Staying at McRae’s Chambers Hotel

For Twice the Price


200 Whittington Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901,

In 1908, Charles Chambers, a Canadian, married Mary Alice Johnston, the widow of  Ben Johnston.  Charles and Mary built a two-story foursquare home in McRae, Arkansas, next door to Mrs. Chambers’ parents, who lived at School Street and Highway 67.  For many years, Mr. Chambers was partial owner of a lumberyard located where the McRae Town Hall is now.  However, he contracted tuberculosis in the 1920s, sold his interest in the sawmill, and took on the town taxi service using his Model T Ford.  He died in July 1929 and in September the same year, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.
Before Mr. Chambers’ illness, throughout and after his death, Mrs. Chambers took boarders into the home.  Mamie Savage, a single woman who lived nearby, helped in the kitchen.
          In The History of McRae, Arkansas, published in 1981, Bruce Cook noted: “Charlie Chambers owned a two-story hotel and boarding house at the site where Glen’s Super Saver now stands...Rates at the Chambers Hotel (in 1916) were advertised at $2 per day, other hotels in town were $1 a day.”
          Meals at the Chambers home were quite popular.  Boarders were called to dinner with a brass dinner bell Mrs. Chambers rang from the front porch.   Meat dishes were served on a willow ware serving platter which today is displayed, along with the bell, in my father Newbern Chambers’ dining room.
          Over the years, many boarders stayed at the Chambers’ home.  Some were long-term boarders, such as teachers at the McRae School, but many more were short term, such as Ruth Hale and her husband, Bert and Marian Shannon, and others who boarded only during strawberry season.
          “Mother had two or three seasonal boarders, school teachers, in winter,” recalls Newbern. One of the boarders was Opal Fisher from Beebe.  Mrs. Chambers often allowed the teachers to use her kitchen to make candy.
          Once, when Mrs. Chambers’ grandson, Gaither C. Johnston, Jr., was visiting, Newbern chased him through the kitchen.  The kitchen floor was covered with plates of candy Miss Fisher and another lady had left to cool on the floor.  The boys ran through the kitchen and onto the back porch.  Gaither C. stepped in the candy, candy went everywhere, and a dish was broken.  The women complained to Mrs. Chambers who said,           Mrs. Chambers sold the home during World War II, after Newbern and his older brother Charles left to serve in the Navy.  Mrs. Chambers settled in Dermott to be near her oldest son, Gaither Johnston, Sr. The Chambers home burned down within a year of being sold.  vvv


(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society.)ter">(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society.)