In the summer of 1875, Hugh and Sophia DeYarman from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, made arrangements to put up a hotel in [what would later be] Orange City. Hugh DeYarman had owned a hotel in Eau Claire. Sophia, a widower, first husband had also owned a hotel in Eau Claire, On the gently rolling terrain they found only scattered houses among orange groves.
By November of 1875, a one room cottage had been built to house seven men working at the saw mill and building the hotel and Mrs. DeYarman who cooked for the lot of them. Later that building would become the hotel kitchen. A second building was constructed to provide sleeping quarters for employees.
The hotel, known as the DeYarman House was built as a resort hotel and for many years the only one of its kind in the area. It opened in January, 1876 with an office, lobby and public rooms on the first floor. An inside stairway ascended from the lobby. Another stairway was on the outside of the building at the far end of the bedrooms, of which there were 12.
The hotel was the first public building among the orange groves.
The first religious services were preached by Reverend Lewton and held at the hotel.
On July 4th, 1877 towns’ people celebrated the holiday at the hotel with a picnic and brass band.
As early as 1876, a group of women met in each other’s homes every other week to sew and read aloud. By 1879, the accumulated books were taken to the hotel and the Orange City Library was formally organized.
In 1882, the hotel was the sight of two days of negotiations concerning the city incorporation.
In 1886, owner of the hotel, Hugh DeYarman, serves as the fourth mayor of Orange City, serving a term of six years. Only five other mayors served terms as long or longer. Mr. DeYarman also served as postmaster of Orange City from 1889 to 1893.
Sometime during the early 1900’s, two additional wings were added to the west and east sides. The west wing addition added 10 hotels rooms, five upstairs and five with a shared bathroom between two rooms. The East wing added a dining room and kitchen on the first floor and 8 rooms on the upstairs.
From 1931 to 1933, a man from Ocean Grove, New Jersey used it as an extension of a Methodist Camp.
In 1936, Ralph Hankinson purchased the then vacant hotel to cater to the Daytona race car drivers. During his ownership, he added a center wing with a bar on the first floor and three additional rooms on the second floor. The Rainbow Room as it was known featured a black onyx bar with colored lights behind glass brick and leather booths. The Rainbow Room became a favorite hangout for race car drivers and grounds for expulsion for any Stetson students found at the hotel. People came from miles around to see the Rainbow Room.
Sometime between 1939 and 1954, Wittenburg University and John Kolar owned the hotel
In 1954, Charles and Carol Forrer purchased the hotel and used it a nursing home until 1973 when the building state regulations were changed to prohibit nursing homes in frame structures. Mrs. Forrer, a nurse, started with just 8 patients and before long had an average of 49 patients for a facility licensed for 55. The Orange City Nursing Home, as it was known, was the first in the state to have an organized volunteer nursing auxiliary and the first to have a nurse call system installed by its auxiliary. In 1965, the home had 32 employees. A complete beauty parlor served the patients and churches of all demoninations took turns holding services on Sundays.
After closing the nursing home, Mrs. Forrer filled the front rooms with craft stores, painted it white and called it the “The White Elephant”. She was one of area’s the largest dealers of recreational vehicles and sporting goods. Even to this day, many people refer to the building as the “White Elephant”.
During the 1980s, the property was updated with a sprinkler and fire alarm systems. The veranda was constructed to extend around the entire building and bathrooms were added to every guest room (instead of shared bathrooms).
In the 1980s, the property changed hands a few times but Mrs. Forrer retained an interest due to mortgage she held on the property. She took the property back in 1995 and once again returned it to its original purpose, a hotel, naming it the 1876 Heritage Inn. In 1998, she graciously agreed to allow the U.S. Postal Service, for the sum of $100 a year, to lease a former hotel room for the beginnings of a postal museum. Since then the postal memorabilia spilled over to the hallways and lobby. Click here to see more on the postal museum.
In 2003, at the age of 83 and still running the hotel, Carol Forrer sold it to Amy and Randall Farley. The Farley's sold it to Taneja's in year 2012, who intend to continue operating the building as a hotel with aim of restoring it to its past glory.
Some of the historic rooms still have the original board and batten walls and hard wood floors. Over half the 30 hotel rooms have been renovated in the past two years; and there are plans to convert existing commercial space to add an additional 7 rooms.
The bar that was commenced in 1936 by Ralph Hankison has been brought back into service in February 2013 and was operational until May 2016; It is currently available for hosting private parties.