The Historic Continental Hotel on the Centerville Square
The Continental has a very rich history, having been the lodging for many famous (and infamous) individuals including Booker T. Washington, Carrie Nation, Simon Estes, and Jesse & Frank James, just to name a few.
Booker T. Washington
Jesse & Frank James
In the spring of 1865, Alexander and Susannah McKee moved their family to Centerville, Iowa. Mr. McKee traded forty acres of land, four horses, one wagon, and a harness for a store, house, and a lot where The Continental now stands. The building was originally arranged as a hotel and was known as the “Jefferson House” or “Wagon Home” in 1866. In 1892, the building burned to the ground resulting in the death of Susannah McKee. The hotel was rebuilt in 1893, but the superstructure of the building has not changed, although the businesses in it have.
In 1962, a bomb exploded on Continental Flight 11, which was the first terrorist act on a commercial jetliner in history. It happened over Appanoose County. The world media agencies converged upon the Continental Hotel in Centerville, Iowa to hold their press conferences. The Continental Hotel is a huge part of Centerville’s history.
Most of its life, the building has served as a hotel until the early 1990s. After years of changes and economic fluctuations, the building began to deteriorate and soon the roof collapsed allowing animals to inhabit the building. The Continental seemed destined for demolition. This action, many feared, would be the beginning of the end for Centerville’s business district on the “World’s Largest Town Square”.
In 1996, a successful business man and native to the Centerville area, Morgan Cline, returned to the square and saw the beauty in The Continental. With a love for old architecture and his generosity, he restored the building. Today, The Continental operates as two businesses. It is both an apartment building for the well-elderly as well as one of the area’s leading restaurants. www.thecontinental.info