The Pierce Pennant Tavern

Miami Businesses

At the corner of N 22nd Street was an impressive white two story building which was a clear memory for Miami’s Boomers. The building had a history equal to its own dignified look.

Postcard showing a Pierce Pennant Tavern (possibly the Miami location). Click to enlarge.

It started out in 1930 as a Pierce Pennant Tavern. “Tavern” in this sense is used in its original connotation as a lodging place for the night. Below is the text from a July 21, 1929 News-Record article announcing the tavern.

Pierce Corporation Is Expected to Begin Construction of Second Unit on Tract North of Here Late in Fall

Construction of a 40-room tourist hotel as the second unit of the Pierce Petroleum corporation’s development two miles north of Miami on U.S. Highway 66 will be started late this year, according to information received from the corporation’s headquarters in St. Louis.  The structure will cost approximately $300,000, it is understood.

The corporation plans to open its first unit, the tourist terminal and restaurant building, now nearing completion on the 10-acre tract, late this month or early in August, according to Edward D. Levy, president.

Similar projects are under construction in Columbia, Mo., and in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  Key buildings have been completed in Springfield and Rolla, Mo.  When finished the chain will extend the length of Highway 66, according to T. W. O’Donnell, Oklahoma City district manager.

Development of the chain follows the success of the first hotel built in Rolla, Mo., O’Donnell said.

Eventually the company plans to have these hotels scattered the entire length of the country from 125 to 150 miles apart.  Amarillo and some city to be selected between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, will be the next projects to be started, O’Donnell said.

A detailed description of the company’s tourist terminal program was contained in the May 11 issue of Tavern Talk, hotel trade magazine.  The article was as follows:

“That long stretch of highway extending from coast to coast, from New York to Los Angeles, indicated on the map as U.s. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 66, may properly be called the ‘Main Street of the Nation.’

“Winding its most direct way from coast to coast, this great national thoroughfare passes through a territory that is the center of the Nation’s population and wealth.

“Within parallel boundaries, just a day’s ride to the north and to the south of these highway, we find 66 percent of the population of the United States.

“Sixty-six percent of the nation’s wealth—

“Sixty-six percent of the 23,000,000 registered motor vehicles—

“Sixty-six percent of the tourists travel over the two great connecting highways.

“What a pathway for modern development!  Visualize, if you will, that great army of motor tourists who travel U.S. Highways 40 and 66 annually.  Picture the accommodations necessary for their comfort and convenience.  Hotels and restaurants.  Service stations for their automobiles.  You are visioned the inspiration for the building of pennant terminals and hotels.

“Pennant hotels and terminals are a project of the Pierce Petroleum corporation, famed for Pennant petroleum projects, with headquarters in St. Louis.  The undertaking has attracted the interest of hotel operators throughout the Southwest.

“The Pierce company has for its president E. D. Levy, able executive and transportation authority and one-time general manager of the Frisco railroad.

“The Pennant Terminal system contemplates the building of tourist accommodations approximately 125 to 150 miles apart along U.S. Highways 66 and 40 from Los Angeles to New York.

“Hotel units will be built at all terminal points, but during 1929 they will be available only at the Rolla, Mo., terminal and Columbia, Mo., terminal.

“These hotel units of 40 modern rooms will be equipped with the very finest appointments money can buy and every comfort for the traveler has been given the utmost consideration.

“At Rolla and Springfield, Mo., the Pierce Petroleum corporation last year erected and had in operation during the greater part of the touring year the forerunners of the present terminal.

“This year, profiting from the initial year’s lessons, improvements have been made, enlargements have been decided upon, refinements have been added, and the result will be the most elaborate and distinctive utility of its type on any highway.

“With plans to open by June 1, and construction already under way, a new Pennant terminal will serve the motoring public at Columbia, Mo., on U.S. Highway 40, midway between the two Missouri metropolis of Kansas City and St. Louis.  The chain will be extended further into the Southwest on U.S. Highway 66, with units being established and opened about June 1, at Miami and Tulsa, Okla., Rolla, Mo., is being improved and enlarged to meet the increased demands of 1929.

“Each Pennant terminal will have a complete restaurant, restrooms for men and women, emergency hospital, lounge, and refreshment facilities, in addition to complete service station equipment.

“Close to $1,000,000 will be spent in the development of Pennant terminals this year, building comforts for the American tourist, with the expectation of materially increasing the construction budget in 1930.

“In addition to the hotel units now in course of construction at Rolla and Columbus, Mo., it is the intention of the corporation later in the year is commence construction of a terminal building and hotel unit near Springfield, Mo., a terminal building and hotel unit near Oklahoma City—and to construct one hotel unit each at Miami and Tulsa, where the corporation is now engaged in constructing terminal buildings.

“Fred Hutchinson, a former hotel man and at one time with the Greystone Hotel, Bedford, Ind., has supplied Tavern Talk with a description of the Pierce hotels and terminals.  Mr. Hutchinson is superintendent of terminals for the Pierce corporation.

“Each of these terminals is located on a minimum of 10 acres of land outside of the city limits, and having a minimum frontage of 600 feet on the highway.  This 10 acres of land is to be placed in landscaping.  In the center of the 10 acres is to be constructed the terminal building, and grouped around the terminal building in the landscaping is to be one or more hotel units of 40 rooms each.  The number of these 40-room units that will be constructed will depend upon the business done at each place and the necessity for extension.  To begin with, only one 40-room unit will be constructed.

“The hotel units being built by the corporation will be far ahead of anything ever constructed for tourist use and will be equal to or better than the modern hotels in the larger cities.  The building is fireproof throughout.

“The entire fire floor is a garage, there being garage space for the 40 guests rooms.  One each of the first and second floors are 16 guest rooms and on the third floor eight guest rooms, a total of 40 guest rooms.  On the top floor are five rooms without bath for chauffeurs and these rooms can only be occupied by bonafide chauffeurs actually driving tourists.

“Each one of the guest rooms is an outside room and has an outside private bath.  The furniture and equipment in the guest rooms will be above that of the average hotel in the large cities.  The bath rooms will be floored with rubber tile, lined with white tile, and equipped with circulating ice water, hot and cold water tub and shower.  Both bed rooms and bath rooms will be equipped with an electric fan.

“The springs, mattresses, linens, towels, blankets, carpets, draperies, etc., will be equal to the better hotels in the large cities.

“Each bed room will be 12×16 and will be equipped with two beds.

“The halls throughout will be covered with inlaid rubber tile and all of the woodwork in the halls and bed rooms will be finished in polished automobile lacquer, no ordinary paint being used in the interior.

“In addition to each room having two full sized beds, when there is an infant in the family, a modern steel trundle bed will be placed in the room for the occupancy of the infant without any charge to the family.

“The Pierce corporation invites guests to do such washing as they care to do in their rooms, and has provided the proper facilities for them.  In the clothes closet of each room has been placed an electric drier, a folding ironing board and an electric iron.

“In the basement of each terminal building is a modern steam laundry for laundering the linen of the terminal and hotel buildings.  This laundry will work nights and tourists delivering their laundry to hotel employees before 9:00 p.m. can have it returned to them any time they desire after 4 a.m. the next morning.

“Each one of the 40 guest rooms is identical and the rates will be $4.00 or a single room, and $10.00 for four in each room.

“There will be no charge for the automobile in the garage.  During the night each machine will be vacuumed out, all the glass washed and polished and the car given water and air without any charge.  If gasoline, or or grease is desired, the tourist of course will pay for it.

“The charge for a chauffeur’s room without bath will be $1.00 per person.

“An investigation made by the corporation developed the fact that the average tourist car contained three people and that in a large proportion of cases all of the occupants of the car wanted to occupy one room, and for this reason the rooms were built large and equipped with two full sized beds which will make them serve for one, two, three or four persons.

“Upon alighting from his automobile under a massive white pillared canopy and entering the spacious doors of the terminal, the visitor will be immediately impressed by the depth of the main waiting room.  Depending upon the season, his senses will react to its cool coziness or satisfying warmth.  In the chill days of late spring or early fall, he will find an open fireplace at the end of the room, logs blazing merrily, just the tang of wood smoke redolent of the Ozark backwoods hanging in the air, inviting a relaxing “stretch” before its hearth.  Summer, with its heat and glare and dust, is quickly transformed by the refreshing coolness of the well ventilated lounge, huge ceiling fans silently wafting synthetic lake breezes to the massive and comfortable divans and easy chairs.  This room is 50 feet long and 35 feet wide, backed by a soda fountain for soft drink and sandwich service, with tables and chairs to accommodate 50 guests.

“To the left of the main waiting room will be three rest rooms for women.  The first is a French renaissance room, oddly in contrast to the Colonial simplicity of the public lounge, yet peculiarly appealing in the loveliness of its feminine appointments.  Then comes the women’s toilet, the floors of which will be inlaid rubber and walls finished in white marble and chromium.  To the left of the French room is an emergency hospital equipped with three hospital beds, with white tables and chairs to match, and three trundle beds for infants.  In the center is a standard hospital operating table, so arranged that normally it assumes the appearance of an ordinary table.  A cabinet containing all the surgical instruments, supplies and appliances necessary for an emergency operation is placed in the wall.  This room has a large double door, so that an ambulance may have easy access.  A trained nurse will be in constant attendance.  Either sex may receive treatment here.

“To the right of the main waiting room will be the men’s toilets, as elaborately equipped as those for the women.  In addition to the manager’s office, a special dining room and toilet for negro chauffeurs is also at this side of the main floor.

“Ascending the winding stairway, rested and refreshed, the visitor seeking satisfaction for the inner man will find awaiting him a modern dining room that for service, cuisine and appointments will be on par with the larger hotels of the country.  With a seating capacity of 100 diners, this room is so built that one-half of it may be closed off to accommodate bridge luncheons and club dinners.  Music, when desired, is convenient, as the facilities include a Victrola, radio and grand piano, and the entire spacious dining room is available for dance purposes.  A modern and compact kitchen is situated at the rear of the dining room.

“In addition to the heating and refrigerating apparatus, the basement is equipped with a modern steam laundry, insuring clean linens at all times for dining service and clean, freshly laundered uniforms for waitresses and attendants.”
(Miami Daily News Record ~ Sunday ~ July 21, 1929)

Spartan School of Aeronautics, aerial view, 1941. Click to enlarge.

The Depression was brutal on the chain, and the Miami location closed in 1935. Two years later, a skating rink was opened in the building. In 1940, the Spartan School of Aeronautics took over the property, and the building was converted to offices and barracks, with more barracks built to the west.

Winart Pottery, 1955. Photo by Ken Ellwood

And in 1953 or possibly a bit earlier, Winart Pottery moved into the old Pennant building, its large arrow out front a distinctive landmark the rest of the decade.

The building is gone now, Karnes Pro Tire and Auto Center now inhabits the block. But a generation of Miami kids remembers the imposing two story building that was a monument to a luxury hotel chain which was the victim of the Great Depression.

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