Renovation rescues historic hotel in Westville

Bob Carlton has a vision of how the historic Buffingon Hotel will look when he's completed the renovation. Renee Fite | Westville Reporter

In 1910 jazz music was new in America, art was moving into the Modernism period and the Progressive era people were buying cars and using electricity in their homes.

In Westville, just three years after Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the Buffington Hotel was a new jewel downtown. It had a prime location across the street from the Opera House. 

The Oklahoma Historical Society website shows the Buffington Hotel and the Opera Block listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It describes the premier hotel for this railroad town as featuring arcaded round-arch windows on the first floor and smaller, arcaded frieze windows on the corners. The Opera House was an entertainment center with traveling vaudeville and chautauqua shows. 

In 2020 revitalization rescued the historic landmark when Bob Carlton purchased the corner property. Progress continues on the hotel which will once again shine like the star of downtown when work is completed. 

“Imagine how it was in 1920 when Westville was a booming place. It’s a shame the Opera House burned down. And the depots, torn down, they can never be replaced,” Carlton said.

A for sale sign is visible, but Carlton said he plans to make it a Bed and Breakfast with a wedding chapel on the main floor, if it doesn’t sell.

“I like to do stuff like that, history. It was about to fall down when I bought it,” said Carlton.

There was not a bat or bug, no mouse or rats inside when he bought it.

As he walks through the downstairs, his affection for place and the vision he holds for how it will be comes across as he describes how it looked, and the progress he’s made.

Pride for the project and rescuing an important piece of Westville history.

Now the floorplan is originally how it was when built. He tore out everything downstairs where apartments had been put in. A wide staircase, also smooth and story with new boards, gives access upstairs to the bedroom area. Down the hall lights hang from the ceiling. And lights also hang in each bedroom.

“There were room service bells,” he said.

Each door had the original door knobs until someone stole them, said Carlton.

“I’d like to have them back,” he said.

Demonstrating, he said, “the old windows above the doors still open.”

The front bedroom can give a visitor a start, as a cowboy stands watching out the window. It’s a mannequin. From the street the figure can be seen which may also give a passerby a reason for a double take. 

Carlton has taken the building back to the good bones and is building back. No treasure or other antiques have been unearthed. He did find 1940 newspapers on the floor under linoleum someone must have used for insulation.

He will keep the 6400 sq, foot hotel as original as possible.

“I only have two photos to go by but I’d sure like to find some of the inside,” he said.

A roof was first, then brick repair, to solidify the infrastructure and save the building.

Carlton has spent a lot of time replacing bad boards. He used boards in one of the upstairs rooms to repair other floors. That room will become a utility room so it doesn’t need restored floors.

A mystery does puzzle Carlton.

“One of the bedrooms was locked from the outside. It still had furnishings in it. Was someone locked in? Did they escape?” he said.

He’s hung a cream-colored, silky robe near the window that seems ghostlike as it appears to float midair. That seems appropriate. 

What stories the Buffington Hotel could tell. And with luck and more hard work, Carlton will bring it back to life and it will have more stories and celebrations.