Rochelle News-Leader | The Collier Inn: The Joys of a Small Midwest Hotel
For over 130 years, a hotel occupied the northeast corner of Main Street and Cherry Avenue.
That was from 1856 to 1989. Originally, a two-story wooden structure was added to the side of the Baxter Residence and the Baxter House Hotel was born. The 1856 hotel served the town of Lane. When Lane changed its name to Rochelle in 1865, Baxter House also changed its name to Rochelle House.
The hotel passed from owner to owner; Baxter, to Mayer, to McAdams. Located one block north of the train tracks, La Rochelle was the only real competition for the Lane House which was later renamed De Los Hotel.
Between La Rochelle House and Hotel De Los, there were two full-service stables. With the growth of the community and increasing rail traffic, Maison Rochelle chose to expand.
It was 1899 and the wooden structure was moved. To replace the two-story wooden building, a three-story brick building was erected. The new Maison Rochelle has 50 rooms for rent and toilets in each room. The ad of the day compared the European facilities at De Los (shared toilets on each floor) and the American facilities at La Rochelle House (private toilets).
Maison Rochelle is experiencing an upturn in activity. The new brick building was impressive, and the private restrooms meant travelers had to bypass DeKalb and Dixon to enjoy Rochelle’s stellar accommodations.
With a new owner, John Collier, came yet another name change. La Rochelle was named the Collier Inn.
“In late April 1915 – not yet famous for her etiquette writing – Emily Price Post made the decision to drive America’s roads through the new Lincoln Highway and write about it for Collier’s Magazine. Leaving from Grammercy Park in New York, Mrs. Post was accompanied by her son, Edwin (Ned) and her cousin, Alice Beadleston.The three travelers left for San Francisco in a custom-built automobile and 45 days later arrived, although the car had to be transported by train to San Francisco from Arizona after a mechanical breakdown.On May 6, 1915, Emily’s group became stuck in “A Sea of Mud” just outside Rochelle after a very heavy spring rain. The group checked into the Collier Inn for the next two days and discovered the joys of a small hotel in the Midwest. According to Ms. Post, “it seemed to us that we had found a genuine Ritz” (https://www.waymarking.com/).
This is how the Collier Inn was featured in Collier’s Magazine. The Collier offered everything from first class accommodations to quality restaurants. Time passes and the Collier has gone from a sought-after destination to little more than low-cost accommodation.
In the 1980s, the train no longer stopped at La Rochelle. Chicago folks no longer headed to the wild west for a weekend at the Bain Opera House and time spent on the frontier. The Collier deteriorated and the owners were more than ready to take whatever profit they could.
Unfortunately, the necessary repairs and maintenance were much less necessary. Once compared to the Ritz by Emily Post, the Collier has fallen into disrepair. Sections of the roof collapsed and the city was forced to condemn the property.
The Collier Inn was razed in 1989. After 134 years, the corner of Main Street and Cherry Avenue was bare for the first time. Today the area is a car park next to VFW and Moose clubs.
Tom McDermott is a historian at the Flagg Township Museum and a Rochelle town councillor.