From it’s inception, the imposing three story brick building at 200 West Main Street has been a Purcell landmark in a class by itself.
The Hotel Love, built in 1895, opened in March 1896 with 50 rooms boasting all the modern conveniences of the time – notably steam heat and electric lights.
It opened with some fanfare, covered by The Purcell Register, then a territorial newspaper, which declared the hotel “by far the finest hotel in the Chickasaw Nation.”
An article dubbed the Hotel Love “The Pride of Purcell,” reporting the structure “superior to anything of its kind in the Indian Territory.”
The 50-room hotel was built by Robert Jeremiah Love who started herding horses for $8 a month when he was orphaned at the age of 14.
He saved his money and when he was 26 left Missouri for the Chickasaw Nation with two saddle horses and 32 cattle.
He met and married Sallie Gaines Criner, who was half Chickasaw, in 1877.
For five years, they made their home in the Red River area.
In 1882, they moved to a ranch south of present day Purcell. He and a man named Sparks had hay pens and corrals on the land that became Purcell.
Together they hired an engineer to lay out a town on the prairie.
The engineer platted four blocks on a piece of wrapping paper, with Canadian Avenue at its heart.
Love and Sparks then plowed furrows to mark the streets and alleys.
Chickasaw Nation citizens who applied before June 1887 were given residential and business lots.
The early business district consisted of frame buildings and was razed by fire in 1895.
That’s when the business district shifted to Main Street where entrepreneurs were constructing brick buildings.
The Loves finally settled in the town in 1896. Here they raised 10 children.
By then Love was an established businessman. With two other men, he purchased the Bank of Purcell. In 1892, he organized the Chickasaw National Bank, serving as president until his death in 1899 at the age of 46.
A later addition which now houses a new gift shop and Queen of T’s, gave the hotel a total of 63 rooms which rented for $2 a night, a considerable sum for the time when a big steak dinner could be purchased for a nickle.
Between 1887 and 1901, many hotels sprang up in Purcell. But only the Hotel Love would survive.
The Hotel Love continued to operate as a hotel.
Kennedy Drug was founded in 1906 and originally was across the street and near McClain Bank.
The pharmacy relocated to the Hotel Love lobby in the 1940s.
It would eventually be owned by Jerry Butler, a registered pharmacist, and his wife, Elaine, who leased the lobby space.
In 1982 the building’s owner, James C. Nance, decided to sell his real estate holdings downtown.
He offered the building to the Butlers.
“The price was right so we bought it,” Elaine said. “If we didn’t buy it, someone could give us 30 days to vacate.”
Jerry became friends with an auctioneer who set up shop in a former lumber yard behind the hotel.
He invited Jerry to attend an antique auction.
“We’d never been to an auction or inside an antique store,” Elaine said.
They began buying some items.
The upper two floors of the hotel were unused so the Butlers decided to store some glassware, antiques and collectibles in one of the rooms.
The corner room selected had been the ladies parlor during the hotel’s heyday.
Butler’s Antiques opened in February 1986 – Purcell’s first large antique store and still the only one not operating as an antique mall.
Spurred by the city’s participation in the Main Street Program, the couple began restoring the hotel in 1991.
“We attended several historic preservation workshops offered through the Main Street Program,” Elaine said.
One fact they learned is that the hotel was originally green.
The hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 7, 1995 – the same year the Butlers moved their home into the hotel.
Any building that survives 123 years being occupied by travelers and townsfolk too numerous to count will eventually generate interest among ghost hunters.
It’s not uncommon for visitors to ask if the Hotel Love is haunted.
Absolutely not, Elaine insists.
“My office is upstairs,” she said, “and I’ve never been afraid to go upstairs. There are no haunts. No spirit is up there unless it’s the Holy Spirit.”
Today numerous upstairs rooms are filled with antiques.
The Butlers haven’t been to an auction in at least 20 years.
“We have bought estates and parts of estates,” Elaine said. “But our best purchases come from individuals. We buy something almost every day from somebody who comes in.”
They have strict requirements for those purchases. Elaine pointed out that real antiques are at least 100 years old. But condition is also a large factor.
“Since it is all ours, we can control when we’re open,” she said.
“He’s 80 and I’m 78 and we wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun. We won’t ever quit liking it. Antiquing gets in your blood.”