Hotel Eaton, Interior Shot; Wichita, KS
An interior shot (1931) of the elegant Hotel Eaton lobby in Wichita, KS. W.H. Sternberg was a major contractor on this structure, responsible for all windows, doors and interior carpentry. The ornate tile floor is still intact today as are the two newel post lamps on the staircase, the pillars, the ornate iron railing on the staircase, the original elevator and more. Sternberg was the single biggest contractor in Wichita at a time when Wichita was one of the fastest growing cities in the entire country. After he accumulated some money he erected a grand victorian home that featured all the ornament he could feasibly muster. His home was intended in some ways to be a model home - to show prospective home builders what could be done with their new-found money. Both the Hotel Eaton (this photo) and Sternberg Mansion are still standing today and both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
John B. Carey (an Irish immigrant to Wichita) built this structure in 1886 and it opened to the public on January 1, 1887. The 5-story "Carey House" was built for $100,000 and had all of the modern conveniences such as steam heat, an elevator, electric lighting, hot and cold running water in all the guest rooms, an elegant dining room with 1st class service and food, a hotel gift shop selling daily newspapers, magazines, candy and post cards, a livery service (horses and carriages for rent to get around town in), a messaging system to all the guest rooms, down pillows and other upscale appointments as well as personal services for hotel patrons such as laundry and shoe shines. After John Carey had this built, he lived here in this hotel. John Carey died in the late 1890s and his heirs in Chicago inherited this hotel. They sold it for $70,000 to then manager of the hotel Mr. Ben Eaton and thereafter until the 1990s it was known as the "Hotel Eaton".
This was the hotel lobby (but this is not the elegant bar area of the hotel) where Carrie Nation entered in 1900 on her temperance campaign singing hymns, while smashing liquor bottles with her hatchet and thowing billard balls at the suggestive "Cleopatra at the Bath" painting on the wall.
Carrie Nation wasn't a small woman as photos of her tend to indicate. She was a large woman (about 6' high), well-built, sturdy and strong willed at that! Although her family background was somewhat unusual, she had good reasons to believe that alcohol was at the root of many social problems. Her first marriage ended two years after it began, mainly because her husband (a doctor) was a severe alcoholic and he died less than a year after the divorce. One of Kansas's more colorful people, Carrie Nation was arrested over 30 times for "hatchetations" (as she called them). Either by herself or with other hymn-singing women she would march into a bar - singing and praying all the while smashing bar fixtures and liquor bottles with a hatchet. Since she was repeatedly jailed for her offenses, Mrs. Nation paid her jail fines from lecture-tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets. Today, her birth home in Medicine Lodge, Kansas is a National Historic Landmark.
I had the opportunity to stay here at this hotel when it was still really a hotel. It was nothing like hotels today. Although it had been physically beaten down from years of neglect and abuse (I think hotel rooms were about $19.00/night then), it exuded a strong aura of old-time quality and luxury. Wood trim was thick and heavy and luxuriously milled. Window shutters were heavy real wood hand-crafted shutters where individual pieces of wood were larger and heavier than any shutters today. The main staircase with it's gas newel posts and cracked but elegantly patterned tile floors told of a day when ladies and gentlemen dined in the first class white linen dining room with fans slowly turning overhead. The walls had absorbed all the smells for over 100 years and there was a slight hint of ladies perfume, fine liquors and cigars. Bathrooms were not in each room however (maybe there were a few rooms with their own but certainly not most rooms). Bathrooms were located at the end of each hallway - they were communal. So there were four bathrooms on each floor. I can just imagine a waiting line in the hallway to use the bathroom in the morning. The bathrooms were certainly upscale with thick marble lavatories, large and ornate oversized iron tubs, fancy solid cast brass fixtures. Yet for the day, multiple bathrooms on each floor were a big improvement and having one no further than the nearest corner . . . wow! See photostream for photo of the dining room of this hotel. In 1900 when Oscar Z. Smith had his Realty Company in Wichita, his headquarters was here in this hotel and he prominently displayed a full page image of the hotel in the front of his advertising book (financially supported by the Santa Fe Rail Road). If you officed here in 1900, you were indeed someone!! Guest rooms in 1900 rented for between $2.00 - $3.00 / day depending on the level of luxury. However if you were a prospective real estate buyer, Mr. Smith would kindly pick up your hotel tab and your livery expenses.
Your thoughts, comments, stories, ideas and/or additional information are welcome and appreciated!!
This photo is provided courtesy of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum (www.WichitaHistory.org).