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