The Brookville Hotel traces its roots back to the 1870’s, when the railroad spread their tracks out across the prairie to meet the expected rush of Longhorn cattle coming up from Texas along the Chisholm Trail.
Originally know as the Cowtown Cafй, the hotel was one of three to spring up in what was expected to be a railroad divisional center. Brookville suffered greatly when the Union Pacific Railroad relocated its round house to Junction City. Despite the steady decrease in population, the Brookville Hotel continued to do business in the small town.
In 1894 Gus and Mae Magnuson purchased the hotel. It was Mae’s cooking that started the Hotel’s reputation for great food, but it was the Magnuson’s daughter, Helen Martin, who originated the famous “Family Style Chicken Dinners” in 1915. In 1933, the Hotel passed into Helen’s capable hands.
Helen’s dining room received rave reviews during World War II, from a continuous parade of soldiers from nearby Camp Phillips and the Smoky Hill Air Base. The name Brookville Hotel became synonymous with family style chicken dinners.
Additions were made to the Hotel in 1948 and 1960, but by third generation family member, Cal Martin, who became a partner in the management of the hotel. Further additions to the Hotel were made in 1971 and 1978, increasing the serving capacity to 200.
In 1982, the ownership of the hotel passed to Mark and Connie Martin, the fourth generation to serve the famous Brookville Family Style Fried Chicken.
In 2000, the decision was made to move the restaurant to Abilene, locating the restaurant closer to the Interstate Highway which continues to bring a steady stream of people searching out the best fried chicken dinners in Kansas.
The Martins have replicated the facade of the original Brookville Hotel, and the dining rooms retain the decorations and feel of the originals. The newly build “Spirit of Kansas” room and the “Brandy’s Opera House” room, which was added in memory of the Martin’s daughter, continue the practice of building on a tradition that began in the 1870’s, and was made famous in 1915 when the first Family Style Chicken Dinner was served at the Brookville Hotel.