To understand the next phase of Greenwood Hotel history, we’ll have to digress a bit.
The Panama Canal
A canal across Panama had long been considered as a shorter alternative to the dangerous trip around Cape Horn. Spain had first proposed it as a better way to get to Peru.
Years later, America built a railroad across Panama to provide easier access to the goldfields of the West. Beginning in 1855, prospectors could sail from the Atlantic to the eastern terminus of the Panama Railroad, catch a train to the western terminus, and board another ship to California. This, however, was a rather complicated arrangement. A canal would greatly simplify matters, although it would be costly and difficult to build.
The first nation to attempt the project was France. In 1881, workers were rushed into Panama to dig a canal. Unfortunately, this effort did not last long. The men in charge of the project were inexperienced, landslides made construction harder than had been expected, and, worst of all, yellow fever ran rampant through the workforce. By 1889, the Panama Canal Company was bankrupt.
America took over the task in 1904. Engineers set to work to avoid the problems that had plagued the French, building comfortable quarters for the workers, setting up repair shops for the machinery, and exploring ways to check mosquito-borne diseases. Although over 5,000 men were killed by accidents and disease, the Americans still fared much better than the French had and were able to complete the project. The Panama Canal was officially opened on August 15, 1914.
The Panama–California Exposition
The completion of such a monumental undertaking was worthy of celebration on an equally large scale. At the time, the city of San Diego had a feeble economy and a population of only 39,578. Putting on the Panama–California Exposition was a bold move, but influential real estate developer David Charles Collier was bound and determined to use the event to give the city some favorable publicity.
Expositions of the time typically featured formal neoclassical architecture, but Collier decided to give the event a flavor of the Southwest with the simple, old-fashioned Pueblo and Mission Revival styles. However, the architect hired to do the work was Bertram Goodhue, noted for his work in the much more flamboyant Spanish Baroque style. Goodhue integrated elements of this style into the buildings at the Panama–California Exposition, along with elements of architecture found throughout the history of Spain, Mexico, and early California.
The results were a tremendous success. The new style earned the name of “Spanish Colonial Revival” and swept across the rest of the country, from California to Florida.
Country Club Plaza
One significant place that was influenced by the Spanish Colonial Revival style was the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in the early 1920s. This was the project of Jesse Clyde Nichols, who sought to create permanent residential and shopping districts that would draw people who might otherwise go to cities such as New York. At first called “Nichols’s folly” because of its location in an undeveloped hog-farming area, the Country Club Plaza was soon decorated with ornate architecture and sculptures and filled with upscale shops and restaurants.
At this point in time, Kansas City was the major destination for Flint Hills ranchers selling cattle. Calves could be loaded onto the train in Eureka and shipped up to the Kansas City Stockyards.
H.D. Hover of Greenwood County, Kansas, was one of the ranchers who regularly rode the train to Kansas City. He became quite familiar with the Country Club Plaza over time, and decided that he wanted to bring a little bit of that Spanish flavor to Eureka.
Hover bought the Greenwood Hotel in 1925 and set to work. He remodeled and expanded the inside of the building, but the most impressive changes took place on the outside. Stuccoed walls and a new clay-tiled roof gave the hotel the Spanish look that Hover had first seen in Kansas City. It obviously pleased the locals, as well, because the whole block soon took on a similar appearance.
On September 23, 1926, the work was completed and the hotel reopened. Hover celebrated the occasion with a parade, a dance, and a cattleman’s dinner. This started a local tradition known as Cattlemen’s Day, which officially began in 1928 and is still celebrated every fall.
Up next: Part 3—Restoration
Collins Block and Hotel Greenwood in Eureka, Kansas
How the hotel looked before the renovation…
Greenwood Hotel in Eureka, Kansas
…and after Hover modified the style of the building. Also browse the pictures of the restored interior.