From the 1960s through the 1980s, many historic and landmark buildings across the United States succumbed to the wrecker’s ball in the name of progress, urban renewal and modernization.
Like so many other American cities, Boone’s landscape changed during that era. Two casualties of the urge to renew and rebuild were the imposing buildings that stood on opposite corners of Eighth and Arden Streets — the beautiful old Post Office on the northwest side and the Hotel Holst on the northeast side.
The Post Office was the first causality. It was demolished in 1966 to make way for the Hawkeye Federal Savings and Loan Building, now the Bank of the West. In 1984 the hotel suffered the same fate when it was taken down so that the Hawkeye Federal Savings and Loan could build a drive-up bank across the street from the main bank building. A plaque on the northeast corner of Arden and Eighth Streets commemorates where the hotel building once stood.
By the time the hotel came down, travel patterns had changed dramatically. Downtown hotels had given way to motels located on major highways that bypassed cities and towns.
When the Hotel Holst was built in 1910, most people traveled by train, and Boone was a major stopover for train passengers. The hotel was conveniently located near the stations. By the 1980s passenger trains no longer went through Boone; people were traveling by automobile. Motels built along roads such as Highway 30, which skirts Boone on the south, now provided hospitality to travelers. In small towns and cities throughout the country, downtown hotels such as the Hotel Holst were rapidly becoming white elephants.
The hotel was built by Bernhart P. Holst in 1910 and torn down the year after his son, Bertram P. Holst, died. It had been built under the auspices of the Boone Commercial Association and for many years was run by Crump and Talbot, a hotel firm from West Virginia. The Boss Hotel chain bought the hotel in 1926 and owned it until 1970 when it was sold to Donald Sturtz. Sturtz ran it for a decade, selling it in 1980.
The old hotel is a memory now, but memorabilia and artifacts surface in Boone from time to time. Among other items from the hotel, the Boone County Historical Society owns the hotel’s old switch board, the doors to its safe, a neon sign spelling out “Hotel Holst, and, most interesting, a name block with the misspelled “Holts” name on one side and the correct “Holst” on the other.