When visiting Alva, Oklahoma, and spending the night, you have many options. Fine hotels, budget motels, bed and breakfasts, and RV campgrounds. The pioneers to the Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn, and Crooked Oak, were the Farmers Hotel, Updegraff, and the Runnymede.
The Farmers Hotel was the first two-story building in Alva. The building was moved from Harper, Kansas. The Updegraff Hotel was operated on the corner of 7th Street and Barnes where the north side of the Alva Public Library is today. The Elm Tree Hotel was located where Lin-Mar Motors is located today at 622 Barnes Street. It was a two-story wooden structure and sported a very large native elm tree in front, hence the name. The Heaton House was introduced to Alva with a newspaper article dated January 5, 1894. It was located ½ block west of the southwest corner of the square.
The most elite hotel in Alva was the St. Nicholas located 1 ½ blocks north of the present day Central National Bank at 207 College. This hotel housed most of the traveling salesmen and where the visiting dignitaries were also housed. The St. Nicholas was the most elaborately decorated hotel in town. It was considered “The Hotel.”
The most interesting background is the Runnymede Arms. It was also the Hendrickson Hotel, The Rhodes Hotel, the Gunn Hotel, and finally once again the Runnymede. The unique building was built in 1866 for $4,800. The building was a three-story frame with a broad veranda in the front and contained a spacious entry hall, necessary offices, three reception rooms, and a dining room of lavish décor. It had 11 bedrooms with one large bathroom located on the first floor. (The first floor to the English is the second floor to us.) The attic story was fitted to house the bachelors and servants.
With the purchase of 17,000 acres of land 12 miles northeast of Harper, Kansas, The Runnymede Colony came into being. The plan was to encourage sons of wealthy families of England to come over and learn the gentlemanly art of farming and other enterprising adventures. However, the young men who came to the colony spend their time in pleasure sports and other fun seeking efforts. When the railroads started to make their way across southern Kansas, Runnymede operators tried to persuade the railroad to go through the colony. They failed in their endeavor.
“Robert” Watmough, one of the biggest contributors to the colony, was being honored at the Arms at a ball celebrating his coming marriage. During the evening, Robert retired to the community barn and while there, a fire broke out and he perished in the fire. This tragedy marked the end of the colony and three years later, the community of Runnymede had all but disappeared.
On November 17, 1983, the Alva Pioneer Newspaper announced parties had purchased the hotel and will move it to Alva. The hotel was moved over unimproved roads, rivers, creeks, and streams – what should have been an impossible journey. On January 22, 1894, an official dedication was held with a banquet and ball.
Over the years, it’s passed hands and been named the Hendrickson, Rhodes, and Gunn. Eventually the historic building became run down and an eyesore. In 1998, a committee was formed, and with help from the Nescatunga Arts Council and the Bill Johnson Correctional Facility, plus many volunteers, the Runnymede was completely renovated and now appears much as it did when it was moved to Oklahoma.
Today, the Runnymede is available for Weddings and Wedding Receptions, Class Reunions, Club Meetings, Banquets and Parties, Fundraisers, Sales Demonstrations, Exhibits, and more. Learn more about renting the Runnymede at their website.