Many years ago, the Hotel Marshall stood tall in the center of our city as a testament to the commerce and industry that made Marshall a hub of East Texas. At that time, it was easy — and realistic — to envision sustained growth well into the future.
History did not allow for that, unfortunately. The railroad shops first went away, then the missile plant was made obsolete by treaties between the U.S. and then Soviet Union. The result was the loss of thousands of jobs.
Not many communities can take hits like that, and they certainly took a toll on the Hotel Marshall. It closed in 1970, having already gone well downhill. It went from being a showplace to an eyesore that cast a pall over the city.
No one knew what to do with the building, which was built to last for generations. It became a depressing reminder of what once was.
That changed in the early part of the new century. Marshall native and entrepreneur Jerry Cargill and community leaders Richard and Christina Anderson had a plan to turn the building into a boutique hotel, but he needed help to do that.
He got that assistance — and then some.
With the help of the Andersons, the collaboration began. It would grow to include the city of Marshall, Marshall Economic Development Corp., the Marshall Downtown Development Corp. and, most importantly, hundreds of individual and small business contributors who came together to make the dream a reality.
Over the course of three years, enough money was raised to renovate the exterior — that alone being enough to raise the spirits of Marshall residents — the lobby, mezzanine, basement, commercial kitchen, roof, two elevators and much more.
It didn’t take long for the hotel to regain a bit of its initial glory and the lower portions of the building were booked for numerous events. But it was clear the Marshall Grand, as it came to be called, was not destined to become a fully operating hotel.
It had a higher purpose.
That purpose will be realized in August when students at East Texas Baptist University’s School of Nursing report for classes at the Marshall Grand.
The Cargill family and the Andersons together donated the building to ETBU at the request of former ETBU President Dub Oliver, who had a vision himself.
Because of them, the building has found its true purpose at long last and is becoming a proud and working part of downtown Marshall and our region for years to come.
This could not have happened, in fact could not even have been imagined, without those able to dream of what could be if all parts of the community pulled together.
It was only through that spirit of cooperation that an eyesore has been turned into a showcase once again. Marshall can grow on the knowledge of what can be accomplished when all hands are pulling in the same direction.
Thanks to Cargill and the Andersons for initiating the redevelopment of the Marshall Grand. This is truly an achievement of which Marshall and our region should be proud.