||Following emancipation, African Americans struggled for equality, as public facilities, private businesses and neighborhoods were often segregated. When African Americans did find non-agricultural employment it was primarily for manual labor jobs and for railroads, including brakemen, porters, and construction. The railroad became important to east Texas and transported people, lumber from nearby mills, cotton, cattle, and crops from other states to ports like Houston, Galveston and Beaumont. The Lewis Railroad Hotel was built about 1870 by John Collins. The two-story frame structure is a modified I-house, built two rooms wide and one room deep, with a full-height entry porch, gable wall chimneys and a later rear addition. William Lewis purchased the home in 1903 from Mary Collins and lived there with his wife, Viney, and their family. The men in Lewis’ family were laborers, and the women were laundresses. To supplement his income as a mail carrier, William Lewis opened his home to African American boarders, especially men working on the railroad. The hotel became popular during the 1920s when railroad construction in east Texas increased. As the railroad declined, Lewis took in travelers seeking lodging, as accommodations remained segregated. The hotel became a social gathering place for African Americans. The hotel converted to apartments in the mid-20th century and continued as a private residence into the 1970s. After a period of vacancy and identification as an endangered property, the city of San Augustine acquired this significant resource for the benefit of the public and the preservation of an important chapter of history.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 2011