Despite the advantage of Marion’s two railroad lines, the community seemed to have had trouble attracting a truly ambitions hotel enterprise, and thus interested citizens were forced to resort to offering a substantial financial incentive to prospective developers. Thus, on July 10, 1885, the Marion Record reported that the local real estate firm of Case and Billings would award $1,000, to which the citizens of Marion would add $2500, to any “outsider” who would erect “a great hotel building” in Marion.
When no outsider immediately leaped at their proposition, Case and Billings, along with many citizens in the town, took matters into their own hands, and in late July formed a hotel company – 160 shares of capital stock were sold at $100 each to finance the project. By August, 1885, the company had commissioned an architect “in the eastern part of the state” to draw up plans and specifications for a three-story stone structure.
The Dream Becomes Reality
Contracts were let in September and October and work commenced soon after. According to October 9, 1885, Marion Record, the contract for the stone work was awarded to Harper and Rhind of Marion, that for provision of sand to E.L. Snider, that for provision of stone to Mr. Kellett, and the contract for the carpentry work was awarded to Henry Kable, reportedly “one of the best workmen in Kansas.” Other sources identify Simon Weidenbener and Fred Frobenius as stone cutters for the project.
In comparison with the hotel facilities in larger places like Wichita and Garden City, each of which boasted one or more new hotels during this period, the Elgin was a modest structure (the Windsor Hotel in Garden City had four stories, cost $100,000 and had 125 rooms; the Carey House in Wichita had five stories and cost $100,000.) Yet, far its location and available resources it was an impressive project, providing seemingly lavish accommodations with forty airy, cozy sleeping apartments, an elegant double parlor, bath room, an unusually fine dining room, sample room, wash room, tonsorial room, reading room, etc., all neatly and comfortably furnished, and supplied with modern appliances for the comfort of the guests.”To those who recalled A, E. Case’s “Hotel Commercial” which opened in the late 1860s, and offered sleeping accommodations in the attic, this new hotel must have seemed a satisfactory improvement.
The Elgin served the community from its opening in 1886 until the late 1950’s when it was closed.
The Grand Opening
The grand opening was held on September 15, 1886, with a banquet and ball that were the most splendid the city had seen. Programs that have survived detail an elaborate menu. All the principals in the hotel project were on the program and music was provided by the Marion Silver Cornet Band.
Shortly after the Elgin Hotel opened, the Marion Record observed, “‘We get prouder and prouder of the Elgin Hotel. It is indeed a ‘big thing’ for the town.” Its impact on the county scene is indicated by the fact that the hotel occupied the cover of the 1888 “Handbook of Marion County, Kansas,” for it was the largest hotel in the county at that time.
Built to stimulate an economic boom, the hotel was a symbol of the town’s aspirations more than an index of its actual achievements. Enthusiastic newspaper accounts accompanied the hotel ‘s construction. Just as work on the hotel was getting underway in late August, 1885, one reporter stated that the Elgin would be a “monster three story stone hotel” executed in “the most elaborate style of modern architecture” with ” first class” interior appointments, It would be “a monument to Marion’s glory and a common pride to citizens and its enterprising builders. This will be the finest hotel west of Topeka.”
The Elgin is Saved
In 1974, the building was acquired by an organization that wanted to demolish it and reuse the stone to build a church. However, those plans fell through and the structure remained empty until 1976 when it was renovated. In 1977, the Elgin reopened as an apartment house rather than a hotel. It is interesting to note that, like the construction of the hotel, the renovation of the Elgin in the 1970’s also relied to a large extent on capital generated by investments in the project made by local citizens. The Elgin remained an apartment for almost 30 years before it was sold yet again.
Jim and Nancy Cloutier purchased the building in 2006 and began a complete renovation of the property. In 2009, the couple moved into a residential penthouse on the 3rd floor and hired manager Sherry Soyez to run the 8 room bed and breakfast on the 2nd floor. The facility was complemented with a ballroom, conference room, and foyer on the 1st floor.
After calling the Elgin home for 7 years, the Cloutiers decided it was time to move on, and in July 2016 current owners, Jeremy and Tammy Ensey, purchased the property.
Currently the 3rd floor of the Historic Elgin Hotel is being renovated to include four more rooms with private, en-suite bathrooms. When the construction is complete, the Elgin will offer guests a total of 12 uniquely-themed suites. Also in the plans are a game lounge in the back building, a fitness center and business center on the 2nd floor, and a library for social gatherings on the 3rd floor. Check our blog for updates on these changes!