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Centropolis Hotel
Centropolis Hotel
TitleCentropolis Hotel
DescriptionPostcard of the Centropolis Hotel
Historical ArticleThe Centropolis Hotel at the northwest corner of 5th and Grand was a popular place when it was built in 1880. The builder, Moses Broadwell, came to Kansas City from Mississippi, where he had been a plantation owner. He was described at the time as one who exemplified the biblical character in more than name, boasting a long white beard.

He bought some rough land a block east of the market square. Frontage on Grand was 168 feet and on 5th 132 feet. There he built a splendid hotel facing on 5th. It was convenient to the 5th Street streetcar line, which ran to the depot in the West Bottoms. The first manager was J. C. Dunn, who successfully ran the hotel for years. The American plan was used and the food was elegant.

Broadwell first considered naming the hotel Virginia, honoring both the Southern state and his wife, Virginia Wood, former Clay Countian and daughter of Dr. Joseph Wood, physician and surgeon. (Dr. Wood received notice when he removed bullets from Jesse James.)

But the hotel was not named the Virginia. Maj. William Gilpin, who was a friend of the builder, suggested it be called the Centropolis. Since Gilpin, a West Pointer, mapmaker and highly respected authority on the city and its relation to the Western plains, was one of Kansas City's earliest boosters, his choice of names was accepted. (Whitney's History says: As far back as 1859 William Gilpin made a map, lithographed in St. Louis, showing Kansas City or Centropolis, as he named it, because it was so near the geographical center of the U.S., to be a great center of commerce, and prophesied for it a glorious future.)

At the grand opening of the Centropolis Hotel guests included C. A. Chace, mayor at the time, John S. Phelps, governor, and Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S. President.

An account of the celebration read:

Two fine bands played for dancing and the canvassed floor resounded with the merry patter of a thousand feet. Only sunrise stopped the festivities.

The Centropolis was the first hotel in Kansas City to install electric lighting.

The hotel was the headquarters of the Populist Party in the early 1890s. Presidents Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland were guests at different times between the years 1888 and 1891. Political leaders stayed there during the Democratic Convention in 1900.

As Kansas City moved southward and new hotels were built the old Centropolis gradually faded. In later years only part of the imposing structure was used as a hotel.

When the building was razed in 1941 a news story described the past glories of the hostelry in this way:

The Centropolis hotel was a rendezvous for midnight suppers after the ball. Its red-carpeted lobby felt the mighty tread of John L. Sullivan and Sandow, the strong man, and the lighter step of Hal Reid, father of the late Wallace Reid (movie star) and James O'Neil. The house once sheltered General Grant, Presidents Arthur and Cleveland. Here W. J. Bryan stayed when he first ran for President.

The post card, mailed in Kansas City in March, 1906, was made from a black and white lithograph by an artist of the Union Bank Note Company and was printed in Leipzig, Germany. At that time, only the address was permitted on the reverse side. The message had to be squeezed on the front.

Kansas City Times
September 14, 1974

AuthorRay, Mrs. Sam (Mildred)
Item TypePostcard
CollectionMrs. Sam Ray Postcard Collection (SC58)
See finding aid: http://localhistory.kclibrary.org/u?/Local,36981
Local SubjectHotels
Centropolis Hotel
Digital FormatJPEG
RepositoryMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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