The Chief Hotel experiences several fires

Hannah Gross

A photo of the Chief Hotel from its days full of guests


Photos courtesy of Leonard Cash


Hannah Gross

NLJ Correspondent 

With Leonard Cash, historian


In this week’s installment of “History on Main,” Leonard Cash begins a new series on the Chief Hotel that was located in the white building next to A-1 Agency, beginning with a News Letter Journal article from Sept. 1, 1938, when excavation for the building started. 

Henry Egert and Ralph Doyle were building five “modern” structures, including three houses, a dental bungalow office and a two-story building, which would be the hotel. These structures were to fill the 150-foot vacant space along the street and the newly built C.A. Ward Lumber Co. to “make it one of the most attractive streets in the city.” 

The 70- by- 26-foot hotel was to be a frame and stucco construction, complete with air conditioning and modernistic designs for the interior decorations. The building was to be divided into two-room rental units, providing 10 apartments. 

J.L. Sundstrom was awarded the contract for the rock and stone work, and Kline & Kline Carpentering was doing the interior decorating with Bud Gilbert.

By Jan. 12, 1939, the “strictly modern” Chief Hotel was completed with the latest fixtures. There were 16 hotel rooms, seven apartments, and two business offices, equipped to offer “utmost in comfort and convenience.” The rooms were furnished with chairs, floor lamps, rugs, drapes, a writing desk and “other necessities.” 

The floors were laid with carpet and inlaid linoleum with cream-colored walls. The lobby and office had chrome furniture “making the rooms very attractive.” The laundry equipment was in the basement, where the oil burner was, with a new washing machine. Doyle was the owner, and he invited everyone to come visit the new hotel. 

An announcement was put in a local, undated newspaper to congratulate the hotel on its newest purchase of eight Monarch electric range ovens, featuring a “floating heat oven,” porcelain roaster, cooker and saucepan. The heat was generated by “hi-heat” electric coils and “conserved for actual use with effective insulation,” along with “dependable” automatic temperature and time control. 

“Electric cooking brings with it cleanliness, convenience and freedom,” the advertisement says. “A small down payment places the new Monarch Range in your kitchen. Easy monthly payments can be arranged.”

On Jan. 4, 1945, it was reported that a fire broke out at the Chief Hotel because some oil around the burner caught      fire. Fortunately, the fire department was called, and the fire was quickly extinguished before any significant damage was done. Evidently, this was not the first fire because the article said it was the third fire at the hotel. 

A few months later, an article from Oct. 25, 1945, announced that Claude R. Drown and Albert Toulouse purchased the hotel. Both Toulouse and his wife were to manage the hotel. Drown was the assistant manager for Mutual Life Insurance Co. of New York but lived in Sheridan. He planned on continuing his business in addition to the new hotel responsibilities. Toulouse had an executive position with the Republic Coal Co. for 20 years, and he came “very well recommended.” He was actively involved with the Masons, American Legion and Boy Scouts.  

Another fire broke out in the hotel around Feb. 7, 1946 — this time the firemen thought it   started in the electric wiring, but it took three hours to locate the source. A considerable amount of damage was done. 

Because Doyle was the original owner, Cash decided to include the obituary of his wife, Ella, which appeared in the Dec. 19, 1946, paper. She was only 38 years old when she died, and she was found Monday morning around 10:30 a.m. 10 miles northwest of town in the family car. 

Her funeral was held on Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. at Methodist Church in Newcastle before she was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. A choir provided the music for service, including songs such as “In the Garden,” “Valley of Peace” and “One Sweetly Solemn Thought.” 

Ella Doyle was born on Nov. 5, 1908, in Newcastle, although she lived in Osage. She graduated from Newcastle High School before going to nursing school at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Alliance, Nebraska, to become a registered nurse. She was also active in the American Legion Auxiliary. She married Ralph on May 15, 1935, and at the time of her death, she left a 2-year old daughter named Sally.

A news report from Jan. 6, 1949, announced that one of the largest real estate transactions in Newcastle was completed when the Toulouses sold the hotel and apartments  to Emil Evey for $115,000. Evey was a well-known man who had      been doing business in the area for 20 years, and he officially took possession of the hotel on Jan. 1, according to the Jan. 12, 1949, Weston County Gazette

The Toulouses put a “thank you” in the Jan. 13, 1949, News Letter Journal

“Thanks. We wish to thank our many friends and patrons for the fine patronage and co-operation extended us during the past three years,” they said. 

However, Evey didn’t have possession very long because the Oct. 5, 1950, paper reported that he sold it to Alfred Danielson. Danielson had a ranch on Oil Creek, but he traded the ranch to Evey for the hotel. 

Two years later, it was announced in the Oct. 30, 1952, issue that the 17-room Chief Hotel and 25 apartments were to be auctioned off. The rooms and apartments were all furnished and of good condition. A few months later, another significant sale was made when Toulouse and Drown sold the historic Sheridan Inn to E.C Jensen, according to an article from July of 1953. Although not related to the Chief Hotel, Cash wanted to include it because it involved Toulouse and Drown. 

By Jan. 28, 1954, the Chief Hotel was sold, this time back into the possession of Ralph Doyle. Eventually, Addie Keener was the owner because an article from March 24, 1977, announced that she sold it to John T. Bell of Rapid City, South Dakota. Keener and her late husband, George, owned and managed the property for 23 years.

More considerable damage, costing between $5,000 and $8,000, was done to the hotel around June 23, 1977, when another fire struck one of the apartments. It was caused by a short circuit in the
electrical wiring. 

A few months later, Woody Hasting and his wife became the new managers, according to the Sept. 1, 1977, paper. 

Just five years after the last fire, the March 25, 1982, issue reported yet another fire in the south apartment unit of the complex, leaving
extensive damage. 

“Firemen battled the blaze most of the day and into the night,” the article says. 

Although not sure of when it closed, Cash said that the still-standing hotel has been closed for a number of years. 

And with that, we conclude the “History on Main” series until further notice.


News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newcastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
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