Shades of Glory

It was a grand hotel.

The Stonewall Jackson hosted ballroom dances, swing and jazz parties, society banquets and socials, and high school proms.

It was the place to meet for the Junior Service League, the Lions Club, the Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club. It once housed the offices of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce.

It was considered the social capital of the city.

One story around town has it that the hotel was built by two nephews of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the Civil War general accidentally killed by his own troops in 1863, during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

But local historians say that story isn’t true. It was built by a consortium of local citizens who pooled their resources.

Construction on the three-story hotel began in 1924 across the street from the Missouri Pacific Railroad depot.

The idea was to service the train traffic. People coming into town on business would find it conveniently located across from the depot.

The Stonewall Jackson opened in 1927 and was soon providing rooms for “visitors from northern states who came to San Benito on land excursions,” the Historical Society said in a proclamation awarding the hotel a historical marker in 2005.

“San Benito Land & Water Co. would entice would-be farmers and citrus growers with tours of area land selling for reasonable prices per acre.”

The hotel featured Mexican tiles in the lobby, wall and column sconces, steam heaters, ceiling fans and an Otis elevator. Before long it had a coffee shop in addition to a dress shop, barbershop and restaurant and a palm courtyard.

The original sign at the front of the building — which featured an image of Stonewall Jackson mounted on a horse — blew down in a 1933 hurricane and was never replaced.

But the glamour stayed on, long after the storm was gone.

The hotel began losing it luster in the late 1950s after the city built a community center across the street on what was once a palm-studded plaza.

After that, the social clubs and the Chamber of Commerce moved their activities out of the hotel.