History of the Greenwood Hotel
“The Grand Princess of the Prairie, Center of Everything”
1882: In 1882 many of the same influential men who brought the railroad depot to Eureka determined that the quickly growing city needed a hotel. A board was developed and they hired Charles W. Squires, an architect from Emporia as the architect of the building.
1883: In October of 1883 the Greenwood Hotel was completed with 43 boarding rooms and 50 beds. Built by The Eureka Hotel Company, a stock company consisting of prominent early settlers of the Eureka community the total cost of construction was $23,000. The hotel was originally called “Hotel Greenwood” in honor of the county in which the hotel resided as well as the namesake of the county, Alfred B. Greenwood, who was noted for his work in Indian Affairs on reservations in Nebraska, Kansas and ‘the Indian Territories’ of Oklahoma. Commerce, horse drawn transportation and railroads were the main reasons the Eureka Hotel Company was founded. Eureka was a thriving metropolis. The Greenwood Hotel is one of the oldest landmarks in Greenwood County. In the Greenwood’s prominent years it is estimated that over $1,000,000,000 worth of cattle were traded in its lobby. Million dollar oil deals were completed behind its walls. It served Eureka, Greenwood County and the Flint Hills as the place to stay for over three-quarters of a century.
1884: On March 7, 1884 A grand opening ball was held for the Hotel Greenwood. The St. Louis, Ft. Scott, and Wichita railroad ran a special train for the ball, and it was reported…
“Guests began arriving as early as eight o-clock, and at 10:00, when the ceremonies were begun, the elegant and spacious parlors and corridors were thronged with the most brilliant gathering ever seen in Eureka…”
1885: The editor of the American Sheep Breeder issued a Handbook of Greenwood County. This particular issue contained the following description of the hotel:
“The Hotel Greenwood is a model of architectural beauty and elegant finish, without and within, and abounds in fine effects from every point of view. Fine contrasts of form and color are everywhere visible in the plans of the architect, and the work of the master builders, both of which are happily supplemented by the master and mistress, with equally elegant furnishings, that from office to attic, bring out the best effects of reflection and refraction.
1872: Albert Frazier arrived at Eureka in 1872. As one of the pioneers of this city, he started a transfer business.
1873: A stage line was in operation by James A. McCoy. A traveler could leave Eureka at 6:00 a.m. and arrive in Emporia at 5:00 p.m. or might journey to El Dorado in only six hours.
1879: The Kansas City, Emporia and Southern Railway (the Santa Fe Railroad), the first railroad to serve Eureka, was extended south to Howard. The depot for this rail system is located approximately three blocks east of the Greenwood Hotel.
1879: On July 4, 1879 Albert Frazier, with his “hack” sporting the words “Greenwood Hotel” on the back, met the first train that ever came into Eureka. He carried travelers to their destinations in his horse-drawn bus for more than 50 years. Upon his death in 1927, his partner and son, Arthur William Frazier continued the horse drawn freight delivery and taxi service. Arthur made the transition from the horse-drawn omnibus to the motorized version and continued meeting trains, and carrying mail and passengers to and from the depots until in the 1960s.
1879: Besides bringing people to the area, the opening of the Santa Fe railroad in 1879 was crucial to the development of the grazing-leasing arrangements with Texan cattle owners, and served as the predecessor to the custom grazing for short season grass, a practice that many area ranchers continue to exercise.
1882: In June of 1882 the St. Louis, Ft. Scott and Wichita Railway (known now by most as the Missouri Pacific) reached Eureka. The “Mo-Pac” Depot was located on Main Street exactly 6 blocks to the north of the Greenwood Hotel.
1911: The Hotel was a gathering place for cattlemen and had a reputation for being a small livestock exchange. A reporter from the Kansas City Star observes the following about the prosperous cattle industry in the county:
“The lobby of Eureka’s largest hotel is a sort of small livestock exchange. There are the same men with broad-brimmed hats and whips that the visitor sees in Kansas City’s exchange building in the first floor’s corridors. Always they are “talking cattle.” Ask for proof as to how powerful they are, and the evidence is that when a petition of the Eureka cattlemen for a new railway stations went to officials of the Missouri Pacific, work on that station began in less than two weeks. And the Missouri Pacific, it is believed, is not a railroad that is building new depots everywhere that there is a request for one.”
1916: Compared to the livestock industry, crude oil had a slower start in Greenwood County. However, in 1916, the first significant crude oil strike in the county happened near the Virgil area. Supplies and equipment were originally brought to the oil field by mule drawn wagons. During the earliest years of production, the oil was transported via railroad to El Dorado to the refineries.
The effects of the boom by 1920 could be evidenced in several officials of large oil companies filling the hotel lobby. The lobby was a place where million dollar deals were being made… and the boom was on. Wildcatters and speculators were keen for leases.
Oil production in the county was more than 4,500 barrels a day. A test well in Thrall started another stampede to the Flint Hills among lease buyers, according to historian Henry Bennett. Eureka was overflowing with oil workers and their families. Hotels and bank lobbies directly reflected the activity surrounding this newfound resource.
The County was booming! People were prospering and able to purchase automobiles. They could drive into town and up highway 54 to the hotel.
Wildcatters, speculators were keen for leases. Oil production in the county was more than 4,500 barrels a day.
1923: Former heavyweight boxing champion, Jess Willard, stayed at the Greenwood Hotel. One of the stories about the Willard visit is about his appetite. During his stay, he consumed a dozen eggs and two full slices of ham for one breakfast.
1926: The most extensive renovation took place at the Greenwood Hotel by H.D. Hoover, adding twelve rooms on the east side, converting the pool hall into a café to be managed by H.J. Nickle, and converting the dining room into a pool hall. A new sign, twelve feet in height, was put into place on the Main Street front at the third floor level. The exterior of the building was given a Spanish look with tiled roof and stucco applied to the exterior walls. The application of the stucco and the tile represents the Spanish Revitalization that vastly swept our country during the 1920s. The cost of the remodel was $68,000. In the Eureka Herald dated September 9, 1926, just before the opening of the renovated Hotel Greenwood, a reporter wrote:
The management of the New Greenwood Hotel, which has risen from the former oldest and most widely known hotel in the Flint Hills, has turned the hotel over for the day and evening as headquarters for the cowmen, just as the old hotel was headquarters for the Flint Hills country for more than 40 years. It is estimated that more than $1,000,000,000 worth of cattle changed hands in the old Greenwood Hotel in its palmy days. …….
An article in the November 1, 1926 issue of the Eureka Herald recaps the opening of the newly remodeled Greenwood Hotel:
Harry Hoover issued an invitation to the cattlemen of the Flint Hills section and others prominent in the cattle industry to attend a cattlemen’s dinner in Eureka on September 23, 1926.
The Santa Fe Railroad ran a special train from Kansas City for the event. It arrived at 4:56 and was met by the Eureka Municipal Band and a parade was formed to town. Many livestock and commission men had arrived earlier in the day for the big event. A fat grasser steer was the feature of the evening dinner, served in the Lutheran Church basement.
The next year the cattlemen adopted the celebration as their own and so began the historical Cattlemen’s Day in Greenwood County. In 2002 they celebrated the 75 year tradition of Cattlemen’s Day. H.D. Hoover served as president of the Cattlemen’s association from 1928 to1934. The Greenwood Hotel served as headquarters for the Cattlemen’s association for many years. To this day Cattlemen’s Day is the largest party of the year.
1936: The hotel began serving as a bus station for passengers August 1, 1936 and fulfilled this purpose until the late 1970’s.
1946: One of the hotel’s most famous boarders was listed on the hotel register, Roger Babson. Babson established a college here in Eureka that operated until the early 1970s.
1974: Owner and manager, Forest Kling, closed the upper rooms of the Greenwood Hotel for business but it remained a headquarters for the local cattlemen. A liquor store was added to the front part under the veranda of the hotel.
1977: Forest and Verla Kling sold the hotel upon retirement. Richard and Becky Potts purchased the hotel after an organization called the Heritage Development Company, Inc of Wichita failed to remodel the hotel.
1979: Owners Richard and Becky Potts sold the Greenwood Hotel at auction to Mrs. Ralph Marlin, Mrs. T.W. McCarthy and Mrs. George Jackson on August 11, 1979 for $31,500.
1992: The hotel was the headquarters for the 125th celebration of the founding of the City of Eureka.
2002: The Greenwood Preservation Society (GWPS) was formed and began the current restoration process. As part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Cattlemen’s Day, area historian Jim Hoy, Emporia State University, entertained cattlemen and townspeople in the lobby of the Greenwood Hotel. Hoy shared bits of Flint Hills and Greenwood County history in front of a capacity crowd in the hotel lobby.
2005: For the 2005 Cattlemen’s Day the hotel lobby was used for storytelling. Jim Gray and Ladd Lewis gave a presentation on the history of the hotel and area cattlemen.
2005: The GWPS secured $9,500 from the National Historic Trust and raised over $45,000 from private individuals to restore the north wall of the structure, to maintain the building, to fund a feasibility study and to pay for preliminary architect plans.
2006: Greenwood Hotel was placed on the State & National Historic Registries.
2007: The Greenwood Preservation Society was awarded $311,228 in Community Service Tax Credits from the Kansas Department of Commerce for 2007 and 2008. The tax credit funds are being used along with other resources to renovate the 1st floor as well as future upper floor restoration.
2008: In June, the Kansas Department of Transportation/Transportation Enhancement (KDOT/TE) reimbursement program awarded the GWPS $990,000, which at that agency’s request in August 2009 was converted to an ARRA grant in the amount of $1.3 million.
The Greenwood Preservation Society acquired complete ownership of the Greenwood Hotel.
Awarded National Trust for Historic Preservation grant in the amount of $2000.00.
The Architectural firm of William Morris Associates was hired to draw the plans and oversee the exterior, basement and 1st floor renovation.
2009: Kansas State Historical Society Heritage Trust Fund Grant of $94,000 was received for the basement renovation.
2010: Renovation of the Greenwood Hotel began on March 8, 2010. Accel Construction LLC of Wichita is the General Contractor.
The Hotel Greenwood- Compiled by Helen Bradford
Various Eureka Herald Newspaper Articles from 1883 to 1979
The History of Greenwood County – Volumes I and II
Courtesy of Greenwood Preservation Society