MINEOLA, TX (KLTV) - The Beckham Hotel in Mineola has for 122 years been host to travelers, musicians, gamblers, and even, according to many people, ghosts. It fell victim to fire twice, and was a favorite place for men to sneak a drink or two of alcohol during probibition.
For decades The Beckham Hotel was a vital part of the bustling city of Mineola, situated right on the railroad tracks, so it was easily accessed by weary travelers and adventure-seekers. As years passed and the hotel changed hands, parts of the hotel were altered; for instance, columns were removed from underneath the gift shop, to create a drive-through area for buses to pull under so that passengers could board no matter the weather, and be transported to Tyler.
There are stories about the hotel being haunted, as well. For instance, in the lobby of the hotel there were two enclosed phone booths. Stories passed down from the Beckham family say that a man called home speak to his wife and, receiving some heartbreaking news, shot himself there in the booth. There are still what appear to be blood stains in the floor where the booths once stood. He is rumored to occasionally make appearances there.
That story and others like it have enticed ghost hunters, who have enjoyed snooping around the building in recent years, searching for paranormal activity, and a book has even been written about it, called
In 1989, the Beckham was purchased by music teacher John DeFoore, whom you have likely heard linked to his famous students, Miranda Lambert, Michelle Shocked, and Kasey Musgraves. After running his music school there for years, DeFoore sold the hotel to Connie and Ron Meissner in December 2012, unable to give it the attention he had hoped to as far as restoring the large, if a bit musty, beauty.
The Meissners have jumped into the project with both feet and whole hearts. Connie says they are committed to restoring the hotel to its former elegance. The goal isn't to modernize the hotel's appearance, she says, but to restore the original woodwork, flooring, ceiling tiles, and anything else salvageable. So far, they have met with great, if hard-earned, success.
Some of the things Connie explained that she has done, with the help of a crew made up of friends, employees, and, of course, her husband, have been very difficult. For example, the columns mentioned above were crucial to the support of the second and third floors. Because they had been removed, the upper floors were sinking further down with each passing year, and would have eventually crumbled down onto the first floor if the structure and supports were not replaced. That has been done.
Light fixtures that were salvageable were kept, cleaned. restored, and rehung, adorning the ceilings like jewels. Those which were not able to be reused were replaced by period-correct replicas. Floors were polished and are beautifully glowing again. Tin ceiling tiles were cleaned and repainted by Connie and Ron's painting company. Paint was scraped off the woodwork and stairs, restoring the original beauty of the natural wood.
In other words, if it was part of the hotel when it was built, Connie has fought to keep it. This includes the restaurant portion of the hotel. Darlena Watson, her daughter Julia Dailey, and other family members have moved their successful coffee shop into that part of the Beckham, and it is now open and flourishing. It's called
, and it serves breakfast and lunch with a Mineola flair, like the "Milly Cheesesteak" sandwich and The Beckham Burger.
Connie says future plans include restoring all thirty rooms of the hotel, turning them into a total of 15 suites. Brides are already calling and asking to reserve the rooms and ballroom for their weddings, she told me, and she is working nearly around the clock to get the massive project completed so she can begin to say "yes!" to them when they call.
After decades of mystery, during which people were only able to peek in the large front window to see the lobby and wonder what was going to become of the Beckham, the doors will soon be open to the public for a special preview event. The Meissners, Watsons and Daileys have put together a grand opening social so that the public can enjoy a fun evening in the hotel's completed areas. The lobby and ballroom will be open and will be the scene for an evening of music, with hors d'oeuvres by Taste Buds, special desserts by
on Food Network) and a champagne toast to the next 100 years of The Beckham. It will be an evening not to be missed by East Texans who enjoy history, architecture, food and music. Most of all, it will be a pleasure to see the once-tired old hotel reawaken with new life and excitement once again.
Tickets to The Beckham Hotel grand opening social may be ordered