Traveling across West Texas, headed towards the state line with noting but plastic bags full of laundry I found myself nostalgic of the western drifter of yesteryear.  I wondered, could I find a historic hotel in the outskirts of New Mexico?

The history and lore of the Eklund Hotel, Dining Room and Saloon play a significant part in the eklund 300x195 The Historic Eklund Hotelheritage of Clayton, NM. James Lee Burke wrote about the Eklund in his book Bitterroot, “…(we) drove back to Texas through the northern tip of New Mexico and stopped for the night at Clayton, a short distance from the Texas state line. We walked…to a nineteenth-century hotel named the Eklund and had dinner in a dining room paneled with hand-carved mahogany. The hotel was three stores, built of quarried stone, anchored in the hardpan like a fortress against the wind, …On the wall of the small lobby was a framed photograph of the outlaw Black Jack Ketchum being fitted with a noose on a freshly carpentered scaffold. Another photograph showed him after the trapdoor had collapsed under his feet. Most of the patrons entering or leaving the dining room were local people and took no notice of the photographic display…(we) walked outside under a turquoise sky…I looked back over my shoulder at the stone rigidity of the hotel and its scrolled-iron colonnade…and I wondered if cattle and railroad barons had hosted champagne dinners in the hotel dining room, or if cowboys off the Goodnight-Love Trail had knocked back busthead whiskey in the saloon and shot holes in the ceiling with their six shooters…But I think it was all of the above, truly the West.”

The first two floors of the west side of what is now the Eklund Hotel was build in 1892; for two years the ground floor was used as a store and the upstairs rooms were rented out. In 1894, Carl Eklund, a Swedish immigrant, came to Clayton, NM and bought the building. He opened the Saloon using the historic bar and back-bar which is still in use today. It is said that he won the bar in a poker game with ten dollars he had borrowed.

The saloon business flourished and in 1898, Mr. Eklund built the first two floors of the east side of his then prospering venture, including a kitchen and dining room. In 1905 a third story and the second-floor balcony were added. Considered the finest hotel in the area, the Eklund’s rates were quite expensive, running about two dollars a night! Always progressive, Carl Eklund saw to it that his hotel was the first place in Clayton to get electricity, public telephones and a switchboard.

In 1908, the Clayton Union County Courthouse was partially destroyed by a tornado. Several County offices were moved into a portion of the Eklund’s rooms and business proceeded as usual. A makeshift jail was constructed on the north side of the first floor. In more recent years, that room has been used as a private dining room.

In 1937, Mr. Eklund turned the management of the Eklund Hotel over to his daughter and son-in-law under whose management it remained for thirty-five years. The Eklund was sold in 1972 to an investor who restored the historic Dining Room and Saloon, but Hotel operations were suspended. The Eklund was sold again in 1987 and 1990. In 1992, a group of private investors, mostly local residents, purchased the Eklund and struggled to keep the Dining Room and Saloon operating. By the late 1990′s, the success of those struggles enabled the owners to start planning very carefully and thoroughly the restoration of the historic Hotel space and operations. The financing was closed and construction began on June 10, 2003 and completed in March, 2004. The original forty-two rooms and community bathrooms have been made into twenty-six rooms each with a private bath. The Dining Room and Saloon have also undergone renovations.


Finding my way to the coast of Florida, two poly bags of dried pineapple in my hand, I had finally reached my destination.  As I entered the the grounds of the Gasparilla Inn and Club, one of Florida’s most historic hotels, time seemed to escape me.  Almost magically, I seemed to be transported back into yesteryear as my eyes glazed across the tall white pillars and the grand foyer.  But the building itself was framed in the paradise like surroundings of this Inn on an island.  Calm expansive waters, green grounds, and staff meeting your every need was a welcome site.

And after decades of successful business for the Gasparilla Inn & Club, they will be celebrating their centennial anniversary in February 2013.  The Gasparilla Inn & Club has been recognized as a leading destination for discriminating travelers visiting Florida’s Coast since 1913 and is the undisputed center of relaxation and recreation for the Village of Gasparilla Island.

History of The Gasparilla Inn

Historic Gasparilla The Gasparilla Inn and Club

Taking it’s place among the states great hotels, the Gasparilla Inn is among the largest, most enduring resort hotel and country clubs in Florida. The resort was formerly built for well-heeled and elite northerners when the state first became a recognized and popular travel and vacation spot. It was on the 21st of February 1909 when the former officers of the Boca Grande Land Company made a decision to construct a resort hotel in the heart of the island.

When the hotel was built there were only 20 rooms available in a two story building accessible only for the visiting and staying directors and staff of the Inn.  It was Peter Bradley, one of the staff of Boca Grande Land Company and one of the largest titleholders of the greatest part of the land on Gasparilla Island who first initiated and proposed a silent uptown island community in Boca Grande, mainly for The Inn employees and shareholders. And Peter Bradley also was given credit and tribute for engineering the island’s expansion and development through crafting a main phosphate port which is a center for marketable whaling and an expensive resort. Originally the 1911 block of the building was designed with a humble but modest Frame Vernacular. Later on the Boca Grande Land Company owners want to build new ambiance of the resort and change the small island hotel into a first-rate five star type of resort.Gasparilla1 The Gasparilla Inn and Club

The Inn’s creators soon employed the notable Tampa architect Francis J. Kennard to draft the ideas for the hotel development and for the first time, in 1912 the resort was transformed and enlarged into something the owners dreamed it to be. Peter Bradley and his associate, Martin Towle, personally designated and bought the fixtures and hotel furnishings for their fresh resort at Wanamaker’s in New York City. The extended hotel, retitled The Gasparilla Inn, opened for the 1912-1913 season. After an ambitious attempt for a change the proprietors then quickly constructed a casino near the south of the core building. The casino was intended not for betting and gambling, but rather for gatherings and evening entertainment. One of the erected amusements was tennis courts in line to the casino on the east, a pavilion was built nearby and a beach club with a sauna was built on the west side of the property on the Gulf of Mexico.

Another designer employed to tap a change on the resort was Hettie Rhoda Meade, a New York interior designer who took the designing part of the inn.

It was in 1921 Bradley’s Brother Robert became the Chairman of the Board of AAC and with his guts and talent on promotions made the place  popular on land acquisition on Gasparilla Island. In 1976 the Inn’s kitchen was torn down and between 1967 and 1978, maintenance buildings were built.  One of the maintenance buildings was fireproof and one that was fireproof and included room for staff dining. Architect Mario Troncoso of Temple Terrace, Florida deliberated the new kitchen design. Willis Smith Construction, Inc. was the independent contractor of the new building.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Bayard Sharp, together with roughly 300 others, was involved in the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association (GICIA). This group functioned firmly to preserve the ancient way of living and life norms on the island. Almost all of the deed holders and some of the island’s regular visitors placed solid determination into a fight against excessive development. Their campaign was successful in restraining the amount and size of future development.

The Hotel and lodges totaled 138 quarters by 1981. Earlier, the quantity of rooms in the central building was bigger. During the first part of the 1980s, Sharp and his brother, Hugh, transacted his waterfront assets on the island for the uninhibited railway right-of-way which they offered for usage as a bike pathway for island visitors and inhabitants. In the later months of 1989 Sharp also acquired the Inn Marina and erected a tennis club to the standing courts. The Inn had a club located at the beach, a golf shop and a home adjacent to the croquet lawn, called the Croquet House. All of these are still visible today, though certain of the amenities and support structures have been reorganized.

Gasparilla pool 300x106 The Gasparilla Inn and Club

In late 1994, the main banquet room, along with the original servants’ dining room were extended and developed with a 16 ft. two-story leeway on the east elevation. The expansion fundamentally on the hindmost of the north annexes and is not noticeable from Palm Avenue, near which The Inn is primarily leaning. The expansion on the second floor saved more spaces for parlors for visitor and guest rooms and suites.

In 1997, Sharp built a conviction to guarantee that The Inn would be preserved and track as an operational hotel even later to his death. Sharp, as the highest of the company that possessed The Inn, continued is individually vigorous in its administration since the stage he attained the property until his bereavement in 2002. Meanwhile in 2006, The Gasparilla Inn & Club currently comprises of 137 rooms, 63 in the main Inn and 74 in the nearby 17 cottages, structures and Cabins. The Inn has maintained a social representation and registry for having big commercial moguls and officials over the day, at one time or other as their guest s of honor.

Currently, the inn pays more than 325 personnel and endures countless of its unique customs, containing afternoon tea during Social Season. The Inn is currently possessed by the family of William Farish. Mr. Farish is a previous United States Ambassador to The Court of St. James.  Ambassador Farish’s wife, Sarah, is the lone daughter of the late Bayard Sharp.


{ Comments on this entry are closed }