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EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
by BEN TINSLEY
Aug 06, 2014 | 3467 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The old hotel on Houston was the first stop off the train to George West.
The old hotel on Houston was the first stop off the train to George West.
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When the West hotel was first constructed early in the 20th Century, it was state-of-the-art.
When the West hotel was first constructed early in the 20th Century, it was state-of-the-art.
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The passage of time has somewhat dulled the original shine of the hotel.
The passage of time has somewhat dulled the original shine of the hotel.
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Erin and Clay Jostes
Erin and Clay Jostes
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GEORGE WEST –Without the benefit of a time machine and a heart-to-heart conversation with George Washington West, it’s going to be impossible to determine if the town founder truly loved the old West Hotel—100 Houston Street—as much as the craftsmanship he put into constructing it would indicate.

But Clay and Erin Jostes, on the other hand, have no qualms about discussing how much the nearly century-old structure means to them. They recently purchased it (staying mum about the final price tag) and are using their own money to renovate.

Erin Jostes, who has lived in Live Oak County all her life, has wonderful memories of the hotel from childhood.

“It was such a great old building,” she said with a smile.

Clay Jostes said he has long wanted to purchase the hotel for his wife because he knows how much it means to her.

“She always loved this building,” he said. “She always wanted to have this building, and I finally had the financial means to do something about it. … We bought it, and took possession of it a few months ago.”

It was one of many such structures founder West chose to build—including a courthouse, a school and a light plant—when creating a town on the site of his ranch around the turn of the century.

The hotel specifically was built to give people a place to stay as they came into town via the railroad, officials said.

Right now, the couple is not sure right now what they are going to do with the hotel—other than restore it.

Clay Jostes recently gave a reporter a tour of the hotel, which he and his wife are still in the process of cleaning. Getting rid of debris and such has already taken hundreds of man hours. Reconstruction could take years, the couple said.

In addition to the upstairs hotel rooms and the downstairs hotel lobby, the downstairs also used to house a separate office and a separate bank once upon a time.

The couple welcomes anyone willing to volunteer to help renovate. They said they couldn’t have made it to this point without the help of family and friends such as John Ed Holland, Sue Holland, Julia Wasicek, Annette Beck, Dillon Orr, Tiffany Stewart, Bridget Wright and Tivi Ybanez.

Clay Jostes, 35, said he and his wife (who is around the same age) will probably spent a lot more money getting the structure into shape before it’s all said and done.

But the time and effort spent on renovation will be well worth it, he added. After all, even when this estimated 20,000 square foot structure fell into disrepair, many of the town’s residents still adored the George Washington West-constructed building.

“The courthouse, the hotel, the elementary school are all built by the same brick,” Clay Jostes said. “We hope that one day over the next couple of years the hotel can look as good as the courthouse does now. Those renovations have gone well.”

Rena McWilliams, executive director of the George West Chamber of Commerce, said it is exciting to watch such an important historical structure be restored.

“I have lived here for 36 years and have watched since it was an emporium with little shops and things in it,” she said. “This is easily the most wonderful piece of history we have.”

Clay Jostes said he has no desire to restore the building as a hotel, but there are several other options. He said he expects the renovation work to lead to something truly great.

“As you keep going to find little glimpses of ‘Wow,’” Clay Jostes said. “This will be so cool when its done.”

Erin Jostes said it will be a dream come true.

“My grandmother always wanted to have the hotel, but it didn’t work out,” she said. “I always wanted somebody to bring it back to life.”

Ben Tinsley is a reporter for The Progress newspaper in Three Rivers. He can be contacted by email at theprogress@mysoutex.com or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenTinsley, Google at http://plus.google.com/+BenTinsley or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.
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