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Railway Hospitality

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Railway Hospitality

  • Slaton’s restored Harvey House preserves Southwest elegance of a bygone era

Pull up a chair in the warm-toned dining room, peer out through the tall, wood-trimmed mission-style windows and watch the long freight train rumble past, and you’d almost swear it was 1912 once more, with your china plate of pork chop and fresh vegetables about to be set in front of you with a smile and a steaming cup of coffee.

Oh, and don’t forget, you’ll have only 20 minutes to wolf it down before the conductor calls “All aboard” again!

While the pace of a visit to the Slaton Harvey House has certainly changed a century-plus later, the hospitality hasn’t.

Saved from demolition in 1989 and restored as an event center and bed-and-breakfast inn, the two-story Mission Revival Harvey House overlooks the tracks 18 miles south of Lubbock today at a division point on the line just as it did when it was built to the exacting standards of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway and the high expectations of Fred Harvey’s meal service. Harvey, British-born contractor of railway lunch rooms, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels starting in 1876, developed a system for feeding passengers with grace and efficiency trackside and on-board, employing well-trained and groomed “Harvey Girls” to serve diners.

“When Fred Harvey died in 1901 [at age 65],” writes Rosa Walston Latimer, author of several books on Harvey Houses of America “he owned and operated 15 hotels, 47 restaurants, 30 dining cars and a San Francisco Bay ferry.” Today only six of these legendary establishments — of an original 16 — remain in Texas.

The Slaton house has a particularly sentimental attraction for Latimer, whose own grandmother worked there as a Harvey Girl — and there met the railroad engineer who would become her grandfather.

FINE DINING: Original china place settings are among the many railroad memorabilia items in the Slaton Harvey House collections.

While the first-floor dining room originally seated 42 customers around a large horseshoe-shaped marble lunch counter — for speedy service of meal orders telegraphed ahead from the train — the five upstairs bedrooms housed Harvey Girls onsite. Under the direction of an eagle-eyed manager, the young women adhered to a strict code of uniform dress and conduct.

The sleeping situation for overnight guests is doubtless more relaxed these days, though the rooms have been meticulously restored to their original color schemes and finishes. Comfortable furnishings, a well-appointed sitting room and railroad memorabilia make for a unique stay.

The dining room is available for special events, and tours of the house are available by appointment. Occasions open to the public — like the annual murder mystery dinner fundraiser staged by the Slaton Railroad Heritage Association each spring — provide great opportunities to get an inside glimpse of a nostalgic era in this architectural and cultural gem.

The Harvey House was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 2007.

Oh, and don’t forget, you’ll have only 20 minutes to wolf it down before the conductor calls “All aboard” again!

While the pace of a visit to the Slaton Harvey House has certainly changed a century-plus later, the hospitality hasn’t.

Saved from demolition in 1989 and restored as an event center and bed-and-breakfast inn, the two-story Mission Revival Harvey House overlooks the tracks 18 miles south of Lubbock today at a division point on the line just as it did when it was built to the exacting standards of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway and the high expectations of Fred Harvey’s meal service. Harvey, British-born contractor of railway lunch rooms, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels starting in 1876, developed a system for feeding passengers with grace and efficiency trackside and on-board, employing well-trained and groomed “Harvey Girls” to serve diners.

“When Fred Harvey died in 1901 [at age 65],” writes Rosa Walston Latimer, author of several books on Harvey Houses of America “he owned and operated 15 hotels, 47 restaurants, 30 dining cars and a San Francisco Bay ferry.” Today only six of these legendary establishments — of an original 16 — remain in Texas.

The Slaton house has a particularly sentimental attraction for Latimer, whose own grandmother worked there as a Harvey Girl — and there met the railroad engineer who would become her grandfather.

While the first-floor dining room originally seated 42 customers around a large horseshoe-shaped marble lunch counter — for speedy service of meal orders telegraphed ahead from the train — the five upstairs bedrooms housed Harvey Girls onsite. Under the direction of an eagle-eyed manager, the young women adhered to a strict code of uniform dress and conduct.

The sleeping situation for overnight guests is doubtless more relaxed these days, though the rooms have been meticulously restored to their original color schemes and finishes. Comfortable furnishings, a well-appointed sitting room and railroad memorabilia make for a unique stay.

The dining room is available for special events, and tours of the house are available by appointment. Occasions open to the public — like the annual murder mystery dinner fundraiser staged by the Slaton Railroad Heritage Association each spring — provide great opportunities to get an inside glimpse of a nostalgic era in this architectural and cultural gem.

The Harvey House was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 2007.

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