The Caretaker of the Delta Lake HotelStory and photos by Eryn Reddell Wingert
She’s a stoic old gal, standing tall, looming on the outside, shattered, broken on the inside.
Like most of us, she has experienced glory days and scar-forming tragedy. Her scars are just more visible and apparent. But light shines through. The ruins of the Delta Lake Hotel have found a friend, a self-appointed caretaker named Doris Taylor.
The fire-ravaged building sits on Texas Farm to Market Road 88, north of Monte Alto. Doris and her husband, Rich, often cruised FM 88 back when they rode motorcycles. The old hotel sparked Taylor’s interest, and when a ‘for sale’ sign appeared on the property, she jumped at the chance to buy it.
The Delta Lake Hotel, as she is most commonly known, has reinvented herself time and time again, playing host to investors, flappers, bootleggers--like Al Capone, farmworkers, socialites, military, and even the sick and aging.
Her story began in 1928, when thousands of laborers were hired by landowner W.A. Harding to clear land and build a mansion. Harding owned 56,000 acres and had a plan to court potential landowners from up north so they would invest in the region, which would require housing. The 56-room Spanish-Colonial-Revival-style mansion was complete in 1931. But Harding’s dream was short-lived. The Great Depression brought about the repossession of what was then known as the Delta Lake Orchard Company.