This article appeared in the Chariton Leader on Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Sandra Knebel Staff Writer
It's been a lot of years since Bob and Barb Hellyer took their turn at owning the Charitone Hotel. Some memories have faded with time, but others remain.
"It was back in 1957 when we bought out Harold Brightwell and opened Hellyer's Jewelry on the east side of the square," Bob remembered. "It was a time when Chariton, like many small towns, was going through a transition. There were a whole series of changes at that time in both managers and owners."
There was another restaurant in town, but at the time, the restaurant in the Charitone Hotel was the favored place for people to gather for coffee. "It was really nice," Bob continued. Then he laughed and said, "The hotel was where all kinds of skulldergery got its start!"
As Barba and Bob remember, the hotel was managed by Jack Clark, the son of the hotel's owner at that time. The owner lived in Ottumwa. Jack and a friend lived upstairs in an apartment on the third floor. Maxine Paush was running the restaurant and, later, took over running the hotel when Clark left.
Bob said he wasn't clear about just when the hotel rooms were converted to apartments, but remembered that his dad and his friends, Mike Davis and Layton Atwell lived there for awhile. They would come in for the winter and were the last ones he thought that actually lived at the hotel. "I don't remember her name, but do remember there was a lady, a real class act, from Corydon who wore diamonds that used to come there, too," he said.
After the Clarks, Hellyer said there was a series of people and businesses in and out of the hotel. "We could see it was deteriorating fast," Bob said. "There was no evidence of apartments anymore as I recall and all the grills and equipment for cooking were gone. I know we hauled seven refrigerators out of the basement. The restaurant was the last thing to close. We didn't want to see it go down further. We thought it might be a good place for the jewelry store with the addition of antiques so we decided to buy and try to salvage it. We thought apartments would be good to have again for people who wanted to retire. The location was convenient for the Square and they would still have their own place to live."
There was a problem with the roof leaking and the Hellyers had planned to put on a corregated steel roof. The plan was to let the water drain off the back. First, they had to put on wood to nail down the new roof. That was when they learned that the building was really unique. The architect, Bill Perkins, designed it so water drained down the center of the building - which was unheard of. But it's true.
When everyone else tried to fix the roof they were closing up the drain because they thought that drain was a vent. Like all vents, it is supposed to breathe. So instead of leaving it open to let water go down, they were trying to build it up, thinking that it was leaking around it. It wasn't leaking. It was trying to do what it was supposed to do.
The Hellyers later decided not to purchase the building for various reasons. Later, Gilworth Furniture Store moved from the south side of the Square into the hotel for awhile and then there were different efforts by different people to try to resurrect what was. But times were changing.
The news of the most recent plan to restore the Charitone Hotel met with excitement in the Hellyer household. "It was what we always wanted, but could not accomplish ourselves," they said. "It was the reason we originally got involved. We absolutely did not want the building torn down. We can't imagine that corner of the Square vacant."