that aside from making the hotel one of the most popular on the coast, he will be an active helper in anything that promises for the prosperity and upbuilding of Palacios.

The popular Sunday dinners will continue to be a feature of the service of the hotel, and elsewhere will be found the printed menu for the coming Sunday.

Palacios Beacon, May 23, 1913

Palacios Beacon, August 22, 1919

Carnival Dance Fri., April 6th At Hotel Palacios

The Puddle Jumping Five will have a Carnival Dance at the Palacios Hotel Friday night, April 6th and will supply plenty of confetti, paper hats and the usual fun. The main feature of the evening will be at the 11 o'clock intermission when a beautiful white gold bar pin will be raffled off. This pin is on display in the Boyd Jewelry Store window.

Palacios Beacon, March 29, 1928

The newly renovated Luther Hotel in the early 1940s.

New Luther Hotel & Auto Court - Palacios, Texas - Hill Photo #53



Hotel Palacios & Luther Hotel Arrivals


Palacios Beacon, August 11, 1911

The following are Hotel Palacios arrivals:

Friday evening
Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Tory
Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Dimeline, San Antonio
Mr. and Mrs. H. B. Binghurst and son, Houston
Mrs. R. C. Flick, Cuero
Miss Emilie Clarkson, Houston
Miss Annie Penny, Houston
Mrs. Fred G. Burnett, McKinney



Sunday evening
Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Giddings, Ganado
Mrs. Geo. Gogenworth and daughter, Columbus
Mrs. D. A. Giesher, Temple

Monday evening
Dr. H. Beauchamp, Dallas
A. H. Boyson, Houston
Mrs. W. F. Doggett, Wharton
Mrs. Chas. Belton, Wharton
Mrs. G. J. Moore, Wharton
Wednesday evening
Mrs. O. F. Holcomb, Houston
Miss R. Gibson, Angleton
Miss Thrash, Dallas
Master Edward Smith, Angleton
Mrs. W. E. Everts, Houston
J. L. Myers, Houston
N. R. Heath, Wichita Falls
D. B. Garrett, Cuero
Mrs. Beulah Cates, Ft. Worth
Rev. S. J. Reid, Belfast, Ireland
Miss Bessie Findley, Hubbard
Miss Bertha Findley, Hubbard
Miss Loula Mae Whitcheard, Dallas


Palacios Beacon August 1, 1913


J. W. Burson and family, Eagle Lake

C. M. Womacle and wife, Eagle Lake

G. A. Cavallin, LaWard

Mrs. W. P. Schwind and Miss Helen, Francitas

J. R. Beck, Houston

C. L. Lunkerly, Houston

J. W. Brown, Houston

F. G. Lott, Houston

J. F. James, Houston

Miss Genevive Powers, Victoria

Mrs. James Norden, Victoria

C. Emmett, Victoria

Miss Dora C. Powers, Victoria

Mrs. R. H. Welder, Victoria

Miss Maggie Jones, Victoria

Master J. V. Carroll, Victoria

Master Warden Lowry, Victoria

Mrs. S. E. Barclay, Dallas

W. E. Dook, Winston, N. C.

C. M. Weekley, McGregor

F. M. Moore, Uvalde

L. Worrell, Chicago

Wm. [William] F. Wylde, Dallas

R. G. Martin, Los Angeles. Cal.

R. R. Lewis and wife, Bay City

R. G. Lamkin, Parsons, Kans.



At The Luther . . .
Palacios Beacon, January 24, 1946

Among the visitors at the Luther Hotel Courts the past week
were the following:


Capt. and Mrs. David W. Needler, Evanston, Ill.
Lt. and Mrs. Robert Holler, Peoria, Ill.
Mrs. L. W. Schultz, Edinburg, Texas
Mrs. Harry Hisle, Columbus, Kans.
Mrs. W. J. Larmar, Columbus, Kans.
Mrs. Lilah Nicholson, Columbus, Kans.
Mrs. Blanche Gaither, Columbus, Kans.
Mr. and Mrs. Rollie Sipe and family, New Castle, Ind.
General and Mrs. E. A. Reyneir and family, Falls Church, Va.
Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Jones, Kansas City, Kans.
Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Rich and party, Beloit, Wis.
Mr. and Mrs. Claude T. Bennett, Kokomo, Ind.
Mr. and Mrs. Anson Letman, Johnstown, N. W.
Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Tyler, Elkhart, Ind.
Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Tyler, Mishaevoka, Ind.
L. E. Lamere, Ludlow, Vt.
Monroe Schroeder, Bishop, Texas
Mr. and Mrs. D. E. M'Leod, Shawnee, Kans.
Claude Pate, Kansas City, Kans.
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Peniwith, Springfield, Ill.



At The Luther . . .
Palacios Beacon, January 31, 1946

Guests at the Luther the past week:

Lt. and Mrs. Vernon Miller, Pasadena, Texas

B. C. Cardwell, Houston

C. H. Haley, Houston

Fred Miller and son, Houston

M. S. Kerby, Houston

Mr. and Mrs. W. Thompson, Austin

Mr. and Mrs. T. G. Muler, Austin

Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Wheeler, Houston

Frank Conwell, Port Neches

Mr. and Mrs. Wm. D. Gray, Houston

Mr. and Mrs. P. S. Valdez, Carrollton, Texas

W. O. McGuffey, Austin

Mr. and Mrs. Brubaker, Tyler

Thomas M. Meaders, Dallas

Capt. Arthur P. Stouerwald, Dallas

Capt. F. B. Vernon, Dallas

Col. W. C. Torrance, Waco

Judge R. B. Stanford, Waco

Col. G. J. Barron, Waco

Mr. and Mrs. King and party, Great Bend, Kans.

Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Gray, Oak Park, Ill.

Mr. and Mrs. R. T. Webb, La Feria

Mrs. H. D. Mills, Littleton, N. H.

N. Dearbone, Littleton, N. H.

A. J. Bonnon, Houston

Hector McDonald, Houston

Mr. and Mrs. R. O. Mangum and family, Houston

L. E. Hutchinson, Houston



At The Luther . . .

Palacios Beacon, February 7, 1946


R. W. Merchant, Houston

B. C. Cordwell, Houston

Mr. Haley, Houston

C. C. Zimmerman, Houston

Ralph Clark, Houston

H. E. Anderson, Houston

M. E. Hylton, Dallas

Carl E. Davis, Friendswood, Texas

Lt. Col. and Mrs. E. A. Olson, Dallas

Lt. and Mrs. W. J. Raddatz, Corpus Christi

E. D. Ratliff, San Antonio

D. H. Hamilton and family, Victoria

Wm. E. Myers, Dallas

C. J. Huston, Dallas

Dr. and Mrs. C. A. Stovel and party, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Mr. and Mrs. L. G. Hall, Almena, Kans.

Mr. and Mrs. Jack Trader, Corpus Christi

W. O. Coles, Houston

Capt. F. A. De Larm, Camp Howze, Texas


At The Luther

Palacios Beacon, February 21, 1946


Among the guests at the Luther this week were:

Mr. and Mrs. Otto Gillig, Seabright, N. J.

Mr. and Mrs. J. Schneiderman, Columbus, Ohio

Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Kingsley, Jetmore, Kans.

Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Shloff, Jetmore, Kans.

Vernon J. Giss, Chicago, Ill.

Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Moore, Los Angeles, Calif.

Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Johnson, Pawhuska, Okla.

Mrs. Goldie, Pawhuska, Okla.

Mrs. Jones, Pawhuska, Okla.

Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Elliott, Knob Noster, Mo.

Betty Elliott, Knob Noster, Mo.

Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Soulta, Knob Noster, Mo.

Mr. E. C. Peroyla, Natchez, Miss.

Bart Fulton, Natchez, Miss.

F. D. Royer, Houston

E. M. DeBokery, Houston

R. P. Meineke, Houston

A. H. Young, Houston

D. Houston, Houston

John L. Chambers, Dallas

Ray Lackland, Dallas

L. M. Burnett, Dallas

Dr. and Mrs. J. B. Morgan, San Antonio

Miss Ada Mae Morgan, San Antonio

Mrs. Jo Redforn, Galveston

Frank Conwell, Port Neches, Texas

Wm. Hayden, Port Neches, Texas

Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Hairgrove, Beaumont, Texas



At The Luther

Palacios Beacon, March 7, 1946


Among the guests at the Luther this week were:

Glen DeLong and A. F. Mercer, Kokomo, Ind.
Capt. and Mrs. J. B. Hamlin, Savannah, Ga.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McIran, Cincinnati, Ohio
Mrs. A. J. Harris, San Diego, Calif.
Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Paddock, Columbus, Ohio
Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Wilhelm, Columbus, Ohio
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Doll, Omaha, Neb.
Mr. and Mrs. A. Miller, Shreveport, La.
Christ G. Riefler, Dallas
James Dunlop, Galveston, Tex.
Mack Hester, Galveston, Tex.
Will Kingston, Galveston, Tex.
Robert Tipps, Wichita Falls, Tex.
L. R. Shankle, Victoria, Texas
Harold Pugh, Las Fresnos, Texas
R. I. Ballard, Houston, Tex.
L. L. Lodering, Houston, Tex.
H. M. Falkenhagen, Houston, Tex.
Mr. and Mrs. Walter Morrison, Houston, Tex.
Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Harris, Houston, Tex.
Ernest L. Brown, B. Daugbjerg [Daughberg?], Houston, Tex.



Copyright 2012 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Jul. 19, 2012
Jun. 1, 2016