The Judkin-Forbes in Poteau has a long and somewhat seedy history.
The story begins with the Flener House. The Flener House was Poteau’s first and most affluent hotel. Located on the north corner of Fleener and Broadway, Melvin Fleener established a small section house there during the development of the railroad. After he left the railroad business, he built up the section house into a very fine establishment. Around 1895, he took on Tom Forbes as a partner, but the arrangement didn’t last long. The Flener House closed and Tom Forbes established a smaller hotel approximately a block north of where the Flener House once stood.
Around Oklahoma’s statehood, the Judkin family established another hotel on the third block of Dewey. By this time, Dewey served as the main road in Poteau, connecting the KCS and Frisco Railroads together. While the Forbes Hotel remained one of the nicest in the area, stories tell that the Judkin’s Hotel originally served as both a railroad house and a brothel. While it hasn’t been proven, it is very likely as there were three listed brothels in Poteau during the time.
Sometime in the 1920s, the Forbes family and the Judkin family merged to form the Judkin-Forbes Hotel. A new building was constructed on the fourth block where the present day funeral home is.
By the 1930s, the hotel was billed as a “modern, sensibly priced, southern hotel”. It had an air conditioned coffee shop and dining room. The rooms relied on cool breezes to keep them comfortable, although they did contain large, powerful fans. They adverties that they were “Famous for the best foods, and featuring finest steaks, Southern fried chicken and hot biscuits.”
Sadly, as with the Hotel Lowrey, the Judkin-Forbes gave way to the more modern motels and motor lodges. It was eventually turned in to the Curry Nursing Home before being partially destroyed by fire. Today, the only portions of the basement remain under the Evans and Miller Funeral Home parking lot.