Below is an assessment of the Bailey Hotel for The National Register of Historic Places. It would be our next stop in Bunkie. You can't browse Bunkie without checking out the Bailey. I think I'd over saturated my guest with railroad memorabilia and mushroom hunting. It was time for some Southern Comfort in a place dealing in very special rooms.
My use of the document below is to try to instill some interest in this building and to get you to stay there a night or more. By doing so, you may save it. If not, bricks will go for a buck a piece. We spoke to the owner for about 30 minutes. He expressed the plight of a small business man in today's changing social environment and super taxation. I don't believe he can survive much longer. I suggest staying and soaking up some of the Bailey's and surrounding history before it goes down like the rest of America under this administration. He's one of Obama's targets in wealth redistribution. Steal from the productive entrepreneur and give it to the unproductive parasite until there is no more to give, all the while creating a super dependent population to cheer on their leader for crumbs of benevolence when the destruction and pillaging are over.
The Bailey has seen its ups and downs. It is still elegant. If it slips, he will close the doors and sell the bricks. I have a feeling he will not let it be given to the forces which caused its downfall.
Below is its history and observations made by the NRHP representatives. Pictures and my comments will follow.
The Bailey Hotel is a large, two story building with brick load-bearing walls. The hotel stands on
the corner of Magnolia and Walnut streets, a busy intersection one block from the main thoroughfare in the Avoyelles Parish town of Bunkie. Courthouse records indicate that the land intended for the hotel was purchased on January 15,1907, while a 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the completed building. Since construction likely began soon after site acquisition, a date of 1907 will be used for the purposes of this nomination. During the historic period the Italianate style hotel was enlarged and its porch and lobby facade received a Colonial Revival facelift (see below). Despite some non-historic alterations (mainly on the interior), the building remains eligible for National Register listing. The hotel’s unusual and distinctive shape is its most character-defining feature. This can best be appreciated through photos and the attached sketch map. The building wraps around Magnolia and Walnut streets, with a lobby entrance at the corner and a curved porch. Wings projecting forward from the main building mass are located at each street elevation. The Magnolia Street wing is original, although it appears to have been expanded toward the rear early in the historic period (as can be seen in changes in the second floor window treatment and the parapet height). The Walnut Street wing dates from sometime between 1923 and 1931 (per Sanborn maps). An original rear wing (see map) is not visible from the two streets.
As would be expected, most of the hotel is given over to guest rooms. Notable exceptions are
the lobby with a double staircase which rises from a common landing a few steps above the floor and the hotel’s original dining room, located in the rear wing.
The hotel’s single and paired windows with bold segmentally arched concrete hood molds mark it
as an example of the Italianate style (albeit a restrained one). The Walnut Street addition’s windows are identical copies of the paired windows on the older portion of the building. The structure also has two thick concrete belt courses. One is located along the line of the building’s watertable, the other on the level of the second floor. Both belt courses are formed by extending the windows’ sills until the extensions join those nearby. The building also exhibits two thin brick belt courses and the simply molded brick parapet mentioned above. A historic photograph shows that the original curving porch, surmounted by what was probably a metal canopy, was only one-story high. Unfortunately, the photograph is not clear enough to indicate what kind of columns, piers or poles supported the canopy; nor can the appearance of the original door be seen. The present two-story Colonial Revival porch (1941) features very slender colossal fluted columns with diminutive bases and capitals. These support a broad entablature, above which is a metal balustrade with the words “Bailey Hotel” worked into its design. The lobby’s present Colonial Revival style entrance (also 1941) has double doors contained within a surround
composed of fluted pilasters with necking and capitals, a full entablature, and a large arched wooden sunburst motif reminiscent of a transom.
The first floor of the Magnolia Street wing may have originally held guest rooms, but for many years the area served as the hotel owner’s quarters. In 1956 this space was gutted to create a large room to be used as a café. At that time glass block was used to close up an exterior door and several windows on the first floor, and this work broke the previously continuous line of the first floor belt course on the Magnolia Street wing’s facade. The hotel’s old kitchen was also expanded at this time (refer to 1956 addition shown on map). The interior experienced more alteration during the 1970s. As a result of plans to convert the hotel into a drug rehabilitation center, the second floor was gutted down to its brick and stud walls, and part of the first floor was gutted as well. Cancellation of this project stopped the demolition before it was completed. The hotel is now in the hands of new owners who are in the process of rehabilitating the building. To date, their work has included the following: a new roof, new wiring, major repairs to the plumbing, asbestos abatement, and the replacement of rotten structural members.
Assessment of Integrity
The Bailey is being nominated to the Register because it served as a focus of social and business life in Bunkie from its construction in 1907 up to and past the 50-year cutoff for significance (1949). During this period it evolved into its present exterior appearance, with an expansion in the 1920s and a porch/entrance facelift in 1941. Obviously patrons from the 1930s and ‘40s would recognize the old hotel should they return to Bunkie today, which is the litmus test for historical nominations. And patrons who knew the hotel in its earliest days would also recognize it because of its unusual and distinctive shape, as well as its prominently articulated Italianate windows. And while the interior has been compromised, the basic floorplan remains as does what was probably the hotel’s only notable interior feature – the lobby’s double staircase.
Significant Dates: 1907-1949
The Bailey Hotel is locally significant in the areas of social and commercial history because of its role as a center of social and business activity in the Avoyelles Parish community of Bunkie. The Bailey served as the town’s principal hotel from its 1907 construction date until well after 1949, the Register’s fifty year cutoff. It continued to serve as a hostelry through July 1970.
As mentioned in Part 7, conveyance records in the Avoyelles Parish courthouse document that
the land for the hotel was purchased by widow Josephine I. Ernest on January 15, 1907. A Sanborn Fire Insurance Map clearly shows her building, known at that time as the Hotel Ernest, in place by 1909. At that time the new hotel had two competitors. A historic photograph records that one, known as the Carnahan, was a simple two-story frame building which appears to have been smaller than the Bailey.
Located approximately a block south of the Texas and Pacific Railroad Station, it was apparently used by railroad workers staying overnight in Bunkie. The second competitor was called the Southern. Also two stories tall but smaller than the Carnahan, it stood a little over a block from the latter and two blocks from the depot. Because newspapers covering early twentieth century events in Bunkie are not available until the 1920s, one can only surmise the impact which the Ernest had on the operation of the Carnahan and Southern. However, with its better facilities (including a public dining room) and its convenient site one block west of the depot, the Ernest likely caused financial headaches for the owners of the other facilities. The Southern had disappeared by 1923. Mrs. Ernest operated her hotel until 1918, when the building was sold at a sheriff’s sale for $6,500. (The reason she lost the building is unknown.) One month later R. Lee Bailey purchased the business for $7,250. The Bailey family would own and operate the hotel for the next forty years. By 1925 business was apparently so good that Bailey (now a town alderman) sold the hotel’s old furnishings and purchased new accouterments for the building. It may have been at this time that he built the north wing which Sanborn maps show was added between 1923 and 1931. Also in 1925 the hotel received an important endorsement when T. M. Callahan, editor of the Lafayette Dailey [sic] Advertiser, called it “. . .the leading hotel of this section, . . .” after a visit to the town. The renamed Bailey Hotel served as the focal point of Bunkie’s social life at least between 1925 (the first year for which newspaper articles and advertisements are available) and 1949 (the Register’s fifty year cutoff). Because it was the town’s major hotel from the time of its completion onward, one can assume it also played this role between 1907 and 1925. Although the Carnahan remained in business, elderly Bunkie residents interviewed for this nomination all agree that the Bailey was THE place to go. Because it had an attractive dining room which served three good meals a day, townspeople liked to meet there to socialize over lunch or dinner. One interviewee, who helped his father deliver wood to the hotel’s kitchen during the early years of the Great Depression, remembers that the dining room and kitchen were busy places even during that difficult time. The hotel made an excellent site for weddings, with the bride descending to the lobby via the staircase rather than walking down an aisle. Receptions and luncheons were held in the dining room. Sometimes newly married couples would set up housekeeping in one or two rooms of the Bailey after returning from their honeymoons. When businessman Bailey purchased a $3,000 “orchestrion” for the new movie theater he was building, he placed it in the hotel’s lobby until the movie house was complete. He then invited townspeople to visit the hotel for a demonstration of the instrument’s capabilities. The community’s Thursday Bridge Club appears to have met at the hotel for several years; and when a documentary movie about how to play bridge properly came to town, the hotel as well as the theater sold tickets to the event. According to another interviewee, who moved to Bunkie in 1920, the hotel played a special role during both World Wars by temporarily sheltering servicemen from nearby camps who were seeking weekend entertainment in Bunkie. During World War II the Baileys also operated an informal referral service for the soldiers by seeking (through newspaper advertisements) rooms in private homes whenever their facility was full. In addition to its social role, the Bailey also occupied an important place in the community’s business life. For example, it was such a well known landmark that local newspaper advertisements and articles used it as a reference point when describing the locations of other businesses and sites. In January 1925 Bunkie businessmen chose the Bailey to host an evening meeting organized to found a local Rotary Club. The ladies of the town also attended the event, which included dinner and entertainment as well as speeches on the origin and ethics of the organization. Thereafter, the club held its monthly meetings at the Bailey, again inviting the ladies whenever a gathering was to include a special guest speaker or other type of entertainment. The Bailey also hosted small conferences, such as the September 1925 meeting of presidents and secretaries of the state’s chambers of commerce. Such meetings brought additional revenue to the town. When owner Bailey decided his town needed a jewelry store and persuaded the Carter jewelry chain to operate it, he housed the shop in his hotel for several months until the new business’ own building could be remodeled. Attracted by the hotel’s good service, traveling salesmen and women also gave their business to the Bailey. The ladies (who handled cosmetics, imported gifts, and other items of interest to the town’s female population) often set up shop in the hotel’s sleeping rooms. Other guests -- professionals such as accountants and doctors who periodically visited the town because their services were not routinely provided there -- also conducted business in the Bailey’s rooms. The hotel’s staff sometimes assisted by making appointments and keeping track of their future schedules, while the local newspaper announced their presence and hours of availability. Perhaps the hotel’s most amusing guest was Professor Zanga, “Seer and Clairvoyant,” who spent a week at the Bailey in 1925 advising clients about their “troubles, problems, and business matters.” Although its business must have been reduced by the popularity of the automobile and the motels built to serve it (as well as the decline in railroad traffic caused by the auto and truck), the Bailey Hotel continued in operation well past World War II. In 1956 Lloyd Bailey, son of R. Lee Bailey, sold the building to Mr. and Mrs. Horace Guillot; it was they who remodeled the downstairs owner’s quarters into a
large café (see Part 7). They, in turn, sold the building in 1968. The new owner tried and failed to make the Bailey again viable as a hotel. As a result, the Guillots were forced to repossess the property. In 1970 they sold it to a general contractor who used the first floor as his office. His business also failed, at which point a local bank came into control of the building. The bank donated the structure to a drug rehabilitation program, but strong community opposition eventually stopped this project. The hotel then stood vacant for a number of years before being purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Jones. This couple, in turn, sold the building to Thomas McNabb and William Elkhay, who are rehabilitating the structure for use as a hotel and reception center. McNabb is related to the Bailey family.
Bunkie Record, 1925 - 1946; copies of pertinent pages in National Register file.
Eakin, Sue. Undated newspaper column concerning history of Bailey Hotel; copy in National Register file.
Historic photos of Bailey and Carnahan hotels, in La Commission des Avoyelles and Sue Eakin.
Avoyelles Parish . . . Crossroads of Louisiana Where All Cultures Meet. Baton Rouge: Moran
Publishing Company, 1981; copies in National Register file.
Interview with Lloyd Turner, October 22, 1997, Bunkie, Louisiana.
Interview with Mrs. Etta Tubre, October 22, 1997, Bunkie, Louisiana.
Interview with Mrs. Franklin Kyle, Sr., October 22, 1997, Bunkie, Louisiana.
Interview with Mrs. Horace Guillot, October 22, 1997, Bunkie, Louisiana.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Bunkie, Louisiana, 1909, 1923, 1931.
Site visit by National Register staff..
Obviously, some of these pictures were taken earlier.
Because of that, I was able to seem less like a Jap tourist.
We arrived. The place looked much the same. That's its strength.
It was a big night for a famous blues singer. I meant to get
her name. She had crossed paths with Guitar Slim and Elvis.
Yes, they let us park out front.
The place was quiet, the remainder of last night's visitors had just
It was evident we were not at the Holiday Inn or Motel 6, 8, 10 or 12.
The dining room radiated Central Louisiana's genteel days gone by.
I forgot to ask about this.
Here is the way to your room.
An elderly gentleman sat on the porch. As you can see
Al has dumped the Grecian and gone au'natural.
He murmured that he'd sent himself a letter and was
waiting for it to arrive. I reminded him that it was
Sunday. His reply was, "Which"?
Across the street is the post office. Sitting and waiting for
a letter on the Bailey's porch is not such a bad idea. We
joined Al and talked about letter sending and receiving
in Central Louisiana.
This one is intended to get you off your tail and take the
little lady to some place elegant, like the Bailey, before it
is gone or she is gone looking for someone that will.
Get it done!! HERE: The Bailey Hotel Website