Monday, March 10, 2014
# 5—Build Me a Palace—John Wesley Hannah
This week, rather than focusing on a person, I am blogging about a hotel and the person who built it. After the Civil War, John Wesley Hannah (1838—1898) moved from Edgar County Illinois to Butler Missouri. Here he established himself, marrying Jennie Sophia Willey and having five children: Gertrude, Anne, William, Marinda and Cora.
During the Civil War, the city of Butler was burned to the ground. The citizens needed to rebuild and considerable effort was expended to re-establishing Butler as a city. I had always heard that John built the Palace Hotel, but I knew very little about it. One day, while looking for information on the web about John I came across the application that was filed by the State of Missouri to have the Palace Hotel added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
As the picture above shows, and as described in the application, the Palace Hotel is a three story building built of brick with a flat roof. The second and third floors have vertical bays of windows. “Significant Italianate architectural features, such as a rectangular pediment resting on an elaborate bracketed cornice, and arched one-over-one light double-hung sash windows with segmental arches, stone sills and keystones, are visible on the facade. …”
According to the document
“The Palace Hotel was built in 1879 near the end of the Italianate period (1840-1890) and remains a fine example of high style Italianate architecture. The Palace Hotel is also locally significant in the area of commerce. It was one of the first buildings constructed on the town square and has housed a variety of different commercial concerns relevant to the city's livelihood. … He (John Hannah) partnered with T. A. Shaw to formulate a plan for building a three-story hotel. As commerce in Butler would continue to expand and attract individuals from near and far, Hannah and Shaw recognized the importance of having a first-class hotel available. According to the Bates County Record, the oldest newspaper in the Butler area, on February 8, 1879, Hannah and Shaw signed a contract with Samuel Currier for the manufacture of brick and with Messrs. McBrides and Helms (two of each) for the laying of brick for their three-story hotel. The following week Hannah and Shaw traveled to Kansas City to consult with an architect about plans for their new hotel. It was decided that the first floor would remain fairly open for use as a store. The second floor would house the hotel, with many smaller rooms available for tenants and larger kitchen and dining facilities as well. The third floor would feature an elaborate ballroom for dances and gatherings held by the elite of Butler society.”
The Palace Hotel opened for business on February 15, 1880. Reading of the application indicates that the Palace Hotel has been used in a variety of different ways. Its hotel rooms were used by those traveling. When the railroad came to Butler, the Palace Hotel operated a bus service so that its patrons could easily get to the hotel. The first floor seems to have always been occupied by a clothing store—first, M. S. Cowles clothing store, then, American Clothing House, and finally, J.C. Penney. J. C. Penny continued to occupy that space until 1987. The citizens used the ballroom for parties and other social events, and for a number of years, a doctor maintained an office on the second floor. As the picture above shows, an iron balcony was on the front of the hotel. That allowed guests staying in the hotel and the residents of Butler an opportunity to view the happenings in the town square.
Not only did John Wesley build the hotel, he also was the owner and proprietor. He died in 1898. It is unclear when the hotel was sold; whether it was sold before or after his death. However, the hotel was renovated in 1897 and in 1898 became the Ross Hotel. In 1907 the hotel was again sold, this time to H. G. Cook, who rented the third floor to the Elks.
The application for historic designation was accepted in 2002, and a plaque to that effect has been placed on the building. Today the Palace Hotel looks like this and has been renovated into an office building.
Doering, J. (2002) National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Palace Hotel.