Early and Later

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library and Baker Heritage Museum (apologies for the small size, but couldn’t seem to make them larger)

As indicated in previous articles “Looking Both Ways” and “Rest Your Weary Head,” there were many hotels in boom-years Sumpter. “Rest Your Weary Head” discussed the Belvedere—which didn’t burn until 1925—and five of the hotels that weren’t seen again after the fire of 1917. In the paragraphs to follow you’ll explore the first-established hotel in Sumpter and the hotel where the fire started.

Below is the oldest photo of Sumpter known to exist; it was taken in 1895. This is Granite Street, looking west toward the Powder River whose flood plain separates the flat area the town was built on from the hills. (Most photographs taken of Granite St look east into the center of the business district, as with the final photo shown in this article.)There were about 200 people living in Sumpter in 1895 according to Sumpter-born Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley (1902-1991). The flagpole in the center of the photo was erected in 1890 in the middle of the intersection of Granite and Centre (this is the spelling on the plat) Streets. The town was first platted in 1889 by Charles Rimbol. In Oct 1896, the railroad arrived. Sumpter was incorporated in 1898. The tree in the photo was the only tree left in downtown Sumpter, and it stood on the corner of Granite and Mill. The tree burned when Granite Street burned.

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Most of the buildings in the 1895 photo were replaced by newer buildings over the years. One exception was the Starr Hotel, about the westernmost building on the right side. It stood mid-block between Cracker and Centre Streets. The photo below has been cropped to make the Starr’s black sign sticking out into the street more noticeable. Closer up, the second building on the right is Duckworth’s Red Front Store, with its false front and eyebrow-roofed porch. Henry Duckworth was born in Yorkshire, England, and the family crossed the plains to settle in Auburn in 1870, later moving to Sumpter. In 1899, the Red Front was owned by W.C. Calder. The building burned down May 1900.


In the 1900 photo of Granite Street looking east, below, a lot has changed, but the Starr still has a black sign sticking out into the street. The tall brick building beyond the Starr is First National Bank, built 1899. It is on the northwest corner of Granite and Centre. The twenty-mule team is on its way to Red Boy Mine. A lot of photos of machinery bound for the Red Boy were taken in the early 1900s. The big white building a couple doors east of the bank is Columbia Market. Between the bank and Columbia Market is a lower brick building built it 1900, replacing the Red Front Store. Not quite visible is the raising of planking over these two blocks of Granite St from Mill to Cracker; construction of the planked street began in 1900 at the Mill St end.


In 1897, almost directly across from the Starr, the Capital Hotel was built. A May 20, 1898, article in the Morning Democrat called it “the leading hotel of Sumpter…” and gave a brief description of P.J. Griffin, owner of what was then called the Spencer. “On the first of April he bought this hotel. It is a large and commodious building, having thirty eight bedrooms. It is thoroughly lit by electricity, and has all the modern improvements. The table is furnished with all the market affords, and is a cardinal feature of the house. His wife aids him in the supervision of the hotel, and we bespeak for them a large and growing patronage.” Griffin had previous experience with hotels in Boston and in British Columbia. One suspects he later had something to do with the Hotel Griffin discussed so much in previous From Auburn Street articles. It is my understanding that the photo below accompanied the Morning Democrat article.


Brooks Hawley calculates that this next photo of the Capital (below) was taken about 1901 and that the small boy on the porch with his parents is Elwood Denny at the age of 3. Elwood graduated from Sumpter High School in 1915. Mr & Mrs A.L. Denny had become owners of what is now clearly marked as the Capital Hotel.


By 1914, the wear and tear of dirt, dust, heat, cold, and snow were showing on the Starr (near left, below) and the planked two blocks of Granite St. The Capital Hotel (right side of photo) still looks pretty good. Three blocks to the east, at the top of Granite St, the school (center of photo), built in 1897, looks resplendent in its white paint. A smaller white building to the left of the school is the hospital that was built in 1900. In three years, the only two buildings seen in the photo below left standing would be the school and the hospital.



Rest Your Weary Head

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

The bird feeder has been amazing this last week with chickadees, juncos, finches, and nuthatches on their ways from winter lands to summer lands.

Modern-day Sumpter is used to transitory guests. At either end of Sumpter are rv parks. Scattered throughout are private residences for short-term rental. On Mill Street, from south to north, are the cabins of the Scoop ‘n’ Steamer across from the Sumpter Stockade with rooms and tent-camping available. Farther north is The Depot Inn, located on the southern edge of what once was Depot Square (see previous article “Looking Both Ways”).


Sumpter of the past had many more rooms available for both transitory guests and permanent residents. My favorite exterior is that of the Belvedere (below left, date unknown), followed by the brick-built Sumpter Hotel (below right, Nov 3, 1902). Or maybe the exterior of the Capital, but I’ll stick with Sumpter Hotel for now.

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The Belvedere was owned by Barney Flynn for many years and survived the big Sumpter fire of August 1917. Destruction by flame was still its destiny, though, and it burned down in the fall of 1925. New on the site in 1956 was Dwyer’s Tavern. Elkhorn Saloon is the current business on the site, and is almost certainly in the same building as Dwyer’s Tavern.

Sumpter-born Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley (1902-1991) provides much more information about Sumpter Hotel. It was built by Dave Wilson, with the brick work being finished by July 1901 but not officially opening until Jan. 27, 1902, when 200 attended the banquet and danced to Ford’s Orchestra. Construction cost $60,000. The building measured 100 x 100 feet with a central rotunda of 40 x 50 feet, and was steam-heated. Twelve of the forty-six bedrooms had baths. The rotunda was surrounded by a balcony that housed business offices. Sumpter Hotel stood on the northwest corner of Granite and Mill, where now the highway through Sumpter makes a sweeping bend from northbound to northwest-bound.

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Sumpter Hotel bar interior.  Sumpter Hotel lobby, May 1902

The Delmonico Hotel was built in 1900. The picture below, at left, was taken in 1903. The Delmonico stood on the northeast corner of the intersection of Auburn Street and Columbia Street, a block east of Mill Street and Depot Square. The photo below, right, was supposedly taken a few years later, and shows Caleb Roswell’s Pioneer Feed Store on the southeast corner of Auburn and Mill.

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There is a reference in the Baker County Library archives about the burning of the Golden Eagle Hotel prior to the 1917 fire, but no pictures are available of the building itself. It stood half a block north of Hotel Griffin, shown below, c. 1906. The Griffin was spoken of extensively in previous article “The Round Trough.”

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The northernmost hotel in town was the Metropolitan (above, date unknown). It stood on the north side of North Street, where Centre Street came to an end. It later became a lodge for Knights of Pythias.

All but the Belvedere burned down Aug 13, 1917. The fire started at the Capital Hotel, built in 1897. Across Granite Street from the Capital was the Starr Hotel, built in 1878. In 1917, the Starr was probably the oldest building in town. The earliest picture of Sumpter known to exist, an 1895 photo, has the Starr in it. I’ll talk about the Starr and Capital more next time.