Gilroy Today 2011 06 Summer - Page 34

H I S T O R I C A L L Y S P E A K I N G New state highway breathes new life into downtown Gilroy… 1921 By Elizabeth Barratt (Photos courtesy of the Gilroy Museum.) By 1921, a new state highway was constructed to pass right through the heart of Gilroy along Monterey Street. Later renamed US Highway 101, the new road for decades brought bustling business to downtown, pleasing the merchants with a much-needed economic boost. But, daily, scores of motor travelers merely passed through town. And the idea of letting all those tourist dollars just go on their way gave several entrepreneurial Gilroyans a bright idea. After all, they wondered, why should the traveling public have to go to Salinas or San Jose to find a place to spend the night, when they could easily be accommodated, and fed, right in Gilroy? Before long, two brand new hotels were rapidly planned and built. Both were located on Monterey Street, between Sixth and Seventh Streets. The first one, the Louis Hotel and Café, was finished first. The two-story structure, situated near the center of the block, was built by John Radin and Louis Cupich The reinforced concrete building, which still stands, boasted a ground floor façade decorated in marble and opening into three ground floor dining rooms. Each area was designed for separate daily or event seating for ladies, gentlemen, and private banquets. Highlights of the new hotel’s décor included maple flooring and walls paneled in blue gum eucalyptus. On the second floor, accommodations included 25 guest rooms, fourteen of them with private baths. For the rest, there were an additional two full baths, located down the hall. Several rooms could be expanded into larger guest suites, and all rooms had steam heat, hot and cold running water, and room service buzzers. A phone booth was installed for the convenience of the pubic. On opening night, September 10, 1921, Radin and Cupich threw a banquet complete with gala dinner dance and accompanied by a live orchestra. Mitch Milias, a popular waiter at the owners’ former restaurant, was introduced as a new member of the firm. Not to be outdone, another hotel soon went up a few doors north, at the corner of Monterey and Sixth Streets. The Milias Hotel, built by Yugoslav immigrant George Milias, Sr., was designed as a larger, threestory hotel which boasted a fourth floor roof garden. The William Weeksdesigned, Mission style structure was equipped with 60 guest rooms on the second and third floors. About half of the rooms had private baths, with additional public baths located on both floors. For the guests’ convenience, the hotel also offered a new innovation, an electric elevator. The Milias family had begun in Gilroy with Yugoslavian immigrant George Milias, Sr., who by 1895 had opened the Milias Chop House. Decades later, when the new highway was completed, Milias seized the opportunity to expand his business. He tore down his popular eatery, which for a time had been leased by John Radin and Louis Cupich. In its place he built the Milias Hotel. On the ground floor, visitors entered a spacious lobby boasting a fireplace and tiled floor, with a barbershop to one side. And off the lobby, with an extra entrance on Sixth Street, the family expanded their restaurant operation with a grand double dining room boasting a main grill and private dining rooms, all served by a large modern kitchen. A screened-off lunch counter was added at the rear of the main dining room, offering day workers a fast, casual lunch. Known as The Milias Restaurant and Steakhouse, the fine dining 34 G I L R O Y T O D A Y S U M M E R 2 0 1 1