6/15/1995: Memories of the Jewell Hotel

Jewell_Hotelby Virginia Jewell
(Appeared in The Hickman County Gazette, Clinton (Hickman County, Ky.) on June 15, 1995)

The following was taken from the 1953 100th anniversary of the Hickman County Gazette. Many in the community may be familiar with the past of this lovely, shaded historical building in Clinton which is now the residence of Mrs. Joanne Harper. However, we thought it might be interesting for those who were not familiar with its history to know what a very interesting background it holds.

Because of its fine food, wonderful service, homey atmosphere – and because it was once the boy’s dormitory of Marvin College, Alma Mater of Vice President Alben Barkley, Hotel Jewell in Clinton, has been chosen the subject for stories by city newspaper columnists, feature writers and nationally known magazines.

And it is understandable after paying Hotel Jewell one visit.

After one’s first visit at Hotel Jewell, one is so carried away with the place, one returns time and again. Why, one international figure, W. A. Terrell of Sao Paulo, Brazil, his wife, and daughter and niece from England, stopped by for an over-night stay, and remained for ten days. That was a number of years ago, and since then, Mr. Terrell, who is in charge of utilities in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janerio and other South American cities, pays them visits ever so often in between hops to the far corners of the world.

Before his death, Irvin Cobb made many stops at the hotel. It was one of his favorite resting places.

Names of Alben Barkley; Kentucky’s Governor Lawrence Wetherby; Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Belnap of the well-known Belnap Hardware Company of Louisville; Mr. and Mrs. Will Clayton (she is a former Hickman Countian) of Texas; Haukane and Lonya, professional dancers of Los Angeles who have appeared in numerous motion pictures, can be found on the register at the Hotel Jewell.

The hotel would be a reporter’s paradise – that is if the management would permit – for as Mrs. Birk put it, “There is a story concerning nearly everyone of our guests.

An internationally known ballistic man, who played an important role in solving many big murder cases and who name appears in the True Detective magazine often, and his wife have become good friends of the Birks, through their stays at the hotel. Mrs. Birk (the former Martha Jewell) has visited in their home and their trophies are of much interest and great value.

Hotel Jewell was originally the boy’s dormitory of Marvin College, which as attended by Vice President Alben Barkley, Mrs. Will Clayton, former Hickman Countians, now of Houston, Tex., who contributed much to the building of the new hospital in Clinton.

The building was erected in 1910.

Marvin College was disbanded in 1926. The old dormitory was used for a while as a grade school and then the buildings and grounds were sold by the Board of Directors. Mrs. Birk’s two brothers, Ramer and Earle Jewell, owners of Jewell Bros. Grocery in Clinton, purchased the old boy’s dormitory; the father of Clinton’s well-known fire chief bought the main auditorium and Luther Vaughan became owner of the College President’s home.

Mr. Harpole has torn down the main auditorium and built a home there. After Mr. Barkley was elected Vice President of the United States, Chief Harpole had a sign erected in his yard reading, “Barkley Swept Here.” It seems that the vice president worked his way through the college doing janitor work. The sign was attracted much attention since it was placed there and the fire chief gets a big kick out of it.

After the Jewell brothers purchased the boy’s dormitory, they rented it out to a Mr. and Mrs. Peebles, who started operating a boarding house there. Mrs. and Mrs. R. A. Jewell, parents of Martha, lived on the top floor of the three story building. The Peebles operated the place for about a year, then Mr. Peebles died.

It was at that time in 1931 that Mrs. Birk returned to Clinton and began her hotel career. Before Martha was married, she was graduated from the School of Journalist at the University of Missouri, and an advertising job in Kansas City, Mo. followed.

She also worked seriously on her second love, the ballet. While dancing remains one of her great enthusiasms, she never it considered it a career. Now she is starting her twenty-first year in the hotel business and loves it. “We don’t make a lot of money, but we have a lot of fun,” the charming woman said.

Although the stately 25-room brick building, which sets on a hill back from Hwy. 51 in a three-acre grove, remains the same as it did during the Marvin College days, there are constant improvements being made on the inside. Since it has been under the management of the Birks, improvements in more lighting have been made, the rooms have been air-cooled, and insulated, and the inside entirely redecorated many times. The improvements have cost thousands of dollars, and all the money that is made is put right back into making the place a more desirable one for their guests.

The lawn is beautiful, with lawn furniture dotting the hillside, and frequently guests spread picnic lunches there at noon time.

Two meals a day, breakfast and dinner under the supervision of Mrs. Birk, are served at the Hotel Jewell, in a spacious dining room. Meals are so tasty and attractive and served in such a gracious manner, people are calling regularly from Memphis, Jackson, Union City, Fulton, Mayfield, Paducah, Wickliffe, and Cairo for reservations.

Every guest is treated as if he were at home at Hotel Jewell. In the evenings Mr. and Mrs. Birk, their regular guests and any of the transit guests that care to sit around the beautiful dining room and talk or play bridge, canasta or samba.

Guests are all dressed comfortable and informal.

On holidays, Mr. and Mrs. Birk usually turn away twice as many people as they feed. They believe that it is better to serve 45 (that’s what the dining room will seat) well and have them pleased than to serve more and one go away unpleased.

Recently Hotel Jewell was written up in Hotel World Review, a New York Hotel publication. Also articles have appeared in the Courier Journal, Press-Simitar and several other magazines.

Today the former hotel is the private residence of Mrs. Joanne Harper.

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