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Traveler's Hotel to be revived as restaurant

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
A newspaper clipping shows Denison's Traveler's Hotel when it was converted into a restaurant nearly 40 years ago. Now, new developers want to revive this use.

For more than a century, the Traveler's Hotel has been a fixture of downtown Denison's streetscape and a staple of the city. In that time, the building has been a grocery, a boy's home for young men, a restaurant and a hotel during the city's time as a major rail hub.

Now, developers are looking to return the building to one of its previous roles while moving it into the 21st century.

Developer Jonathan Earnhart announced plans this weekend to redevelop the building located at 300 E. Main into a restaurant which will be returning it to its use nearly 40 years ago.

"It will have a lot of different foods, and we don't follow one style, but it will be like a steakhouse," Earnhart added he hopes to make the nearly 130-year-old building into a destination in downtown Denison. 

In making the announcement, Earnhart, his brother Jason and Jacob West attempted to recreate a photo from the 1980s that ran in the newspaper when a pair of brothers opened a restaurant in the former hotel. While the cars in the background have changed over the years, the building hasn't changed much in that time.

Earnhart said current plans call for the first two floors of the hotel to be converted into restaurant space. The remaining rooms will be used as a bed and breakfast.

Jason Earnhart, Jacob West and Jonathan Earnhart pose for a photo in front of Denison's Traveler's Hotel, recreating a picture from nearly 40 years ago when the building was converted into a restaurant.

"It may grow to include all of the floors, but at the very least, it will be the bottom two," he said.

The former hotel has been a pet project for Earnhart for the past two years. In recent memory, the building was used as a boy's home for young and troubled men, but Earnhart said there were efforts to find a better location for the program.

"They actually kind of dissolved with what has happened in the last year," he said.

With the program no longer in place, Earnhart and his partners were able to purchase the building.

The building will need extensive work— likely more than $1 million of improvements — in order to equip it as a restaurant. The interior is in good shape, but still needs modern conveniences like central air and heat. The exterior will need cosmetic improvements. 

Earnhart said he is pursuing funding on the local, state and national levels to help repair the building while keeping its historic integrity in tact.

"It is difficult to keep it brick and the way it looks while also restoring it," he said.