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Historical Perspective: Hughes Hotel

The Hughes Hotel, Fresno's first four-story building, was built in 1888 for about $300,000.
The Hughes Hotel, Fresno's first four-story building, was built in 1888 for about $300,000.

In 1888, the Hughes Hotel was the talk of the town.

Fresno developer Thomas E. Hughes, sometimes called the "father of Fresno," built the hotel for a reported $300,000.

It towered over its competition as the first four-story building in the young city. The Fresno Morning Republican called it "unequalled" to any hotel in the state outside San Francisco or Los Angeles.

The Hughes, built of brick and finished in a sandstone color, in the Modern Renaissance style, covered a large section of a city block on the southwest corner of I (later Broadway) and Tulare streets. It featured 200 rooms, plush parlors, an elegant restaurant, saloon, billiard room, a reading room and a steam laundry.

Among its firsts: electric lights in all rooms, generated by an on-premises power plant, telephones in each room and an elevator. It was built around a large interior court with orange trees, flowering plants and a central fountain. Balconies around the upper floors offered a view of the courtyard.

In 1898, a peacock lived in the courtyard. "Admiral Dewey" was named after Adm. George Dewey, hero of the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War.

The Hughes had its own water works. All rooms had hot and cold water. Large air shafts keep the building well-ventilated, and the cool air that passed through the building was a welcome relief in the blistering Fresno summers.

For decades, the Hughes was foremost among Fresno hotels, surviving even the streamlining of its Victorian flourishes to make it more modern in later years.

It met its fate in July 1953, when it fell victim to one of several arson fires set that day. The Hughes was so damaged by the fire that it had to be torn down.

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