Yates Hotel once for the rich and famous

The Yates Hotel is now a museum.  Photo by MacKenzie Prewozniak
The Yates Hotel is now a museum. Photo by MacKenzie Prewozniak

By Anna Sharp and Madison Clark

In the small town of Rankin, there used to be a luxury hotel that many rich and famous people stayed at. Rancher Ira Yates became an overnight millionaire and then built the Yates Hotel in the 1920s. Today it is now a museum. The museum now has all the original furniture, phone booth, and ceiling fans.
We spoke to Mrs. Donna Bell, one of the trustees of the museum, as well as Angela Luckie, who works at the museum.

They said the museum has three stories and 46 rooms. Mr. Yates kept a room upstairs to himself and played a bunch of poker in it; in fact, Mrs. Bell said that Mr. Yates taught all of this children and grandchildren to play poker because he thought it would make them good business people.

This hotel was the first fire-proof hotel between Fort Worth and El Paso. The hotel become a popular stopping place for east-west travelers; according to Mrs. Bell, the “Doodlebug” train would carry visitors from San Angelo just to stay at the hotel.

According to the website TexasEscapes.com, the rooms upstairs in the Yates Hotel were very unique in their own way. The north side of the building had rooms with no closets, but they cost less than the south side rooms. The south side rooms caught a better breeze and also had a door between rooms so that those rooms could also become a suite if needed. None of the rooms had bathrooms in them; all the guests had to walk down the hall to use the restroom.

Also right next to the Hotel there was the Rankin Beach; this is ironic because this part of the state has no waterfront access. Yates put in a giant concrete swimming hole, 60 feet wide and 120 feet long, and legend has it that he even had sand from the Texas coast trucked in.

According to TexasEscapes.com, supposedly Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, and Lawrencewelk all played live music at the Yates Hotel and the Rankin Beach. Rumors also have it that Theodore Roosevelt and the Wright Brothers stayed at the hotel, but Mrs. Luckie explained that if they did, there’s no proof of that now.

There are, however, some interesting stories Mrs. Bell tells about the history of the hotel.

“There’s a cute story about an old-maid (probably all of 25 to 30 years old) Home Extension agent from Austin who used to stay at the Yates in the ‘40s,” Mrs. Bell said. “She always washed her stockings at night and hung them in the bathroom to dry. One morning she came and found some man had washed his socks and hung them right next to her hose. She was scandalized.”

She also tells about a bullet hole the museum restoration has not been able to fix, and one of Mr. Yates’ descendents told her this story. One night a beautiful woman in town thought her husband was working in the oil field, so she went dancing with a male “friend.” However, that evening the husband showed up and pulled out a gun from his coveralls. His wife and that dancing partner booked it toward the hotel, followed by the husband firing shot after shot. As they entered the lobby, the bell hop ducked as the husband fired several shots at the man he’d caught with his wife. None of the bullets he fired hit the man, but they did leave some bad bullet holes in the wall.

At almost every old hotel, there is reported to be at least one spirit, and there was one woman who claims to have felt the presence of a lady apparition she called Gertrude on the hotel’s second floor. Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Luckie say that they have never heard anything or seen anything unusual at the Yates hotel other than the old bullet hole. Mrs. Bell laughed and said that if one spirit is hanging around at the hotel, it would be Mr. Yates because he spent a lot of time in his hotel until his death in 1939.

The story of Gertrude is one of those stories that you can believe or not believe. There was a team of ghost hunters came in and stayed at the museum two times and went through every room every night by snapping pictures and taking readings of the temperature in each room. They supposedly caught the sound of footsteps walking down the hall and even a faint whistle. Then they moved up to the third floor and did the same thing, scanning through the rooms and snapping pictures and checking the temperature. They captured more foot prints and even a door opening on the second floor, which was empty at that time. The next morning, they went through the pictures they had taken in the hallways and the garage, and you can see very clear orbs. Also in several other pictures you can see shadows which they believe is some kind of energy. Mrs. Bell said they even captured one image of the old fire truck donated by Dr. Gossett in which a German Shepard seems to be sitting in the passenger seat. Dr. Gossett raised German Shepards.

The Yates hotel closed in 1964 and remained vacant for a whole decade before the Rankin Museum Association turned it into a museum. The hotel was vandalized one year after it went out of business, so there is a lot of restoration to do. They have painted and redone the checkered floor. The Yates Hotel is now a Historical Marker.

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