Holdrege Eagles Club #3132 was instituted on November 25th, 1956 at a former filling station in the east end of the building that now houses the Cozy Café. Early members remember walking around the grease pits, but the building was rent free and a place to call their own.
The need for floor space grew and in a couple of years the entire building was in use and the group proudly started paying rent. Volunteers converted the building into a social room and it served the purposes of the new Aerie for a couple of years. But all were well aware that if the Aerie kept growing, a bigger building would be a necessity, so a building fund was established in 1958 and in 6 years, the Aerie was ready to purchase land where Holdrege Eagles 3132 now sits.
Like many of the counties in Nebraska, there was a battle over where the county seat would be. First a village near the Platte River in the north side of town was designated. But Williamsburg was not convenient for many, and a second town named Phelps Center was established and appeared to be an up-and-coming county seat, until the railroad passed 6 miles south of the village and Holdrege was born. Some of the buildings were abandoned or razed, but others were moved to the new town, including the Arlington Hotel. This small frame 2-story building was soon added on to and in 1884 became the town’s finest hotel establishment only one block from the railroad depot.
As times changed, the hotel started failing from lack of maintenance and diminished business; and the forthcoming construction of the 7-story brick Hotel Dale only 2 blocks away doomed the old building to destruction. This was accomplished to build a brick bottling factory by Coca Cola which occurred in 1938. It was a state-of-the-art establishment with all of the newest machinery and was a staple of downtown industry in Holdrege. Things change though, and like the Arlington Hotel before it, the Coca Cola Bottling plant was closed in the early 1960’s. And this is where the Eagles came in. Purchased in 1964, renovations and remodeling commenced and the Aerie celebrated the new location on May 10th, 1965.
Some traces of its former life exist in the building, though. The upstairs oak flooring is still stained from the cola extracts that leaked out over time, and the basic outside structure of the building is unchanged. A semi-friendly ghost nicknamed “George” is rumored to inhabit the grounds, and has been haunting the area since the early 1880’s; and also according to legend is the butcher/cook seen in the photo taken (looking s.w. at what is now the entrance to the Aerie) that was hung from a tree limb for not serving a steak properly to one of the local landed gentry.
Whether such rumors are “fake news” or true legends spoken about events over a century old is unknown. But on the off chance they’re true – you get the best steak in the county on Friday nights at the Aerie and our old building no longer has trees surrounding it….don’t want the chef hung on one of the limbs if the New York strip isn’t cooked properly.
Today Holdrege has 140 Auxiliary and 239 Aerie Members. And don’t forget to join us October 27-29 for the State Dart Tournament!