History Echoes in Edinburg

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History Echoes in Edinburg

The iconic Echo Hotel sign has greeted customers for more than half a century. (VBR)
The iconic Echo Hotel sign has greeted customers for more than half a century. (VBR)

The windows that wrap around Stephen Reynolds’ office at the Echo Hotel look out into a city that has grown around the nearly 60-year-old facility.

“It’s one of the grand hotels of the (Rio Grande) Valley,” said Reynolds, the general manager and one of the owners of the iconic Edinburg hotel. “It was built by the citizens of Edinburg and it’s still a great facility with a lot of character.”

In the late 1950s, Edinburg found itself without a hotel of quality that could attract business people and tourists looking for a first-class hospitality experience. Community leaders formed the Edinburg Community Hotel Organization – the ECHO – to build a four-story hotel on Business 281/Closner Boulevard in the days before expressways when all incoming traffic entering the Valley from San Antonio had to go through Edinburg and right by the new hotel.

Stephen Reynolds is the general manager and part-owner of the Echo Hotel. (VBR)
Stephen Reynolds is the general manager and part-owner of the Echo Hotel. (VBR)

The city’s business leaders established the hotel organization and invested in it and invited residents to buy shares in the ECHO to help fund its construction. The hotel opened in 1959 with articles and advertisements splashed across the pages of local newspapers, hailing it as the best hotel of its kind in Valley, a facility to make Edinburg proud.

“Structurally, it’s built like a bunker,” Reynolds said of the old school construction with deep foundations and heavy use of concrete.

Giving a tour of the hotel, Reynolds goes through a full-service kitchen, meeting and banquet rooms, a comfy lounge to relax and have a few, and the elegant Grand View Dining Room that lives up to its name.  Sitting on 15 acres, the hotel offers green space and a large courtyard that serves as a sort of park for families to have barbecues and for kids to run around the friendly and safe confines of the Echo.

“I feel like we have a lot to offer and we can do it efficiently and at a fair price,’’ said Reynolds, an Edinburg native who lives in Bayview.

The Echo Hotel’s Grand View Dining Room overlooks an expanse of green space and spacious courtyard. (VBR)
The Echo Hotel’s Grand View Dining Room overlooks an expanse of green space and spacious courtyard. (VBR)

In 1989, the historic hotel was on the brink of closing due more to financial management issues than lack of business. The Echo was put up for sale and auctioned at the Hidalgo County Courthouse. Reynolds and his group of local investors quickly purchased the hotel to the cheers of local residents. “We got a standing ovation at the courthouse,” Reynolds recalled.

Since then, the hotel and its rooms have been renovated every few years, as has the facility’s infrastructure. A slew of new hotels have come into the Edinburg market over the years and most especially in recent years as the city has grown far beyond its small town roots.

“We didn’t realize how difficult it would be to maintain an older facility,” Reynolds said. “We have to do it. We have to keep up. There’s a lot of competition all around us.”

Helping the hotel keep up and endure is a group of employees whose loyalty to the Echo speaks to their commitment to the facility. Joe Nunez is one of those employees. He has 30 years-plus of experience at the Echo and can be seen daily at the front desk and helping customers as the hotel’s manager.

Joe Nunez, with more than 30 years experience at the Echo Hotel, mans the front desk. (VBR)
Joe Nunez, with more than 30 years experience at the Echo Hotel, mans the front desk. (VBR)

“The legacy of the hotel is that we take care of the people who come through our doors,” said Nunez, whose good nature and perpetual smile is a mainstay at the Echo. “The hotel’s ownership is behind us and they believe in the business and what we do.”

Looking over a busy calendar of upcoming activities that includes wedding anniversaries, graduation parties and business meetings, along with the daily lunches and buffets at the Grand View, Reynolds and his ownership group has guided the hotel through the city’s changes and growth. “We cater to a lot of different needs,” he said with a smile.

The Echo and Edinburg still go together.

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a journalist and business executive who has over 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and publisher and is currently managing allied health schools in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. Working for Freedom Communications, Cavazos served as editor of The Monitor for eight years and was publisher of The Brownsville Herald for 14 years. He also served as publisher of the Valley Morning Star for one year and launched two Spanish-language publications - El Nuevo Heraldo and El Extra. He is an Edinburg native currrently living in Harlingen.

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