Rhode Island Hotel
The Rhode Island Hotel was built for Martin H. and Nellie Goddard in 1906. It sometimes has been called the Rhode Island House, Goddard Hotel, and or the Parker Hotel. Martin had originally come to Parker about 1893 to run a bar business in George Parker’s old saloon. The Colorado Business Journal of 1893 lists him as the saloon proprietor. Between the years 1894 and 1900, Martin tried his hand at several different business interests. He rented some land and began farming, raising beans, corn, kaffer corn, rye, rabbits, pigs, and milk cows. He sold fence posts, milk and coal. For a time he even had a peddler’s wagon. Mrs. Goddard interested herself in turkeys. About 1900, the Goddards began running a hotel southwest of town called the Englewood Hotel. They had purchased several lots in what was called the Englewood town site. It was actually just an addition adjoining the south edge of Parker. Although very ambitious, Mr. Goddard was not a well man and often was down sick. One period, from December 20, 1901 to February of 1902, he was confined at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver, suffering from pleurisy. Several times he advertised his various business interests for sale due to his health. In 1900 he sold out his coal business to W. L. Fosdick.
As he began regaining his health, the town was growing in business and in need of additional hotel space. In 1906 Martin and Nellie purchased several lots in Parker near the railroad depot. He contracted with William O’Brien to build a fine hotel with all the modern conveniences, as well a large livery stable. The Rhode Island Hotel opened for business Thanksgiving Day, 1906. The hotel was steam heated, had acetylene lighting, hot & cold water on both floors, and a built-in sanitary system. In 1907, Martin purchased a fine piano for the hotel. The hotel business was a successful venture and in 1907 Martin advertised all his ranch property and livestock for sale. He began adding some additional features to the hotel. He had William O’Brien add a large front porch at the end of 1907, and he added a cement sidewalk in front of his property in 1909.
Never one to rest on his laurels, in 1910 Martin and a few investors started the Cherry Creek Telephone Company. They built a pole line from Sullivan, on the outskirts of South Denver, to Parker and then began recruiting subscribers, both in and out of town. This phone line was considerably more successful than the original barbed wire fence line that came to town in 1904. The telephone switchboard was located in the Rhode Island, and the line was connected with the Colorado Telephone Company. A newspaper article stated, “The Cherry Creek Telephone Co. in connection with the Mountain States telephone and Telegraph Co. can connect you to any point reached by them. Chicago, or New York, all the same. Parker to Chicago, a three minute talk, $5.20. Salt Lake City $ 3.75. We are small but can deliver the goods.” The Rhode Island became the town telegraph office in April of 1913. Three years later, the exchange was moved to Dr. Smith’s drug store, and his mother Clara was put in charge.
Another Goddard project in 1910 was the moving of their old Englewood Hotel building and placing it on some of their lots between the hotel and the livery building. They then had it fitted up to rent as a store building. Among Martin’s other endeavors were his business as a notary, the selling of gasoline and tires, operating as an agent for the Olinger Funeral Home in Denver, and as an agent for a laundry and dry cleaning service in Denver. In 1911 Mrs. Goddard took up the job of writing the Parker news for the Record Journal. Through her writings, one can tell she was the ultimate Parker booster.
In 1912, in what was billed as the worst storm in years in the area, a flood down Tallman Gulch left the creek bed and flooded all but two buildings in town. It filled the basement of the hotel with hail and water and caused a stir among guests.
A large fire during the night of March 7, 1917 destroyed the Goddards’ livery stable. Martin was able to save his car, but 6 tons of hay, a young calf, all the livery harness, and all the Cherry Creek Telephone Co. wire and supplies stored there were lost.
Martin H. Goddard died sometime during the year of 1918. There is no date on the headstone or cemetery records. After the fire, the Goddard property was broken up and sold off. Mrs. Laura Clossen, one-time teacher at Parker and sister to the town’s Postmaster, purchased the hotel property. She owned the property for many years, and rented it out, finally selling to Mr. & Mrs. Charles Fiszelle in 1939.
Mrs. Goddard moved to a small house on the west side of town, where she apparently lived out the rest of her life. She was terribly demoralized by her husband’s death, and quit being the writer for the Parker section of the Record Journal without notice. Very little was published from Parker until two years later, when a new writer was found.
Mrs. Goddard died in 1924. They had no children, and while she had a marker put on her husband’s grave, there was no one to do the same for her. Parker’s biggest booster in the early days lies in an unmarked grave next to her husband in the Parker Cemetery.
The old Rhode Island has had several owners over the years, one notable one being Charlie O’Brien. He operated a hardware store, liquor store, and real estate office there. Over time the old hotel has become ensconced within the present building. Its front dormer is just visible from the front of the building from across the street, but the outline of the rear of the old building can be seen clearly from the back of the present structure.
Information for this brief obtained from various articles from Record Journal, and private interviews with Jean Martin, a niece of Charlie O’Brien.
This building has been landmarked by the Town of Parker.