I have a question for you to ponder, readers. Do you think that you could uproot yourself and your family, move to a new town, and open a new business to try to stay alive? Would you be able to leave your old life behind? I ask because this is exactly what Jacob Heater Jr. did in the year 1887.
The year was 1887, and the country was in a serious depression after the high of the Civil War. Dubbed the “Gilded Age”, the time was characterized by a materialistic excess and extreme poverty. The term "gilded" referred to the idea that although on the surface everything seemed fine, like it was made of gold, this gold was just a thin coating that covered a life that was hard and unforgiving. Jacob and his wife Martha were trying to make a living on his farm, but were not succeeding. In an attempt to try to make enough money to survive, Jacob Heater Jr. uprooted his whole family and moved to Jamaica, Iowa.
Many of you may be asking why, and the answer is that he attempted to start a Hotel. Named the Heater House Hotel, it was a building directly across from the Railroad Depot on the Southwest corner of Main Street in Jamaica. As you can see in the picture, it was a two-story building with a very big porch and balcony. The reason for this is that the Hotel shared its balcony with a saloon next door. In theory, this is a very promising partnership. The two buildings, located directly across from the Depot, would be able to draw in travelers for drinks at the saloon, then send them to the hotel when they needed a place to stay.
Unfortunately, since times were so bad, the Heater House Hotel went broke after a few years. Jacob’s fate after his hotel is unknown, but hopefully he found another way to live! Readers, do you think you could do what Jacob did during a depression? Tell us in the comments!
As a final note, we are drawing closer to the opening of the Gary Ernest Smith Exhibition! Remember to save August 23rd to your calendar as the opening reception here in Perry at the Hotel Pattee from 4:30 to 6:30 P.M. I hope to see you there!