Hotel Modesto - A Place for Social Gatherings
There was a time when Modesto had not one or two major hotels, but three (four if you count the older Tynan Hotel, later the State). In 1914, Modesto was big enough to support a residence hotel with a basement ballroom and all the fittings of the more elaborate hotels of bigger cities. Tinkham's "History of Stanislaus County" discusses the hotel in the section about its owner, Henry T. Crow:
"In 1911, Mr. Crow became associated with Oscar Hogin in the project of a first-class hotel for Modesto, and they bought the southwest corner of Eleventh and H streets, and in 1913 build a thoroughly modern and up-to-date hotel, a four-story building which was opened in June, 1914. They conducted the hotel under the firm name of Crow and Hogin, with a manager, and except for two years when Mr. Hogin managed it alone, Mr. Crow has been interested in running the hotel. On January 1, 1920, Mr. Crow bought out the interest of Mr. Hogin. . .Assisted by his wife and family, he employs thirty-three people.
Mr. Crow has enlarged the Hotel Modesto from a four-story to a five-story building. The structure is built of brick, 100x140 feet in dimension, with a concrete basement and an asbestos roof. Hot and cold water are to be had throughout the buiding, as well as steam heat and electric light, and the 142 guest rooms will easily make it the largest, as it is the finest appointed, hostelry in this part of the state."
The Hotel Modesto became the center of social activity in a growing community. It would be followed in short order by the Hotel Hughson, with a swimming pool in the basement and a roof garden; and the Hotel Covell, which boasted the National Theatre, a movie house, as part of the structure.
But the Hotel Modesto remained the choice of many of Modesto's important people, with some living in the hotel, as well as conducting business in its plush public rooms.
The first photograph in the slide show above shows the hotel as it looked when it opened. In 1921, a fifth floor was added and an additional wing of rooms was constructed in the late 1920s. Unfortunately, in May of 1944, a fire started in the basement of the Dutch Boy Paint Store and soon swept the hotel. Two people were killed, both as they were making attempts to escape with the help of firefighters. The slide show above takes you through a transition of the hotel from 1914 to the day after the 1944 fire. Use the arrows at the top, left, to control the slides.
The ruins of the hotel were fenced in and remained an eyesore in downtown Modesto until 1958 when the location was cleared for Modesto's new city hall. The building opened in 1960. Because the basement had caved in, and the lot was already excavated for a lower level, the new city hall featured a below level courtyard with attractive landscaping. The city hall building has now become a court building for Stanislaus County and a new city-county building has been built on the site of the Hotel Hughson and Hotel Covell.
Modesto currently has one major hotel in downtown, the Doubletree by Hitlon, which began as a Red Lion Hotel. It is adjacent to Modesto Centre Plaza, the city's downtown community center.