Monday, April 08, 2013

Golden Spike Hotel

From: "Aaron Nelson"

I saw your website and thought that you would be interested in The Golden Spike/Houghton Digital Library – Historical Artifacts of Houghton Family.

My grandmothers side of the family owned the land and hotel where the Golden Spike was driven. Here are some very rare pictures and histories of this area. Everyone from Presidents of the United States to famous writers (Tennessee Williams and Robert Louis Stephenson) stayed at the Houghton Hotel.

Anyway, I just thought you might be interested. The best part of the piece, in my opinion, is the personal history from my grandma. She talks about Promontory during World War I and the Great Depression era. It's truly fascinating.

Aaron Nelson


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was your grandmother's full name and dates of birth and death? Which are the page(s) or passages where she talks about Promontory during World War I and the Great Depression era? Which are the page(s) or passages that primarily talk about the Houghton Hotel and the railroad?

Any passages that you can transcribe and quote (with links to the original pages) that would be of greatest connection to the Central Pacific railroad would us to help direct CPRR Museum visitors to your fascinating family history.


4/09/2013 3:57 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Aaron Nelson"

Oh boy, the railroad is referenced in so many places throughout that website.

My great grandpa Frederick Houghton was a manager for the Big House in Promontory. This was a humongous ranch house that was built by Thomas C. Durant out in Promontory. It was used to host a lot of famous people of the 19th Century who would go out to Promontory to see where the rails met. At around the turn-of-the-century, my great grandpa bought the Golden Spike Hotel from T.G. Brown. If you notice the poster that you have posted on your website, you will see TG Browns name under the ad for meals at the Golden Spike Hotel.

The hotel lasted into the 1940's. I can remember my high school principal telling me that his father stayed out there with Tennessee Williams. I've also heard from the rangers out at the historic site all of the other famous people that stayed out there. Robert Louis Stephenson, James Garfield, and John Ford (who filmed his first film in Promontory) are just a few. For the 19th Century, Promontory, Utah was Cape Canaveral. It was a place to go – even though there isn't much out there.

As for the artifacts that we have, the most impressive are the photographs and stories. Even the museum doesn't have copies of the pictures, which they would love to have. The only pictures they have of the hotel and Big House are when they were dilapidated. Here is a picture of the hotel.

Also, here is a picture of the monument that stands in front of the museum now. This is easily one of the first pictures of the monument, as it was erected when my grandma was six. My grandma, great grandpa and an anonymous couple are in the piece.

It also shows my great grandparents.

The personal histories from my grandmother (Bernice Houghton Gerritsen) and the 1974 Oral History interviews are perhaps the most interesting parts of the website. In 1974, the National Historic Site hired a team of historians from the University of Utah to interview old-timers concerning the railroad and Promontory. My grandmother is Bernice Houghton Gerritsen (they misspelled her last name). Here is her interview. It was given by Phil Notarianni who was recently the Utah Historical Society President.

In the 1960's, the government bought some acreage from my grandmother. The Golden Spike Historic Center was built on top of the hotel. You can still see the tea leaves that my great grandparents planted around the hotel. You can also still see the school house where my grandmother went to school. Unfortunately, as was common during the time, any buildings that were still around, were bulldozed to the ground – this included parts of the hotel. Of course, the rangers and historians out there regret it.

If you have any other questions about Promontory, feel free to ask.


4/09/2013 4:06 PM  

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