O’NEILL, Neb. — The Golden Hotel has more than 103 years of history here in the heart of Holt County.
In July, the current owners of the hotel celebrated a little history of their own as they marked 10 years of owning the Golden Hotel.
Christine Carman and her son, Jake, bought the Golden Hotel in the summer of 2006 and made the move from Pleasanton — located just north of Kearney in Buffalo County — to here to run the hotel after seeing the opportunities that it offered.
“It was one of 30 businesses that we looked at all over the state,” Jake Carman said. “This one had the most potential.”
The Norfolk Daily News (http://bit.ly/2bKSW4E ) reports that the Carmans have reaped many rewards over the last decade, many of which come from the Golden Hotel’s location on the northeast corner of Fourth and Douglas streets, where U.S. Highways 20, 275 and 281 meet. The intersection also is the home of the O’Neill shamrock and the city’s Blarney Stone.
“It’s cool being on this corner,” Jake said. “It’s the busiest intersection in this part by far. You’ve got 281 here, Highways 20 and 275. It’s pretty cool, especially right now with the wind farms being built. You get the live action of all these great big wings, towers and generators coming through here.”
Running the hotel also has required a lot of work. The Carmans began renovating the hotel as soon as they bought it and still are renovating the building 10 years later. More than that, they have done most of the work themselves, including laying flooring, painting, plastering and setting tubs in the bathrooms.
“I do have some local people that do help me do the plumbing and electrical work,” Jake said. “It’s quite a process. Nothing’s cheap about it.”
A lot of the renovations have consisted of combining the original rooms — which were exceptionally small, comparable to the size of a small bedroom and without bathrooms — into larger rooms more suited for today’s travelers and guests. The Carmans have removed some of walls between rooms, added bathrooms and often combined two to three rooms into one.
“I don’t even think they put a full-size bed in them,” Jake said of the original rooms. “They’d just have a twin because it was meant for traveling businessmen or cowboys. There would be just single people staying here by the night.”
When the Golden Hotel opened in the spring of 1913, the travelers and other guests did not always bring luggage to the small rooms.
“That was one of the things — ‘are you with luggage or without?’ — that was basically saying if you didn’t have luggage, it meant that you needed to pay your bill in advance,” Jake said. “If not — if you had luggage — they’d actually take it up to your room, unload and unpack all your stuff, then they’d keep your luggage as a deposit.”
One of the best-known legends about the Golden Hotel is that Chicago mob boss Al Capone stayed at the Golden Hotel during the 1920s to visit relatives in Nebraska. Some have even said that Capone visited O’Neill to harass a prosecutor who lived in town.
“I don’t think he came up here to harass the guy,” Jake said. “I think he just came up here to visit family, like the story that I heard from people that supposedly say — but it’s hard to rule out myth on that story because it was so long ago. Anybody that would know anytime has long passed.”
Ninety years later, people are still curious about Capone’s history at the Golden Hotel.
“People always want me to give them tours,” Jake said. “They always want to see the underground because they think there are tunnels that Capone used. I hate to disappoint, but those tunnels were steam tunnels.”
As the Carmans look to the future at the Golden Hotel, they plan to keep renovating the building.
“Hopefully, we’ll have enough money for an elevator before too long,” Jake said. “(We want to) keep the building alive and functioning.”
One thing is certain: The last 10 years have gone by fast at the Golden Hotel.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, not by any means,” Jake said.
Information from: Norfolk Daily News, http://www.norfolkdailynews.com