The Collier Inn: The joys of a small midwestern hotel


For more than 130 years a hotel occupied the northeast corner of Main Street and Cherry Avenue.

This was from 1856 until 1989. Originally, a wooden two-story structure was added to the side of the Baxter residence and the Baxter House Hotel was born. The 1856 hotel served the town of Lane. When Lane changed its name to Rochelle in 1865, the Baxter House also changed its name and became the Rochelle House.

The hotel went from owner to owner; Baxter, to Mayer, to McAdams. Located a block north of the railroad tracks, the Rochelle served as the only true competition for the Lane House which later was renamed the De Los Hotel.

Between the Rochelle House and the De Los Hotel there were two full-service livery stables. With the growth of the community and an ever-increasing amount of rail traffic, the Rochelle House chose to expand.

It was 1899 and the wooden structure was moved. To replace the two-story wooden building, a three-story brick building was erected. The new Rochelle House featured 50 rooms to let and toilets in every room. The advertising of the day compared the European facilities at the De Los (shared restrooms on each floor) and the American facilities of the Rochelle House (private restrooms).

The Rochelle House saw an uptick in business. The new brick building was impressive and private restrooms caused travelers to bypass DeKalb and Dixon to enjoy the stellar accommodations at Rochelle.

With a new owner, John Collier, came yet another name change. The Rochelle was named the Collier Inn.

"In late April 1915 — not yet famous for her writings on etiquette — Emily Price Post made a decision to travel America's roads across the new Lincoln Highway and write about it for Collier's Magazine. Starting out from Grammercy Park in New York City, Ms. Post was accompanied by her son, Edwin (Ned) and her cousin, Alice Beadleston. The three travelers set out for San Francisco in a custom-made automobile and 45 days later they arrived, though the car had to be rail-freighted to San Francisco from Arizona after a mechanical breakdown. On May 6, 1915, Emily's group became stuck in 'A Sea of Mud' just outside of Rochelle after a very heavy spring rainfall. The group took rooms in the Collier Inn for the next two days and discovered the joys of a small midwestern hotel. Said Ms. Post, ‘it seemed to us as though we had found a veritable Ritz’ (https://www.waymarking.com/).

Thus, it was that the Collier Inn became featured in Collier’s Magazine. The Collier featured everything from first-class accommodations and quality dining. Time moves on and the Collier slipped from a sought-out destination to little more than low-cost housing.

By the 1980s the train no longer stopped in Rochelle. Folks from Chicago no longer headed to the wild west for a weekend at the Bain Opera House and time spent on the frontier. The Collier deteriorated, and the owners were more than ready to take whatever profits they could.

Unfortunately, needed repairs and maintenance was much less of a necessity. Once compared to the Ritz by Emily Post, the Collier fell to disrepair. Sections of the roof collapsed, and the city was forced to condemn the property.

The Collier Inn was razed in 1989. After 134 years, the corner at Main Street and Cherry Avenue stood bare for the first time. Today the area is a parking lot next to the VFW and Moose Clubs.

Tom McDermott is a Flagg Township Museum historian and Rochelle city councilman.

Advertisement

More In Opinion