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Historical Hotels and Boarding Houses in Alton

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Alton House, Alton, Madison County, IllinoisThe original Alton House, a substantial frame building, was constructed in 1832 by Johnathan T. Hudson, and was located on the northeast corner of Front and Alby Streets in Alton, where previously a French Trading House was located. Among the early proprietors were Andrew Miller, Mr. Delaplain, Samuel Pitts, and Washington Libby. The original Alton House was destroyed by fire in July of 1837. It was replaced with a brick building, erected by Calvin Stone, 50 x 25' and 3 stories high. The new hotel opened in December 1837. In 1839 it was touted by a traveler as "one of the best conducted establishments of the kind west of the Allegheny mountains."

In the year 1840, Daniel Webster, the great orator, gave a campaign speech on the porch of the hotel. Champagne had flowed freely, and when Webster rose to speak, he had to hold tightly to the railing to maintain his equilibrium.  In 1844 Major B. T. Burk of Carlinville purchased the hotel and remodeled and enlarged the building. It was kept for many years by Amos T. Corson, who added a large brick addition onto the building.  In 1858, during the Lincoln - Douglas debates, Stephen A. Douglas stayed at the Alton House.

Amos Corson was succeeded in 1866 by William Siemens, who was the proprietor when the Horse Railroad Festival was held at the hotel in 1867. This supper and festival was held in honor of the completion of the Alton & Upper Alton Horse Railroad.

The second Alton House building burned down on January 8, 1870. In 1905 Dr. G. Taphorn purchased the property, which at this time was filled with weeds. He planned to improve the property, but never did.  In 1905 John H. McPike, son of Henry Guest McPike, purchased the property, and began clearing away debris and weeds. It was here he constructed his paper mill on the foundations of the old Alton House. The McPike Paper Mill opened in 1907. McPike moved his mill to St. Louis in 1911. This site then became the Illinois Corrugated Paper Mill, and later the headquarters for Mississippi Lime Company. The mill building still stands, and is currently housing apartments.


ALTON HOUSE BURNS DOWN (this is the original Alton House)
Source: Alton Telegraph, July 19, 1837
We are sorry to state that the Alton House in this place, occupied as a hotel by Mr. W. Libby, was burnt down at an early hour on Sunday morning last. A fire had been discovered on the afternoon of Saturday, in the garret of a back building attached to the establishment, and promptly subdued by the energetic and well directed exertions of the firemen and citizens, without doing any material damage except to the roof, which was partially consumed. Between two and three o'clock the next morning, however, it broke out afresh in an upper part of the main edifice, at some distance from the spot where it had previously occurred; and so rapid and destructive were its progress, that in spite of all that could be done to arrest its destructive career, it was not checked until after the whole house, with the exception of the kitchen and the part injured on the preceding day, were reduced to a heap of ruins. We understand that the building, as well as the furniture - a part of which was saved - were fully insured. We much regret to add that Mr. Underhill, one of Messrs. Godfrey & Gilman's Clerks, who was sleeping in an upper room in the warehouse of these gentlemen, on hearing the cry of fire, sprang out of bed in order to ascertain the cause; and missing his way, fell through an open scuttle into the cellar, breaking one of his thighs, and otherwise sustaining much injury. As he was alone in the building, his situation was not discovered until after the conflagration was over; consequently, he must have suffered intensely before he obtained any relief. P. S. We regret to state that Mr. Underhill died this morning about half past 3 o'clock.


Source: Alton Telegraph, December 27, 1837
The reader will observe, by a notice in another column, that this establishment, which was burnt down last summer, has been rebuilt, and is now again open for the reception of the public, under the superintendence of Messrs. Miller & Fish. Although the main building is still unfinished, the accommodations are nevertheless excellent; and when we say that the senior member of the present firm is the same gentleman who had charge of the Alton House a few years since, we need not add that nothing is omitted which can contribute to the comfort and satisfaction of the guests. The situation commands an extensive view of the river, and is at a convenient distance from the public landing; and after the completion of the principal part of the edifice - which is of brick, presents a very handsome appearance, and is in a state of great forwardness - we think the establishment will compare advantageously with any other in this section of the Union.


Source: Alton Telegraph, January 2, 1839
The subscribers having taken this spacious building, are now ready to accommodate travelers and the public generally, and no pains will be spared which will contribute to the comfort of those who may favor them will a call. The senior partner having formerly kept the Alton House, and received a large share of public patronage, would tender his thanks for past favors, and hopes that they will be continued to the present firm. Signed Miller and Fish.


Source: Alton Telegraph, August 24, 1839
The following testimony to the excellent accommodations &c., to be found at the above establishment, was enclosed to us a few days since by the writer, who is now on a visit to the western states, with an earnest request that it might appear in our paper. It is entirely correct and fully confirmed by every traveler who has occasion to call at the Alton House. This city is now very well provided for the entertainment of visitors and others - two or three very good hotels, besides the above, having been established here within the last twelve months.

To the Editor of the Telegraph -
Sir - In my tour through the Great West, I had the pleasure of visiting your city for a few days. I cannot with justice to the public and the attentive proprietor of the Alton House, leave your city without acquainting travelers and the public generally with the accommodations to be found in the above hotel for comfort, a well-supplied table, the best the country can afford, polite and attentive servants, and though last not least, good clean beds, rarity to be met with even in your much-boasted St. Louis. I have no hesitation in saying it is decidedly one of the best conducted establishments of the kind west of the Alleghany mountains. I am sir, with respect, your obedient servant, A Traveler.


Source: Alton Telegraph, February 27, 1841
We understand that a splendid Ball will be given at the Alton House in this city, on Thursday evening next, in honor of the Inauguration of "the people's President." This memorable event will also be celebrated in the same mode at Mr. Squire's Hotel, Six Mile; and in almost every city, town, and village throughout the Union.


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 3, 1841
Mr. A. L. Corson, the new proprietor of the Alton House, has thoroughly repaired the same throughout, and his unremitting attention to the traveling public, together with his excellent and bountifully supplied table, renders the Alton House among the best in the western country. We wish him that success, which his exertions to please so richly merits.


Source: Alton Telegraph, October 7, 1843
Mr. Editor - Although a fad in drunkenness, it is with gratification that I notice the neat, tasteful, and well-conducted bar, lately opened by F. Gray, Esq., connected with the well-known Alton House. Strangers and others visiting our city, who love good cigars "or a little wine for the stomach's sake," can there find every variety of the choicest refreshments appertaining to such establishments. The habits of the day are such as in courtesy to strangers who visit us demand one such bar in the city, and no better location could be made therefore than at the Alton House. Signed H.


Source: Alton Telegraph, August 3, 1844
The undersigned will lease, for a term of years, that well known and valuable stand in the city of Alton called The Alton House. It is believed that this establishment offers greater advantages to an attentive and experienced landlord, than any other in Southern and Western Illinois, and the present is an opportunity such as seldom offers to an active and enterprising businessman to realize a competency, with a small outlay, in the course of a few years. The terms will be easy and accommodating. The furniture, most of which is new and in good order, will be sold cheap. Signed by Amos L. Corson.


Source: Alton Telegraph, December 27, 1845
A New Year's Ball to be given at the Alton House on Wednesday evening, December 31, 1845. Managers: G. T. M. Davis, William Martin, W. C. McElroy, Norton Johnson, C. P. Heaton, N. G. Edwards, Lewis Parsons, Mark Dickson, H. P. Hulbert, J. A. Buckmaster, J. E. Broughton, W. Libbey, Robert Dunlop, A. Clifford, G. W. Prickett, G. C. Lusk, Charles Murray, John Campbell, James Frost, Thomas Carroll, J. J. Gillham, Jeremiah Job, Laurist Robbins, J. L. Ferguson, E. S. Brown.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 6, 1846
The celebrated Campanologian Band of Swiss Bell Ringers, whose surprising performances have been received with enthusiastic applause in all the principal cities of Europe and America, and have received the highest encomiums from the leading journals of both continents, will give two grand concerts on Monday and Tuesday evenings, June 8th and 9th. Admission 50 cents; Children under 12 years of age, half price. Doors open at 7 1/2 o'clock. Commence at 8. No postponement on account of weather. Change of program each evening.


Source: Alton Telegraph, February 11, 1848
This well-known and old established hotel, kept for some years past by Mr. A. L. Corson, has passed into the hands of Mr. A. M. Blackburn, late of Woodburn, Macoupin County, who has put it in complete order and is now prepared to entertain his former friends and customers in his usual good style. This city is provided with two first-rate hotels, besides several others conducted on a smaller scale, which likewise afford excellent accommodations on moderate terms; and travelers, or transient persons, desirous of spending a few days, weeks, or months in the neighborhood of the Mississippi, can nowhere find a more pleasant and healthy residence or more comfortable quarters than in Alton.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, February 28, 1853
Alton House - Amos L. Corson, Proprietor. The undersigned, grateful for the very liberal patronage heretofore extended in the above well-known and long-established hotel, respectfully informs the traveling public and the community in general, that he is still prepared to entertain them at all hours, in the very best manner, and on the most reasonable terms. His table will be constantly supplied with the choicest delicacies to be procured in the market; and no pains or attention, on the part of the proprietor, or his able assistant, Captain Pilts, will be omitted to give entire satisfaction to all who may favor him with a call. Connected with the establishment is a large and commodious stable, where a good stock of horses, carriages and buggies will always be kept in readiness for the accommodation of travelers and others. Funerals will also be attended to at short notice, and in the best and finest style.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, May 18, 1853
Our citizens and the traveling public will be gratified to learn that the Alton House is to be immediately enlarged by the addition of an extensive wing. The new building is to be of brick, will contain a magnificent dining hall and some thirty or forty airy and convenient rooms, together with a balcony on the west. It will front on Alby Street, and make a tasty and desirable addition to the building. The fact that our public homes are too contracted to accommodate the tide of travel passing through Alton, and which must continue rapidly to increase, has been for some months apparent to all, and we have no doubt that the contemplated improvement in the above old and well-known stand will go far towards remedying the evil.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, June 15, 1853
We learn that Captain S. Pitts has recovered from the affliction of his eyes, and has again connected himself with Mr. A. L. Corson in the management of the Alton House. Captain Pitts enjoys the well-deserved reputation of being one of the most attentive and accommodating landlords in the country, and under his auspices, the Alton House will continue to be what it is – all that the traveling public can wish.


Source: Alton Weekly Courier, June 17, 1853
We learn that it is the intention of the owner of the Alton House, or its leasee, Mr. Corson, to build a large brick addition, or wing, to the main building this season. The business of this hotel has been very heavy the past winter and spring, and fully justifies this enlargement.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, June 30, 1853
We have already mentioned that arrangements were being made for greatly enlarging the present dimensions of the Alton House. We are informed that the contract for building the addition has been let to Mr. Z. Lowe of Upper Alton, and that the grading for the foundation has already commenced. The new building will be 65 feet deep by 30 feet wide, and four stories high. The basement will be arranged for sitting rooms, barbershop, &c. The second floor will form one large and commodious hall to be used for dining and other purposes. The upper stories will be divided into fine, airy rooms for families and single gentlemen. With these improvements, the Alton House will be one of the pleasantest and most commodious in this section of Illinois. It is intended to have the addition completed and furnished throughout by October 20.


Source: Alton Telegraph, September 6, 1861
It will be observed by a notice in another part of our paper that A. L. Corson has taken the entire charge of this old and popular House. This will be good news to the traveling public, for it is a generally conceded fact that no man in the West has succeeded any better in entering to the taste of epicurus than Mr. Corson. He has been engaged in this business the most of the time for the last 30 years, and is personally and well known to all this region of country. No further commendation of the Alton House is needed, than the mere announcement than it is now in the hands of a man so well known as a popular hotel keeper as Mr. Corson. If you want to find the place, look for the large American Flag floating at the top of the house, directly fronting the river.


Source: Alton Telegraph, March 14, 1862
We take pleasure in being able to speak of the prosperity of this old and popular hotel, under the management of Mr. A. L. Corson, who has the sole charge of it. Mr. Corson has kept this house the most of the time for the last eighteen years, and is well known to the traveling public in all this section of the state as one of the most accommodating and gentlemanly landlords in this region.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 20, 1862
The Alton House has been fitted up in excellent style, and is now inferior to none in the state. The proprietor, Amos L. Corson, Esq., has been long and favorably known to the traveling public, as a successful landlord and obliging gentleman, and we need only say that the management of the business of the house is under his own eye, to recommend the house to a discriminating public.


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 6, 1866
This popular and well-known hotel has changed hands – Mr. Corson, who has presided over this house so long, and is so generally known in tis section of Illinois, having disposed of it to Mr. William Siemens, who is to take charge of it today. We understand that the entire building will be overhauled, repaired and put in splendid order. It is the determination of Mr. Siemens to make it in every particular, equal to any other house in the West, not only in regard to the table, but in all respects. He has had much experience in the business, and is every way well qualified for the position. We wish him abundant success, and most cheerfully commend the Alton House to the patronage of all of our friends, and the public generally.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 22, 1866
Yesterday afternoon, as we were passing by this old and favorite hotel, the gentlemanly proprietor, Mr. Siemens, gave us a polite invitation to look through the house. We knew what it looked like before Mr. Siemens took charge, and expected to find its general appearance somewhat improved, but were not prepared for so great a change as has been wrought under the new regime. All the old carpets, bedsteads, chairs, bureaus, etc., have been replaced throughout by new furniture of the most elegant styles and finish, and the old paper-hanging and glazing has been removed, and the newest and most beautiful designs now charm the beholder. One would almost believe, in wandering through the beautiful rooms, that he had strayed into the gorgeous palace of an Oriental prince.

In the dining room, we noticed the greatest change. The old, long tables have been taken out, and the family table system adopted, enabling family parties or friendly groups to take their meals without being disturbed by the impudent stare, which is only one of the many evils of the old system. This dining room is the most cheerful one we were ever in, and no person can help eating, after going in and taking a good square look at the fixtures.

Mr. Siemens has followed hotel keeping for some time, and is in every way fitted for the business, as he is agreeable and accommodating to all. We take great pleasure in noticing this decided change for the better in this hotel, which is decidedly one of the best in the State. It is finely located, the rooms are all large and airy, and the tables supplied with every luxury of the season. We bespeak for the worthy host an abundant patronage, as he has shown, by the liberal and enterprising spirit displayed by him in refitting and refurnishing the whole house, that he is eminently deserving of it.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, November 5, 1868
Last evening a woman arrived in this city from Springfield, on the Chicago train, and put up at the Alton House. She registered her name as Mrs. Frazer. This morning she did not make her appearance at breakfast, and an attachee of the hotel was sent to call her. As she did not respond to the call, the door was opened and she was found lying dead in her bed. A jury was summoned by Justice Quarton, consisting of Messrs. A Breath (foreman), A. L. Chouteau, H. C. Sweetser, James Barr, James Meachen, M. P. Caldwell, Albert Wade, M. P. Breckinridge, Richard Flagg, T. M. Boyle, I. E. Hardy, M. D., and John W. Hart, who returned a verdict that the deceased came to her death by convulsions, the immediate cause of which was unknown to the jury. It appears from evidence furnished by a young man who was in her company, which was confirmed by a Springfield gentleman, that she had been spending the last few days in Springfield; that she represented herself as the wife of a rebel General Frazer of Louisiana, now in Europe. These representations, it is judged, are correct. It was found, through documents in the possession of the deceased, that she had two children at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, St. Louis. Justice Quarton has telegraphed to that institution of the event. The deceased was a woman of about thirty-five years of age; she was small of stature, but it was difficult to tell much of her personal appearance on account of her face being distorted by her struggles in the convulsions. The remains were taken in charge of by William Brudon, undertaker, and placed temporarily in the Cemetery vault.

Source: Library of Congress; Nashville Union and American, Nashville, TN, November 10, 1868
From the St. Louis Republican, Nov. 6 - On Wednesday evening last, a lady, apparently thirty-five or forty years of age, left the southward bound Chicago train at this point [St. Louis] and went to the Alton House. She had no baggage, except a small handbag, and was accompanied by a man of respectable appearance, who seemed to be acting as her escort. After some conversation with him in the parlor, she was shown to her room on the second floor of the hotel, and is supposed to have retired at an early hour. One of the boarders stated that in passing the door of the apartment which she occupied, about 9 o'clock, he saw a light burning and heard voices inside. But beyond this nothing is definitely known of what transpired within. Yesterday morning the servant knocked at the door several times, but elicited no reply, and on trying it found that it was locked or bolted. Calling the proprietor, an examination was made by looking through the transom light, when the woman was discovered in bed and so wrapped up in the clothes as to hide her face completely. Obtaining no answer to his questions, and fearing that something was wrong, Mr. Siemens then procured a ladder and entered the room from the outer court through a rear window. The unfortunate inmate was found dead, and from indications must have been so several hours. Her body was drawn up, the features horribly distorted, the hands partially clenched, and she appeared to have died in the midst of a sudden and violent convulsion, produced by some unknown cause. Justice Quarton was immediately notified, and summoning a coroner's jury, an inquest was held upon the remains. The companion of the deceased, a Mr. Roberts, was sworn, and testified substantially that he had met the lady in Springfield, Illinois at the St. Nicholas Hotel a few days before, and there for the first time made her acquaintance; that she represented herself to him as the wife of General Frazier of the Confederate army; that her husband was in Europe, and that she had two daughters in the Convent of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis. He stated that she had procured money from the Catholic clergy in Quincy as well as in Springfield, to pay her expenses to St. Louis; also, that he took a walk with her to Oak Ridge Cemetery and elsewhere, during their sojourn at the St. Nicholas. According to his account he left Springfield on the same train with her, but did not know she was onboard until his arrival at Carlinville, when she spoke to him on the platform, and expressed her pleasure at meeting him again. He says that she urged him to stop off at Alton and continue his journey with her to St. Louis in the morning, and that he finally consented to do so. Previous to retiring for the night, she complained to him of feeling ill, but that he saw nothing more of her from the time she left the parlor until he was informed of her death next morning. Roberts gave the jury most accurate information in regard to the effects of Mrs. Frazier, money, jewelry, etc., etc., which subsequent investigation proved to be correct. Nor was anything brought forward to invalidate the remainder of the testimony or to connect him in any way with her decease. There were no traces of violence on the body, and no signs of poison having been administered, and Dr. Hardy, City Physician, gave his opinion that she died of convulsions. The jury rendered a similar verdict, and the corpse was conveyed to the receiving vault of the city cemetery to await further developments. One hundred and one dollars in currency, a number of railway passes, a quantity of Catholic relics, crosses, etc., etc., were found among her clothing, but nothing which could lead to a complete identification. A telegram has been sent to the ladies of the Sacred Heart, asking that the children might be brought here; and should they arrive, it is to be hoped some clue may be found to unravel this melancholy and mysterious case.

This is one mystery I have been unable to solve, as many of the Telegraph newspapers are missing in this time period. However, the newspaper did believe that she was the wife of Confederate General John Wesley Frazer. She is buried in the Alton City Cemetery. The name in the newspaper articles was spelled both Frazer and Frazier.


Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, Thursday, January 20, 1870
From the Alton Telegraph, January 14 - - One of the most disastrous conflagrations which ever visited this city took place this morning in the destruction of the Alton House, one of the largest, oldest and most popular hotels in the Western country. The fire broke out about eight o'clock and was first discovered on the roof of the east wing, at a chimney, near the cupola [dome], and undoubtedly, originated from some defect in the flue. When first seen, the flames had already made considerable progress and were sweeping rapidly over the dry shingles of the roof. Attempts were at first made to extinguish the flames with buckets of water, but it was soon found that this method would be of no avail. The alarm was promptly sounded all over the city, and as the report spread from one to another, "the Alton House is on fire!" multitudes hastened to the scene. The engines and the Hook and Ladder were promptly on the ground, but the morning was bitterly cold and some delay was occasional from that cause, in getting the engines in operation. Still, it was apparent, from the first, that it would be impossible to save the building, and the work of removing the furniture, fixtures, etc., was soon commenced. A large number of citizens entered the burning building and commenced the removal of all that was movable. The furniture of the office, parlors, dining room, kitchen, and of nearly all the apartments on the first and second floors was removed outdoors, though much of it was in a damaged condition. A part, also, of the furniture was removed from the third and fourth floors - some carried down, some lowered, or thrown, from the windows. More of the furniture of these upper stories could have been saved had not the main stairways soon taken fire and cut off access thereto. Meanwhile, the engines were playing full streams wherever they could do so most effectively, and firemen and citizens were exerting themselves to the utmost in noble efforts to stay the course of the conflagration, or to save valuable property. The Washington engine was stationed on Alby street at a cistern on Capt. Ryder's premises, and the Altona at the cistern in Jarrett's stables. So cold was the atmosphere that the water turned to ice whenever it struck outside the burning building. Many of the firemen were completely coated with ice from the spray freezing on their clothing. The wind was blowing at the time from the northwest, carrying the greater part of the sparks and cinders towards the river. This was a fortunate circumstance, for the residences north of the hotel would otherwise have been much endangered. In spite of all efforts, however, the fire slowly and surely fought its way downwards, from story to story. The flames made slow progress from the fact that they burned downwards and against the wind, and it was not until about eleven o'clock that they reached the basement floor, having destroyed every vestige of woodwork in their progress. The livery stables of William Jarrett adjoining the Alton House on the east, were in imminent danger during the entire progress of the fire, but the main portion of them were saved by tearing away the stable adjoining the House. This was thoroughly and effectually accomplished by the Hook & Ladder Company, aided by citizens. The roofs of the stables, also, were kept well saturated with water. Mr. Jarrett's horses were all promptly removed to a place of safety, and his rolling stock taken into the street. Of the Hotel, nothing was saved but one or two out-buildings. The fire demon made the work of destruction complete. On the north, a dwelling house, belonging to Mrs. John Mullady, had a narrow escape. It was saved by being kept deluged with water. It was occupied by a man named Hogan. All the furniture was removed from it, with but little damage. The Alton House was a spacious and convenient edifice, with ample and comfortable accommodations for two hundred guests, and has, in times past, accommodated three hundred. Under the able management of Mr. Siemens, the host and lessee, it had acquired a wide spread and enviable reputation for the excellence of its accommodations. It was owned by Hon. B. T. Burke, of Carlinville, who valued it at $40,000 [note: in 2008 this would be $673,080.90]; some place the value at $50,000. The loss on the building is total. Insured for $16,000. Mr. Siemens states that the furniture he had in the house cost him between $13,000 and 16,000. Insured for $7,000.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 18, 1905
The old Alton House site on Front and Alby streets has been purchased by Dr. G. Taphorn from the Burke estate heirs for $5,500. The property is 150x99 feet. Dr. Taphorn said today that he is undecided what he will do with the property, but that he intends to improve it and will erect a building upon it, the nature of which has not been determined. The Alton house was destroyed by fire thirty-five years ago. It was at one time the best hotel in the western country, but since its destruction the property has been vacant and nothing but tall weeds have occupied it. The place has been an offense to the eyes of the community and a burden to the owners. For many years the property was taxed at a valuation of $1,500, but a few years ago Mr. John Elble, who was a member of the board of review, had the valuation raised to $6,500.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 16, 1905
J. H. McPike, the purchaser of the old Alton house site at Front and Alby street, began work a few days ago clearing away the debris of the building which was destroyed by fire thirty-five years ago. Mr. McPike said today that according to the best information he could secure, the building was destroyed thirty-five years ago by fire on January 1, and he expects to have the building site cleared on the 35th anniversary. The entire site will be cleared down to the rock foundation. Mr. McPike expects to be able to use the foundations for a new building, as they are in good condition, so far as they have been uncovered. The workmen have been keeping a careful watch for interesting relics which may have survived the fire, but up to this afternoon none has been found. A bone was picked up which was believed to be the bone out of the arm of a child, but no one identified it fully as such. An old-fashioned iron stove was found buried deep in the debris of the building, and some little iron trinkets were also found. Mr. McPike said that no attention would be paid to any objects found above the layer of bricks which formed the walls of the building, and which fell in, covering over the ruins. Mr. McPike has not definitely decided what use will be made of the property, but he intends to do something with it that will make a marked improvement in Alton and will be a benefit to the property in the neighborhood. The clearing of the old site has aroused much interest among the old inhabitants. Young people do not remember of anything on the site except a forest of weeds and piles of rubbish dumped there by people in the neighborhood. At one time the building was one of the stately hotels of southern Illinois and entertained many of the prominent men of the day. It was a good hotel in its day, and was widely known for its quality.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 27, 1905
The workmen who are cleaning away the ruins of the old Alton House, thirty-six years after the building was destroyed by fire, are coming upon some interesting relics which passed through the fire but have well night succumbed to the ravages of time and the elements. The men have been keeping a sharp lookout for any objects that might be of interest, and some interesting discoveries have been made. The building seemed to be a checkerboard of interesting stone walls, and there were numerous cisterns and sewers in the place. Three cisterns were dug into by the workmen, some of them being full of water and it being necessary to siphon them out with a hose to prevent the water flowing out and rendering the ground so muddy the men could not work. Yesterday the men came across an old sewer that must have drained the kitchen sink where dishes were washed. Shot seems to have been used by housekeepers in those days for cleaning bottles, as it is somewhat now used. The workmen found where a large quantity of shot had collected in one old sewer and had formed a solid mass that was very heavy. The shot must have fallen into the drain from the sink while being used for cleaning out bottles, and must have been collecting there during all the years the hotel sink was being used as a place for bottle washing. Some old spoons, a butter knife and a lot of broken crockery ware were picked up, and a pile of decayed coal, evidently what was on hand at the time of the fire in the hotel coal bins was found.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 31, 1918
One of the interesting exhibits Madison county will have this year at the centennial celebration, and which will later fill a place in the Illinois State Historical Society's building, is a handsome gavel, made of walnut, handle and all. The walnut from which the gavel is made was taken from a residence at Union and Henry streets, built 80 years or more ago, and the wood is as sound today as when it was in the tree nearly a century ago. The house was remodeled some time ago, and Contractor E. G. Yungck, who was doing the remodeling, secured a piece of a walnut porch post. He had the gavel turned from this by Ginter & Wardein, and made a fine job of it. It is a very handsome gavel, and Mr. Yungck says he intends turning it over to W. D. Armstrong for exhibition at the centennial celebration, and later will have it turned over to Hon. Norman G. Flagg to be presented to the State Historical Society. There is history connected with the gavel, and the house from which the wood came, in that it was the home of United States Senator Trumbull, when he was a resident of Alton. The house is owned and occupied by Mrs. Alice Rodgers. Contractor Yungck says a great deal of walnut lumber was used in erecting the building, which of itself makes the building an interesting one. Walnut lumber then was cheaper than sycamore lumber now, but now walnut is worth its weight in gold almost.




The Bradley Boarding House was located at the southwest corner of Third and Langdon Streets. The building was constructed before 1830. The boarding house was ran by a woman named Mrs. Bradley, and later was purchased by John R. wood, a Justice of the Peace and Banker, who used the building as his home. Later, Patrick Kane, a grocer, purchased the building and razed in 1901, and a new home was constructed on the lot.

Source: Alton Weekly Telegraph, February 14, 1901/Submitted by Marsha Ensminger
Contractor Lancaster has a force of men at work today wrecking the building at the corner of Third and Langdon Streets, the property of Patrick Kane the grocer. The lot upon which it stands will be graded and a fine double brick residence built thereon. It is said that no one in Alton can remember when the house that is being torn down was built. It came into the possession of Mr. Kane in 1865, he purchasing it from John R. Wood, a justice of the peace and banker, who used it as a residence for many years. A woman named Bradley used it as a hotel or boarding house in 1830, and it then was far from being a new house. The lower story (or basement) is of rock, and the masonry still gives evidence of the master hand of its builder. All of the wood part of the building is of oak and is yet sound. It is believed to be the oldest building in the city.




There were two Central Hotels in Alton. The first was at 105 Piasa Street, between Broadway and Third Streets. This had previously be Hermann's European Hotel. In 1886, they announced a complete renovation, and reduced rates to $1.50 per day. Sam Williams was the proprietor. It was announced in December 1896 that William had a heart attack and died, leaving a widow and three children - James and Charles Williams and Mrs. E. A. Darnell. Later, this became the Lafayette Hotel.


The second Central Hotel was more of a boarding house. It was located at Broadway and Washington Streets, in Alton. It opened in 1911, and had furnished rooms with a bath, lighting, and heating. John Hurley and Peter Fitzgerald were the proprietors.



CITY HOTEL – Unknown location. This may refer to another named hotel.

Source: Alton Weekly Courier, June 17, 1853
The City Hotel has its many patrons, and we believe is doing well, judging from appearances. There is a need for another and larger hotel, we believe. The Chicago and Mississippi road will be connected through to Chicago soon, and also cars [railroad] will be running to Hillsboro on the Terre Haute road, and the increase of travel through our city will be great. The present business overruns our hotels at times, and a new and large one is certainly very desirable, and would be a good investment. There are two fine locations for such a hotel now in our mind. One of them is the corner of State and Third streets, a large lot, cornering, and facing on both streets. It is owned by the Edwards estate, and is to be sold at public sale on the 15th of this month (next Wednesday). The other lot to which we refer is owned by O. M. Adams, Esq., and located opposite the Madison Mill. Mr. A. has long intended this spot for that purpose. Such a hotel as we have reference to would be a great benefit and credit to the city.




The Coleman House was a 2-story hotel, constructed in about 1830 by James Coleman. It was located at the northwest corner of Front and Alton Streets. It was conducted by James Colman, and later Addie Piggott and William Sonntag. The hotel caught fire in 1894, but had minimal damage. The original building was razed, and a new building erected in 1898. The hotel was razed in 1920.




The Colonial Hotel was located at 19 East Third Street in Alton - just east of the Illini/Stratford Hotel. This hotel was established in May 1948, and was formerly an apartment building known as the McMillen Apartments, and then owned by Mrs. Verna C. Riggs.  The buiding was razed in October 1960, and then used for a multi-level parking garage for the Stratford Hotel.




The Dawson Hotel and Saloon (also referred to as a boarding house) was erected by John “Jack” Dawson in 1893. The hotel was located at 1322 East Broadway, at the northwest corner of Broadway and Plum Streets. Behind the hotel was the Illinois Glass Ice House (which was destroyed by fire January 27, 1914). Dawson worked since his early manhood as a glassblower at Illinois Glass Works on Broadway, and was a kind-hearted friend to all. In 1900, a large brick addition was added to the hotel.

In August 1907, during a scuffle, Dawson was knocked through a plate glass window at a store on Broadway. Several days later, he died – either from his injuries or from taking an overdose of a sleeping potion. He left behind a wife (Julia Dawson) and six children – Mrs. David Blackwell of West Virginia; Mrs. Adele Dawson Ernst of Pennsylvania; Miss Florence Dawson of St. Louis; and John, Julia Dawson Glynn, and Elmer Dawson of Alton.

Julia Dawson remarried a Mr. B. H. Payne. She tried to sell the hotel, but was unsuccessful. Finally, the hotel was rented to Charles Cairns, who ran the business until January 1912. Mrs. Tapliff then took over the business, but only for a short time. She established a new boarding house on East Broadway, taking with her all the boarders. Julia Dawson Payne died in October 1918, and the hotel was sold to the Illinois Glass Works to house their male employees. The company remodeled the building, and installed showers, toilets, and washstands to modernize the hotel. Approximately 50 men were housed in the hotel, which included a clubroom and cafeteria.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 4, 1918
The Dawson Hotel on East Broadway has been sold to the Illinois Glass Co. by the owner, Mrs. Margaret Dawson, and she will conclude her labors there in a few days. Mrs. Dawson said today that she sold the hotel for $12,600. The plan is to remodel the building and make it sleeping quarters upstairs and downstairs. It is planned to conduct under the auspices of the Young Women's Christian Association, with a matron in charge. The young women who are working in the factories will be provided with nice quarters in the building at reasonable terms. The Dawson family have conducted a hotel for twenty-five years. Mrs. Dawson herself has been in charge for seven years. She established a name in the boarding house business and has a high reputation. The building she has sold is susceptible to being greatly improved and made into a comfortable place where young women may be housed. The Illinois Glass Co. is increasing the number of women it employs and they are taking the places of men more and more.




The Flamingo Motel was located at 501 E. Broadway in Alton, at the foot of Langdon Street - just east of the Clark Bridge entrance. Part of the land the motel was constructed on was formerly the Hapgood Plow Company. The original owners of the Flamingo Motel - Earl Reuter and Harry Beck - held their grand opening in July 1954. They advertised 36 rooms in a fireproof building, all air-conditioned, with phones in every room. A popular restaurant, the Port Room, was in the lower level. In 1978, Germania Financial Corporation, which was next door to the motel, purchased the building from owner Charles D. Summers, and converted the building into office space.

                                                 Flamingo Motel, Alton, IL




Franklin House/St. Charles Hotel/Lincoln Hotel, AltonThe Franklin House was located at 206 State Street in downtown Alton, and was constructed in 1836 by Mr. Blakeley. A stable was located in the rear. The hotel was afterwards purchased by Captain Benjamin Godfrey, who built an addition onto the hotel.  During this time, W. A. Holton conducted a general store on the first floor. It was next owned by George W. Fox. Ephraim Bliss bought the hotel in 1852, and operated it for four years. Bliss repaired the hotel, erected another addition, and bought new furniture. Next the hotel was owned and operated by Samuel Pitts. After 1861, Edward S. and Rufus H. Lesure owned the hotel for a short time, and then it was owned by W. H. K. Pile. This hotel has a rich history in Alton. On September 22, 1842, Abraham Lincoln (then an attorney) and James Shields arrived in Alton, took their breakfast at the Franklin House, then took a small boat to Sunflower Island, directly across from Alton, to hold their duel. This duel was cancelled while on the island. In September 1852, a large dinner was held at the Franklin House in honor of Captain Benjamin Godfrey, who was instrumental in the building of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad. In 1853, the entire Illinois State Legislature and Supreme Court visited the Franklin House. In 1856, the Franklin House was remodeled by Mr. Samuel Pitts, in preparation for the 1856 State Agricultural Fair, held in Alton. On October 15, 1858, Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary, took their meals at the Franklin House during the debate with Stephen Douglas. Sometime after 1868, the hotel's name was changed to the St. Charles Hotel. In April 1875, when the hotel was owned by Captain Benajmin Godfrey, a fire broke out in the laundry and storeroom. The hotel was repaired after the fire. In 1903, the hotel, which was part of the Benjamin Godfrey estate, was sold. In 1907, William Sonntag, who had a business next door, purchased the hotel. He remodeled the building and hired George Miller to operate the hotel, and renamed it the Lincoln HOtel. By 1912, Sonntag used part of the building as offices, with a grocery store on the street level. In 1950, the hotel was sold to N. S. Wittels. In 2007, the hotel was remodeled once again, and turned into an apartment house. The name was changed to Lincoln Lofts, and still stands today.


Source: Alton Weekly Courier, Friday, June 4, 1852
Franklin House, State St., Alton, Illinois. E. Bliss, Proprietor (formerly of American House, Springfield, Ill., would respectfully inform the citizens of Alton and vicinity, and the traveling community, that he has taken the above-named House, which has recently undergone a thorough repair, and an extensive addition, and that he has furnished it entirely with new furniture suitable for the wants and comforts of his guests. The House is situated in the most central part of the city, and is now open for the accommodation of boarders and transient customers. The proprietor flatters himself from past experience in Hotel keeping, and from a strict personal attention to the wants and comfort of his guests, that he will be enabled to accommodate all who call upon him in a satisfactory manner. There is also in connection with the house, a large and commodious stable, where traveler's horses will receive proper attention; also, Carriages, Buggies, and Saddle Horses furnished at the shortest notice.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, January 12 & 13, 1853
The Governor, members of the Legislature, and other dignitaries to whom an invitation has been extended, are expected to arrive this evening on the cars. A complimentary supper will be served up by the host of the Franklin House, under the direction of a committee, and when that has been suitably discoursed, a superb band of music will be introduced, and those accustomed to “trip it on the light fantastic toe” will have an abundant opportunity for enjoyment. The supper will be served in the large hall on the first floor, and the usual dining room will be appropriated to dancing.

Given by the citizens of Alton, to the Governor, State officers, members of the Legislature, Judges, &c., at the Franklin House last evening, agreeably to previous arrangements, was more largely attended than any other entertainment ever before prepared in Alton. Three large tables, each extending the entire length of Franklin Hall, and loaded with every delicacy of the season, had been spread by Mr. Bliss in his usual good taste, to which ample justice was done by the company. After this was over, the company repaired to the spacious ballroom overhead, and the dancing was kept up until a late hour, when they separated for their homes highly delighted with the evening’s entertainment.

Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, January 17, 1853
The correspondent of the Missouri Republican gives the following graphic account of the Governor and guests entertained in Alton.

“We arrived at Alton and as night was dropping her curtain, and were politely received at the stopping place and conducted to the Franklin House, where a complimentary supper awaited us, I could but approximate toward doing justice to those who prepared the sumptuous repast. Suffice it to say, that the “bill of fare” included upwards of sixty varieties of eatables, and then there was a little something outside of the bill of fare, something that ____ one feel particularly social and merry, and warms up in his heart generous emotions. It is no use for me to attempt mentioning the different kinds of these latter _____ to the bill of fare, for I am not posted. I can only say that it made our hearts joyouse, and we felt it was good to be there. Toasts and responses went off with most brilliant credit, but I will put Colonel Buckmaster against the world for an impromptu toast. He is peculiarly classic, drawing forcible figures from the book of books. The Colonel was entitled to the hat. There were sentiments and responses from Gov. Matteson, Judges Turnbull and Eaton, Messrs. Dente, Painte, Lopan, Snyder, and hosts of others.

Now the music struck up, and we went to the hall where we found that Alton had gathered “her beauty and her chivalry,” and “then there was moving to and fro,” and all hearts beat gladly. We do not profess to be a connoisseur in matters of beauty, having from great timidity, avoided _____ in the neighborhood of the fairer sex, but something seemed to meet our eye on that floor that admonished our impregnable heart that it was judicious to keep at a distance. If these ladies were Alton ladies, we must give Alton the credit of raising some of the most ______, buxom ladies we have met in one body together. But for _____ - well, I’ll shut down here, my poor heart palpitates at the pictures my memory calls to mind. We did not shake the “fantastic toe” ourselves, for we had no notion of being lost in such a whirlpool of beauty, but we enjoyed the dance most cordially, because everybody seemed to be so happy.

The whole went off with most perfect order and decorum, and we assure the people of the great Sucker State that they may depend upon some good results over and above the penitentiary movement from this visit to Alton. Animosities were buried in the desire of rendering each other happy, and it would be with great difficulty that the members could get into a quarrel right off, after their hearts had been tuned to harmony.

I leave Alton with my warmest thanks for her liberal hospitalities, and shall always remember their generous treatment, and love them for their noble, high-minded enterprise. Adieu, Alton, may you ever as favorably find yourself esteemed by your guests. Signed Vide.”


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, February 28, 1853
Franklin House - State street, Alton, Illinois - E. Bliss, Proprietor (formerly of the American House, Springfield, Ill.) would respectfully inform the citizens of Alton and vicinity, and the traveling community, that he has taken the above-named house, which has recently undergone a thorough repair, and an extensive addition, and that he has furnished it entirely with new furniture, suitable for the wants and comforts of his guests. The House is situated in the most central part of the city, and is now open for the accommodation of boarders and transient customers. The Proprietor flatters himself, from past experience in hotel keeping, and from a strict personal attention to the wants and comfort of his guests, that he will be enabled to accommodate all who call upon him in a satisfactory manner. There is also in connection with the house a large and commodious stable, where travelers' horses will receive proper attention, also, carriages, buggies, and saddle horses furnished at the slightest notion.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, March 19, 1853
The last Masquerade Ball of the season will take place at the Franklin House in Alton, on Monday evening, March 28. The managers will use every exertion to make this the Ball of the season. Costumes can be procured at W. B. Buckmaster’s. Tickets $4.50. Tickets can be obtained from: J. Bruner, G. H. Nappleton, C. A Murray, W. B. Buckmaster, W. H. Turner, J. H. Blair, L. D. Sidway, H. G. McPike.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, June 1, 1853
General Shields arrived in Alton on yesterday, and has taken rooms at the Franklin House. He is in excellent health, and is looking well. We understand he will remain here several days.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, June 14, 1853
Yesterday, a well-dressed and respectable young woman, who came down on the cars from Springfield, left her infant, a very hearty and fine-looking male child, only a month or two old, fast asleep in the parlor of the Franklin House, and went on down to St. Louis onboard the Altona. The facts in regard to this mysterious deposit are entirely unknown, nor is there thus far any clue by which they can be unriddled. The following bill of lading was found pined to the clothing of the sleeping innocent:

“To all to whom these presents may come: Be a friend to the fatherless. Cast your bread upon the waters and after many days, you shall gather it again. Wishing you God speed, I remain yours truly.”

The babe is dressed in fine, if not costly clothing, and when it awoke, laughed outright in our face. A carpet sack well filled with clothing for the child lay upon a sofa in the parlor. We understand that Mr. Bliss, the humane proprietor of the Franklin House, has taken charge of the foundling, and will keep it, “until called for.” Could the truth be known, we venture to say, a romantic, if not an affecting story of the heart lies behind this affair, but what it is, who can tell?


Source: Alton Weekly Courier, June 17, 1853
The Franklin House also has been doing a large business during the time mentioned, and, under the control of Mr. Bliss, and his right-hand man, Mr. Lestre (sp?), is conducted in excellent style. During several months’ past, many a night have we seen Mr. Bliss compelled to apologize to travelers for the want of the wherewith to accommodate them - his rooms, beds, sofas, blankets and buffalo robes being occupied by guests, many of whom were compelled to sleep on the floor. Were the Franklin House located differently, so as to admit of enlargement, its press business would imperatively demand it.


Source: Alton Telegraph, December 20, 1861
A small quantity of the former and a prodigious amount of the latter was found at the old Franklin House building, second and third stories, about 9 o’clock this morning. The alarm bells were rung and the city Fire Department were promptly on the ground. Lafayette Hook and Ladder Company was at hand and useful in examining into the case. The fire was at first completely hidden in mysterious smoke, but a careful and successful search revealed a large flue is built inside the walls. It resting on the floor of the second story of the building. From the bottom of the floor there is a iron drum extending through the floor to receive stove pipes from the room below. This drum was so large as to touch the floor joist on each side. The stove pipes lead into it – and this morning a hot fire having been built below, the soot in and about the pipe and drum took fire, heating the drum red hot, and firing the joists, rafters, etc., in its vicinity. The fire ran up to the ceiling of the room, and then the floor of the upper story. Timely arrival of a few pails of water extinguished the flames – a little more delay and the building would have been hopelessly on fire. Had this happened in the night, probably the entire Franklin House block would have been destroyed.

The two great fires which devastated Second Street [Broadway] several months since, are believed to have originated from almost precisely such a cause as the one of today, and hence we are more particular in describing it. It well becomes our City Fathers to have our old-style building, with their unsafe, outside-of-the-wall flues, fully examined. The Franklin House is insured in Messrs. Kellenburger’s Agencies to the amount of $7,000.00, and the Illinois Mutual $2,500.00. Loss on building supposed to be about $400. Mr. Shroeder, cigar and tobacco dealer in the first story, met with but a nominal loss, his goods being quickly carried out, in good condition.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 9, 1862
The repairs on the Franklin House are now nearly completed, and it will be opened to gentlemen well qualified to make it one of the best hotels in the West. It is gratifying, after a year of stagnation, to observe the many evidences of renewed business activity, which is now manifest in our midst.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 30, 1862
We visited the Franklin House this morning and were surprised of the change. It has been remodeled and thoroughly repaired throughout, and newly furnished from cellar to garret, and will soon be opened under the supervision of our old friends, E. B. Lescse(?) & Co., who intent making it a first-class hotel. From what we know of the gentlemen personally, we are satisfied they will spare no expense to make their guests feel at home in the Franklin House. The traveling public are so well acquainted with the proprietors (one of them at least) as to need no recommendation from us. His experience in keeping hotels dates far back in the past, and he will be remembered, especially by the former patrons of the house, as the polite and obliging clerk who officiated at the desk in years gone by.


Source: Alton Telegraph, July 4, 1862
This large and conveniently located hotel has been thoroughly repaired, enlarged and refurnished, under the careful supervision of the prince of landlords, E. S. Lesure, Esq., and was opened today to the public. The house is situated very conveniently, being near the steamboat landing – only a short distance from each of the railroad depots – and in the heart of the business portion of the city. The table will be supplied with all the luxuries of the season, and be served with the best and most attentive waiters. The guests will receive every attention during their stay at the Franklin House.


Source: Alton Telegraph, September 12, 1862
Our people, having ascertained on yesterday that Major General McClernand, one of the prominent heroes of the hard-fought battles and bloody victories of which Kentucky and Tennessee have been the theaters, was in our vicinity on private business, sent for him requesting the honor of a speech upon the aspect of the war, and his views in reference to its successful prosecution.

Notwithstanding the storm in the early evening, and the threatening clouds pertending, our citizens, such as are not absent upon the tented field, rallied in large numbers at the call of Murphy’s splendid band, which played in superior style the glorious national airs, to which the national heart has beat and our national troops have marched for a century. The 77th Ohio and 70th Illinois Regiments in full uniform marched down from camp and swelled the crowd to a large concourse.

General McClernand appeared upon the balcony of the Franklin House in company with Hon. George T. Brown, Sergeant-at-Arms of the United States Senate, who welcomed the General substantially as follows:

“General, on behalf of the people of Alton, I take pleasure in extending to you a cordial welcome. Our country, lately so united and happy, struggles with a giant rebellion, nearly as causeless as that which resulted in the driving of the Evil One and his followers from the presence of the Almighty, and destined, we hope, to as signal a failure. In this day of gloom and disaster to our arms, we hail with no ordinary gratification, the presence of a distinguished son of Illinois, fresh from the glorious battlefields of the Southwest. To the Northwest, the present contest is of more importance than to any other section of the Union. While the loyal States are united in fighting for the preservation of the Union, we of the Northwest are fighting for that and much more, an access to the markets of the world. The soldiers of the Northwest, under your gallant leadership, and that of your brother officers in command, have already shown what victories loyal hearts and strong arms can accomplish. In the future conduct of the war, we think we only need a few more of the same kind to crown our efforts with lasting victory and subsequent peace. Accept sir, for yourself and the brave men you have led to battle at Belmont, Ft. Donelson, and Shiloh, the heartfelt gratitude of the people whom I represent.”

As the General stepped forward to reply, cheer upon cheer greeted him from the assembled multitude, but from no other part of the crowd so heartily as from the gallant soldiers whose greater sacrifices, solemn pledges, and sufferings, render them far more conscious of their country’s peril than those can be who have only heard of the war of cannon, the rattling of musketry, and the groans of the dying. The General said he would not attempt to find words to express the emotions which filled his soul as he saw the multitude, who in spite of the thunder, lightning and rain, had assembled in the open air to welcome so humble an individual as himself. He was aware that they came to welcome him as the representative of a cause sacred above all causes to them, and to the friends of constitutional liberty throughout the world. A cause now fearfully imperiled, and calling for the speedy employment of all the moans which God has placed in our power. It had been justly observed by the speaker introducing him, that this Rebellion is a causeless one. Even Mr. Toombs, now a General in the armies of the Rebellion, said but a short time before the war that the peculiar constitutional rights of the South had never been more faithfully observed than then, and yet at that time men high in position in the execution of our laws and having access to and control of our arms and treasure, had prostituted their trusts, perjured themselves and poured a flood of treason, anarchy and demoralization over the proudest and fairest land and the happiest people that ever the sun shone on.

Mr. Brown had been pleased to refer to the battles of Belmont, Ft. Donelson, and Shiloh. In each of those battles, the gallant Illinois troops had done their duty and had carried the banner and proud name of their state in the forefront of every struggle. But the rebellion is not suppressed. Recent success has flushed the Rebels, and more audacious than ever, they are marching their massed legions northward. The man of the northwest in addition to the many vita interests which is imperiled in common with the people of the whole country, have the additional motive of preserving to their intense posterity untramancied by treaties or customs the great inland sea, by which God has connected their commerce with the whole world. This must be done, and to this end the Rebellion must be put down, though the war lasts five hundred years. Let the troops of the north be massed for battle, no longer guard Rebel property, private or public, and let them be rolled upon the foe as any mighty, irresistible projectile.    [The rest of the article was unreadable]


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 15, 1864
The 10th Kansas band daily discourses the sweetest music in front of the Franklin House, and are decidedly the best musicians we have listened to for many days. We understand they are practicing one or two new pieces which they will shortly produce.


Source: Alton Telegraph, December 23, 1864
This well known house, which has been standing vacant for some time, has at length been leased to an experienced and popular hotel keeper, and opened for the accommodation of the public. Another good hotel has long been much needed in Alton, as the Alton House does not possess sufficient room to meet the increasing demand for hotel accommodations.


Source: Alton Telegraph, February 23, 1866
This old and well-known hotel, under the superintendence of its gentlemanly proprietor, W. H. K. Pile, is fast gaining favor with the traveling public, as well as our own citizens. Mr. Pile has spared neither labor nor expense to make the Franklin the hotel of the place, and he has the satisfaction of knowing that his efforts to please are appreciated. He sets a number one table, and none but the most accommodating persons are employed by him. Obliging and attentive waiters, clean and comfortable beds, &c., all combine to make the Franklin a popular hotel with the traveling community. Pe4rsons staying in Alton overnight, or desiring to get an excellent dinner, will find that the above hotel cannot be surpassed by any house in this section of country.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 5, 1868
The ex-Rebel Colonel, who lately married the esteemed proprietress of the Frank House, has sloped for parts unknown, taking with him such valuables as he could lay hands on. The lady whom he has so basely robbed and deceived has the sympathy of the community. The financial embarrassment occasioned by the disappearance of the Colonel will be but temporary.


Source: Waterville, New York Times, February 20, 1873
The Missouri Republican is responsible for the following:
"Once on a time there dwelt in our sister city of Alton a worthy but rather irritable gentleman, who was the host of a famous hotel there, known as the Franklin House. Numerous citizens daily drew their rations from his liberally furnished table, and not a few visitors from the rural districts preferred the substantial fare of the Franklin House to the more pretentious board of the Alton House. One d a y, in addition to all the good things with which the dinner table was loaded, there was at the lower end a nice roast pig that would have tickled the palate of the gentle "Elia," who discourses so eloquently of that savory visited. At the conclusion of the meal, this roast pig remained intact, when along came a belated drover, who sat down beside it, and having a good, wholesome appetite, soon devoured the whole of it. The landlord looked on amazed, and was puzzled to see where his profit was to come in after deducting a dollar and-a-half-pig from a fifty-cent dinner ticket. Giving vent to his disgust, he said very sarcastically to the drover, "Isn't there something else you would like to be helped to?" "Wal - yes" drawled out the drover, "I don't care if I take another of them little hogs.'' This was too much for the equanimity of the landlord, and to keep himself from "spontaneously combusting," like Dorothea, he was compelled to rush out in the open air, where he could give vent to a few unorthodox expressions without being overheard by the elect, of which he was one.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 25, 1903
Master in Chancery James A. Lynn today sold at public sale the remaining realty of the Godfrey estate, consisting of the old St. Charles Hotel property and one building on the north of the hotel proper. The property extended from State street to William street. There was sharp competition for the property. William Sonntag bid the property in for Theodore Cabrilliac for $6,450. The new owner will improve the property. The old St. Charles hotel was one of the first hotels in Alton, and its palmy days was known as the Franklin House. It was the resort of many of the prominent men of the day. Few old residents can remember when the property was much better than it is now, but old citizens say it was a grand hotel in its day.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 7, 1905
The old St. Charles hotel building on State street will be remodeled within the next sixty days and made into a forty-room hotel. The contracts for the work will be awarded at the office of Lucas Pfeiffenberger, Saturday morning. Sixteen rooms will be added in the back, a complete alarm system will be placed in the building, and water and baths will be placed on each floor. The property is owned by William Sonntag, and will after the improvements be rented for hotel purposes.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 26, 1907
The old St. Charles Hotel, at one time one of the finest hotels in Southern Illinois, the terminus of stage coach lines before the days of railroads and a place where prominent men stayed, will be reopened September 6 by George Miller, who has been conducting the hotel formerly known as the Alton House. William Sonntag purchased the old St. Charles hotel when it had fallen into the lowest depths of a squalid tenement. He has remodeled it and made it a neat comfortable place, which will be attractive to a good class of people. It will furnish rooms for many transients in the city who frequently have trouble getting hotel accommodations.




Source: Alton Telegraph, July 29, 1864
We learn that a thief entered the Fremont House, in Alton, last night, through an open window from an alley, and purloined $200 from the pantaloons pocket of the landlord, which he had carefully put away under his pillow. The robber, or robbers, also succeeded in obtaining $80 from the pocket of a crippled soldier in another room of the same house. We have also been informed that the proprietor of the Piasa House had stolen from him last night some $70 or $80. We have heard no particulars in this latter case.




Illini Hotel/Stratford HotelThe Illini Hotel, located at the southeast corner of Third and Market Streets in Alton, was named in a local contest by Mrs. A. M. Jackson, wife of the head of the Western Military Academy. The hotel opened in 1909, and was built by a group of Alton businessmen. The 25,800 square foot hotel cost $141,000, and attracted business conventions, society events, wedding receptions for prominent citizens, and formal balls in the Sky Room. It was designed by Barnett, Haynes and Barnett, a St. Louis architectural firm. The bricks used in the construction came from the Alton Brick Company.

No expense was spared for its grand opening, where furnishings and china embossed with Illini Indians were made to order. The kitchen was considered to be one of the best of its kind in the country. There were five stories in the main building, and two stories in the dining room and kitchen annex. In 1926, a major improvement was the addition of 16 new bathrooms. More were added after the Gaylord family purchased it in 1948. Other improvements and additions were made in 1927 – a state of the art refrigeration system was installed in 1928.

In 1925, the Illini Hotel name was changed to Stratford Hotel by E. J. Lockyer, the new owner. Lockyer said Stratford-on-Avon, made famous by William Shakespeare, was near the town of his birth.

In 1995, the hotel was purchased by Bill and Veria Moyer.

In 1998, the Stratford was chosen as the site for a major part of the filming of the Hollywood movie, “The Big Brass Ring,” starring William Hurt and Nigel Hawthorne.  The building still stands.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 3, 1909
Tomorrow the new Illini hotel will be thrown open to the public. Alton people especially are invited to attend the opening, and many visitors from out of the city are expected also. The rush and hurry of the past week to get the hotel in readiness for the formal opening tomorrow has kept everyone busy. Night and day men and women have been at work, finishing up what was not done and cleaning up. Furniture has been coming in on hurry up shipments, and the hotel has been a scene of hustle and hurry from morning to night and then back to morning again. Manager August F. Ratz said he would have everything ready for the opening tomorrow, and would be ready to receive the public.

The kitchen will be given its first trial, the first meal will be served in the dining rooms, and the whole hotel will be thrown open to the public to take a look at it. No expense has been spared in the furnishing, nor in the building of the new hotel. As an illustration of the disregard for expense, it may be cited that the china was made to order, decorated with Indian heads and the hotel's name, and the silver is similarly marked. The hotel, as it will stand completed, exclusive of furnishing, cost $141,000, and more is to be added to it, as Manager Ratz says the owners have promised to build a palm garden on the roof of the dining room where conventions may be held and dancing parties given in the summer time. To those who may be interested to know what kind of a building has been provided for the public by home capital and home enterprise, the Telegraph gives the following description:

The Illini hotel is the first expensive enterprise ever carried out in Alton by Alton people in the spirit of trying to boost the city along without any immediate prospect of getting good financial returns. The owners, however, believe that in the future their confidence in this city will be shown to have been justified by good financial returns from the property. At the present they will be content to wait and look to the future for their reward. It is a handsome addition to Alton's real estate, an ornament to the city and a monument to Alton enterprise. It is not doubt a beginning of other and greater things for the beautifying and advancement of Alton, and the new Illini may be denominated the emblem of Alton's new spirit of progression. The Illini hotel consists of five stories in the main building, and two stories in the dining room and kitchen annex. It is 111 feet on Market street and 105 feet on Third street, the entrance being on Market street. The building is constructed of vitrified paving bricks, laid in cement mortar, and all the floors and the roof are made of thick concrete and the whole building is fire proof and rat proof. The contractors say it is absolutely incombustible, a fire, if started in the draperies or bedding of any room, being unable to get outside of the room. It is said that a fire might be willfully started in any room and no damage could result outside of the place where it began. The building was erected by the C. L. Gray Construction Co. of E. St. Louis, with A. P. Garwick as general superintendent of construction. It was started almost a year ago. The builders of the hotel are the Merchants Hotel Co. of Alton, consisting of Alton investors exclusively, and the hotel is operated by the Illini Hotel Co., a separate corporation.

There are 67 bedchambers in the hotel above the main floor, all on the second and third floors being equipped with baths, some private and some semi-private, having two rooms opening into the bath room. Above the third floor the rooms have no private baths, but there are two bath rooms on each of these floors. In every room of the hotel is a telephone and both hot and cold water and stationary wash stands. All the bed rooms are handsomely papered, and the ceilings are tinted, there being no two rooms in the hotel having the same pattern of wallpaper. There is also a wide diversity in the carpet patterns in the rooms. The furnishings of the rooms are in conformity with the finish of almost all of the wood work in the hotel, mahogany, and the mahogany scheme of finish is observed throughout in the furnishing. The beds in the rooms are heavy brass frames and are equipped with fine mattresses and with box spring mattresses in addition. Almost all the rooms have immense closets and those not so equipped have large wardrobes in them. In the bedchambers the finish is in pure white, an enamel paint imported from Germany being used in the decorative work, which gives a glassy finish.

To the visitor entering the new hotel, the appearance is a great surprise. At the very entrance into the lobby of the hotel, a beautifully designed portal of terra cotta gives an impression of striking beauty. The lobby, lighted by immense windows in the day time and by electroliers of handsome design at night, presents a scene of beauty. The floor of the lobby is laid in mosaic tile. The mural decorations are in olive green. Down the center of the lobby are four large pillars with marble design in decorations. In the top of the lobby is a light court opening from the parlor floor, the sides of which are richly ornamented and the rail is of mahogany. The marble stairway leading from the lobby to the second floor, and marble steps at the entrance and the wainscoting in the lobby, complete a picture of elegance. Opening from the lobby are the buffet, in the rear, of pretty design and richly furnished, writing and rest rooms for ladies and for gentlemen, telephone booths and the hotel office, with a private office for the manager. The counter at the hotel office has a marble top and the woodwork is mahogany finish. The dining room has been declared by those who know one of the most beautiful to be found anywhere, its dimensions are 36x61 feet. On the west side are three oriel windows giving a "tavern" effect. The floor is of a highly polished hard wood, the ceiling is beamed and decorated with ornamental plaster. The lighting of the dining room is very complete and attractive. The furnishing is in mahogany with brass trimmings. The walls are decorated with ground leather paper.

But the pride of the main floor, to Manager Ratz, is the kitchen, and there his mind continually adverts. He tells you it is the most modern kitchen in the country. When he looked at the kitchen at first, he demanded that it be enlarged, and the owners of the hotel did so at a heavy expense. Now it is large, light, roomy and sanitary, and will admit of the very best work being done with the least trouble. All the cooking will be done by steam and gas, and there will not be a coal fire in the building, outside of the fire that will serve for furnishing the steam for the hotel heating plant and the kitchen use. The heating plant to furnish the steam consists of two sectional boilers so that in event of one going down, the other could continue its work. But to get back to the kitchen. There are rows of steam cooking apparatus, and on the other hand there is the immense refrigerating plant that will render ice unnecessary for preserving food in the kitchen. All the cooking utensils are of aluminum. There are big cooling boxes and big warming ovens, and even a machine for dishwashing that will do the work without breaking the dishes, and will turn them out cleaned and dried. Manager Ratz is very, very proud of his kitchen, because like any good hotel keeper, he knows that a hotel’s popularity lasts as long as its kitchen continues to furnish forth the kind of food the public wants. In order that there may be the utmost cleanliness of the kitchen help and other employees in the hotel, underneath the kitchen are baths and toilet for the help, and the strictest cleanliness will be insisted upon. None of the help in the hotel will remain in the building overnight.

In the ladies parlor, upstairs, a place of comfort is provided with the finest of willow fibre chairs and settees.

There are two fast elevators in the hotel, one at the office for passengers and the other at the rear for freight. In the rear is a flight of concrete steps leading from the basement to the roof, and absolutely fire proof. There is no front flight of stairs above the second floor. Every detail of the building and furnishing of the hotel was decided upon to give the utmost beauty and convenience, combined with durability, and the hotel may well be pronounced one of the finest in the state of Illinois and a great credit to the city of Alton.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 29, 1917
H. Greenstone today rented the room in the Illini Hotel next to the Telegraph building, and will open a fashionable custom tailoring establishment. He has started the preparation of the room, and will be open in a few days.




Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 15, 1900
This well-known hotel on the corner of Second [Broadway] and George Streets, handsomely remodeled and fitted with all modern conveniences, will be furnished and opened within a few days. The patronage of the public is solicited; light airy rooms, baths, sample rooms, etc.; in face, everything that goes to make a modern hotel. Mrs. M. Kirry, proprietor, late of Mattoon. 




Kossuth House/Empire House, AltonJohn Frederick Hoffmeister, born in Basle, Switzerland in 1813, came to Alton in 1835 and opened a bakery in a small building on State Street, adjoining “Sugar Alley.” In 1848, he purchased two lots on the south side of Third Street for $3,000, and erected a building three stories high. He named it the Kossuth building, and moved his bakery there, and rented out the remainder of the first floor for other stores. The second floor was for living apartments for the families of the storekeepers, and the third floor was used as Kossuth Hall, where public meeting and entertainments were held. Hoffmeister was given the contract for feeding the troops which mobilized at Alton during the Mexican War, and made enough profit to complete the payments on the building. He left Alton in 1853, having purchased a nursery in the country, and rented out his building as a boarding house, where a room could be rented for $1 a day. He became one of the best-known horticulturists in Southern Illinois, and was an authority of raising fruit and farm products. He died May 27, 1900 at the age of 86, leaving behind nine children. He is buried in the Upper Alton Oakwood Cemetery. His wife, Theckla Walter Hoffmeister, died in 1888.

In 1863, J. G. Schmid purchased the building, remodeled the boarding house, and renamed it the Empire House. In 1872, the boarding house was purchased by Charley Benton, and in 1883, Dick Busse and Company purchased the boarding house. Busse also ran a restaurant and saloon next door. The Empire House was razed in 1906, to make way for the Commercial Building.




Source: Alton Telegraph, July 4, 1862
The Empire House has lately undergone a thorough renovation from garret to cellar, and has been remodeled and much improved in the internal arrangements. J. G. Schovid & Co., proprietors, will spare no pains to please customers. The table is supplied with the best the market affords.


Source: Alton Telegraph, November 7, 1862
This house (formerly known as the Kossuth House) is situated on Third Street near State. It has recently been remodeled, and put in the best possible conditions, and no pains will be spared to render its patrons comfortable. The table is supplied with the best the market affords. The traveling public are respectfully invited to give us a call.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 16, 1865
Mr. Andrew Clifford missed a suit of clothes worth some $100 from his room yesterday afternoon, and supposed they had been stolen. About 11 o’clock last night, a man was arrested in the Empire House who was acting rather suspiciously, and he dropped his bundle, out of which rolled a watch. Mr. Clifford went into the House at the time, and at once found his coat in the bundle. The fellow denied having stolen the articles, but upon the close application of a half-inch rope to his windpipe for a short time, he confessed that the articles were stolen by another man, who had divided the spoils with him. He gave information where some articles had been disposed of, and they were found as he stated. The man whom he implicated was also arrested this morning at the Empire House, where he came very deliberately to get a drink of lager. They are both in cells at the City Hall. We learn that others have lost articles lately in a mysterious manner, and it is quite likely these gentlemen can explain the matter.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 27, 1900
Dick Busse [owner of Empire House and Busse Saloon] is going to quit the hotel business and will dispose of the Empire House as soon as possible. He will devote all of his time to his wholesale liquor business.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 16, 1906
The wrecking of the old Empire house on Third street to make place for a modern business block marks the passing of one of the oldest boarding houses in the city of Alton, which has a remarkable history in that during the entire time that the property was rented by its owner, J. F. Hoffmeister, and later by his estate, a period of fifty-three years, the property never lost the owner but one month's rent. The building was erected by J. F. Hoffmeister, and completed in 1848. Mr. Hoffmeister came to Alton in 1835, and he first started a baker shop in the little building on State street adjoining Sugar alley, now used as a pawn shop. Later he bought for #3,000 the two lots on which the Empire house was to stand, and he erected a building three stories high in the west end, of which he had his bakery, and the remainder of the first floor he rented out for stores. The second floor was for living apartments for the families of the store keepers, and the third floor was the old Kossuth hall, which was for many years the only entertainment hall in the city and all public meetings were held there. Mr. Hoffmeister was given the contract for feeding the troops which were mobilized at Alton for the Mexican War, and he made enough profit out of his contract to complete payments on the buildings he erected and which were completed just about the time the Mexican War closed. Mr. Hoffmeister left Alton in 1853, having bought a nursery in the country and he rented out the property in town for a boarding house. The Empire house was never a high-priced hotel, but was for many years a third-class boarding house, charging about $1 a day. F. W. Hoffmeister says that the place was very profitable, and that rents were always paid by the tenants with the exception of one month in the more than half century it was rented out.




Madison Hotel, AltonThe Hotel Madison opened in 1883 at the corner of Broadway and Easton Streets in Alton. It was one of Alton's finest hotels, with modern conveniences. The Y.W.C.A. leased the building in 1918 for young women coming into Alton to work in the factories. The name was then changed to Dolly Madison. Union Electric later used the building, and then razed it for new offices in 1951. Currently Gentelins on Broadway occupies the property.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 10, 1883
The Telegraph presents herewith an engraving of the Hotel Madison, the model hostelry, now being prepared for occupancy in this city. The edifice has a front of 100 feet on Second Street [Broadway] by a depth of 105 feet on Easton, and is four stories high. It is elegantly and substantially constructed of brick. The site is a commanding one overlooking the river. From the upper stories a magnificent view of the surrounding country is afforded. The scenery embraces a view of the Mississippi for several miles, including its junction with the Missouri; to the south are the bottom lands of St. Charles County, Missouri, while the bluffs of St. Louis County are seen in the distance; to the west the lofty bluffs on the Illinois side of the Mississippi rise to the height of nearly 300 feet; to the east the eye ranges over the broad expanse of the American Bottom beyond the city. The view is, in all respects, the finest afforded by any hotel in the Mississippi Valley, and will prove very attractive to guests, especially in the summer season.

The first story of the hotel is occupied by four commodious store rooms, two on each side of the main entrance, and are intended for business purposes. In front of the entrance is a handsome balcony, extending the width of the sidewalk. A broad, easy flight of stairs lead from the sidewalk to the rotunda and office on the second floor. The rotunda is 32x100 feet in dimensions, with tile floor of variegated colors, brilliantly lighted by numerous windows in the day time, by gas jets at night. The chandeliers throughout are of the finest pattern, plain, but elegant. The office, 15x35 feet in size, lighted by five windows, is situated on the north side of the rotunda with 50 numbers, those of the rooms in the building, with electric call bells and annunciators for each room, and speaking tubes for corridors and public rooms. A carpeted sample room, fine enough to satisfy the most exacting commercial traveler, adjoins the rotunda at the southwest corner. Next to it is the reading room, with linoleum floor covering. A lobby leads from the rotunda to the balcony in front. On every floor are wash rooms, bath rooms, the necessary water closets [room with a toilet]. Ventilating pipes lead from all parts of the edifice to the roof, the sanitary arrangements being about as near perfection as can be reached. Two ladies' parlors at the southeast corner, one 24x19, the other 18x18, connected by folding doors. These parlors will have lace curtains through which the light of day will fall softly on velvet carpets, and furniture richly upholstered in colors of old gold and russet.

The rooms on the fourth floor will be covered with handsome ingrain carpets; those on the third floor with tapestry, but the furnishing is not yet far enough advanced for us to speak of it in detail, except to say that Mr. R. H. Flagg has the contract for carpeting. The halls are well lighted, and all the apartments are "front rooms," in one respect, as there are no "dark" rooms, and every window gives a fine view of the city and surrounding country. The hotel can never be hemmed in, for on two sides are streets, to the north is the park, and the company have a space 20 feet wide at the west side of the structure.

The dining room is a lofty, spacious apartment, 50 feet by 30, with a seating capacity for 125 persons; a beautiful, attractive place, finely lighted and ventilated. Adjoining the dining room are the kitchen and pantries. The kitchen has a large double range, also a team table with carving attachment and new style broiler.

The elevator is run by hydraulic pressure and is capable of sustaining 75,000 pounds, with automatic arrangement for stopping it in case of an accident. The arrangement for protection against fire is so perfect as to insure safety to the building and its inmates. There are stand pipes and hose on every floor, convenient of access.

The building is warmed by steam, the heat being supplied by two No. 9 Haxstrum furnaces that can be run separately or together, low pressure, self-regulating and self-supplying. The boiler room is in the basement at the northwest corner, immediately adjoining the inner court. The laundry is on the ground floor of the ell [something L-shaped]. It has a patent dryer, with a set of tubs for hot and cold water, also a self-heater.

Architectural Details
There is a cellar under the whole building. The cellar and foundation walls are of stone; superstructure of brick, iron and stone. The glass in the store fronts is American plate. The floors of the rotunda and billiard hall are of tile. The building is heated with steam; automatic boilers; supplied with hot and cold water. Building is lighted with gas from street mains. All water used is filtered with one of Garstang's famous filters. A private sewer runs from the building, with open port on the banks of the river. One 2 1/2-inch stand pipe for fire protection runs to the roof, with permanent coils of fire hose on each floor ready for use at all times. The building is provided with one passenger elevator for guests and one for baggage, operated by hydraulic engine.

First Floor
The first floor is arranged as follows: Principal entrance to hotel, broad and massive stairway; elegant porch over facade. Barber shop back of entrance stairs. News and cigar store on the right of stairway. Sample room adjoining [room where merchandise is displayed for sale]. Passenger and baggage elevator room on Easton street. Billiard room - 50x30 feet - under dining hall, with entrance from hotel and Easton street. Ladies' entranceway opening on Easton street. Two handsome stores on west side of entrance. Laundry and store room in the rear; engine and boiler room in cellar, washroom and water closets for domestics. Courtyard 56x88 feet.

Second Floor
Rotunda 32x100 feet. Two principal stairways at either end of rotunda lead to third floor. The main rooms on this floor are ladies' parlors, gents' parlor, reading room, smoking room, all pleasant and commodious; one sample room, one ladies waiting room, lobby, baggage room, office, dining hall, kitchen, carving room, wash room, etc.

Third Floor
Twenty-one large and attractive bedrooms, corridors twelve feet wide, bathrooms and water closets.

Fourth Floor
Duplicate throughout of third floor, Whole number of rooms, 60.

Mr. H. Watson had the contract for the excavation of 8,000 yards of earth and the brick work, 750,000 brick being used; J. Wurtzler, stone foundation; James Bannon, cut stone; M. H. Boals, mill work; S. S. Hobart, carpenter work.

From the foregoing particulars, it will be seen that the Hotel Madison is one of the most complete and attractive hotel buildings in the country. It is, beyond question, the finest hotel in the State, outside of Chicago. It lacks no modern improvement or convenience possessed by any hotel, with water, gas, steam heaters, elevator, speaking tubes, electric call bells, perfect ventilation and sewerage, the arrangements for the comfort and convenience of guests, and the protection of their health could not be better. The opening of such a complete edifice to the public will be a notable day in the history of Alton. The opening will take place sometime this month, or by the 1st of June at the latest.

The Owners
The owners of the hotel building, Messrs. Watson, Stanford, and Hewitt, are entitled to the gratitude of every citizen for this great improvement, and everyone should labor to make the hotel so successful that their enterprise will be richly rewarded. The officers of the company are: President, Homer Stanford; Manager, Henry Watson; Secretary and Treasurer, George R. Hewitt.

The Architect
The architect of the building is Hon. Lucas Pfeiffenberger, and the noble edifice is a grand monument of his taste and skill. He has reason to feel proud of his work. The lime for the structure was furnished by Mr. William Armstrong from the celebrated Piasa Bird kiln; the brick was furnished by Mr. Ernst Feldwisch; and the rock was quarried from the ledge on which the building is founded.

The Lessee
The lessee of the hotel, who is now preparing to open it to the public, is Dr. H. M. Bateman, formerly of the Phoenix Hotel, Bloomington, Illinois. He is a successful and popular hotel proprietor, a genial gentleman, and a favorite with traveling public. We have heretofore spoken of his great success in the same line of business elsewhere, and the high estimation in which he is held by the people of Bloomington. Our citizens will give him a warm welcome and aid him in a successful inauguration of his new enterprise.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 18, 1900
Mr. A. L. Daniels has leased the Madison Hotel a second time for a term of five years and will continue in charge. Mr. Daniels has made a success of the management of the hotel and has put the Madison on a paying basis. The traveling public will be pleased to learn that he will remain in charge of the hotel.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 18, 1901
Alton will honor the memory of William McKinley tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock, in a meeting to be held in the public ground in the rear of the Madison Hotel. Everyone in all the Altons is invited to join in the meeting, and it is a special request that every person attending the services wear an emblem of mourning for the dead President. It was requested at a meeting of citizens held last evening in the Council Chamber that all business men be respectfully requested to close their places of business the entire day, and that everyone participate in the memorial. Hon. Henry G. McPike was chosen chairman of the meeting, and by virtue of his position of chairman he has been chosen by the speakers committee to preside at the meeting tomorrow and introduce the speakers. On request of the citizen's meeting, all the bells in the city on the various churches, school houses and the fire houses will be tolled during the time beginning about fifteen minutes before the hour for the memorial services. It is suggested that the bells be tolled 59 strokes for the 59 years of McKinley's age.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 16, 1911
C. A. VanPreter [see story below - August 19] today closed a deal with Capt. J. Fowler, whereby the latter conveys all interest in the Madison Hotel block to Mr. VanPreter. The consideration is private. The purchase includes all furnishings, etc., in the hotel, as well as the four store buildings in the block. Capt. Fowler's health is so bad that he desires to get out of business altogether. Mr. VanPreter, when asked if he intended to conduct the hotel business, replied, "No, I bought for an investment. The hotel will be taken over by a new management in a few days and will be conducted as a first-class hotel." The investment is a valuable one, the property being located in a good part of the city. The property was offered to others for $30,000. T. E. Gallagher was negotiating to have charge of the hotel, but has decided not to do so.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 19, 1911
The acquiring of the Madison Hotel by C. A. Vanpreter carries with it a little story which ought to be given publicity, because it speaks the doctrine of hope, and may be a spur to the ambition of hopeless people. It is an interesting fact that when the Madison hotel was being erected, among the workmen employed on the building was one C. A. Vanpreter, who worked for $1.75 a day as carpenter. Mr. Vanpreter then had no intention of owning the hotel, at least if he died, it must have looked to be a very far distant achievement for him. That was less than thirty years ago. When Mr. Vanpreter bought the hotel from J. Fowler this week, through the Ed Yager agency, he was able to pay cash for the property. It is not so many years since Mr. Vanpreter was working at the $1.75 wage, and then too, it must be remembered that Mr. Vanpreter, in the intervening time, suffered an accident which made him almost helpless and left him a cripple for the remainder of his life. Fighting against heavy odds of ill health and physical disability, he has achieved much in the thirty years, and today he is able to say he owns the building he helped to erect, and that he does not owe a dollar on it, as he was able to pay cash. Everyone who has seen the account of Mr. Vanpreter's purchase believes that Mr. Vanpreter made a good bargain and has a valuable piece of property. He intends to add ten bath rooms to the equipment and make some other improvements which will raise the quality of the hotel. Another thing is, Mr. Vanpreter will strongly bond the lessee in the lease, to maintain the present good name of the hotel and improve it and will make it a condition of the lease that will void the lease if the lessee, whoever he may be, does anything that will damage the reputation of the place, Mr. Vanpreter is determined to progress, and will not allow any retrogression.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 30, 1911
Miss Florence Fowler had a very trying experience at the Madison Hotel Tuesday evening due in the most part by the love of her little nephew for a gun. Miss Fowler was acting as clerk in the hotel while the regular clerk was eating his supper, when some one of the gentlemen who were staying at the hotel called for some stamps. In the drawer where the stamps are kept is a thirty-eight revolver which is used by the night clerk and she, not even suspecting that the gun was loaded, held it in her right hand while she got the stamps and made the necessary change. She was just ready to put the gun back in its place in the stamp drawer, when her nephew, Everett McCauley, tried to get the gun and she jerked it out of his reach. This slight pressure that she exerted during this operation was enough to fire the gun. When she looked up and saw that there were eight or ten persons standing about the room, her first thought was that she had killed someone and this idea caused her to faint. The ball, however, had gone through the ceiling and did very little damage except to frighten the guests who were standing in the lobby. When Miss Fowler regained consciousness, it was found that the ball had passed so close to her left hand when the gun went off that her hand had been burned by the powder. Miss Fowler is confined to her room today suffering from nervousness and will undoubtedly remember how it feels to be close to the business end of a pistol for some time to come.


Miss O'Neill Feeds Boarders for the Last Time
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 1, 1918
The Madison hotel, which had been a family hotel for some time, under the management of Miss Lizzie O'Neill, ceased to function as such Friday morning when the farewell breakfast there was enjoyed by the guests who had stayed to the last. The last of the steady guests in the hotel vacated after breakfast and found homes elsewhere. The hotel is to be converted over to the uses of the Y. W. C. A. as a home for working girls employed in war industries. [The Y.W.C.A. gave a new name to the hotel - The Dolly Madison Hotel.]


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 15, 1918
The Dolly Madison is to be the name the Hotel Madison will bear during the time the Y. W. C. A. war work council has control of it in the next five years. The managing board has selected the name, choosing to name the hotel for one of the early mistresses of the White House, a woman who is famous in American history. Speaking of the future of the Y. W. C. A. quarters in the Dolly Madison, Mrs. L. P. Eells said today that the committee had fixed the price for rooms and for quarters in the dormitory, and that applications for admission had been so numerous it appears the capacity will have been reached before opening. In fixing up the hotel, it was said, the workmen who were engaged in the building have contributed liberally of their time and have even given money to help install an indirect lighting system in the cafeteria. Mrs. Eells said that it is planned to keep open house on Thanksgiving Day night, and to welcome the public then to a big reception for the girls who will be living in the Dolly Madison. It is planned, however, to have the place ready to receive visitors possibly by Monday, and callers will be shown through by the women in charge. The plans for the Dolly Madison are developing rapidly. The building has been transformed in appearance inside, and it now is a highly attractive place, and one that will be very popular with girls who work and who need comfortable quarters. The rates charged for the rooms will be in line with the rates at the Y. W. C. A. annexes, which have been very reasonable and not the least of the attractions of the quarters.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 19, 1918
The "Dolly Madison" House on East Broadway is undergoing a series of improvements and changes which will make the old Hotel Madison unrecognizable to the many hundreds of guests who have resided at the hotel in the past. The "Dolly Madison" will be a great credit to Alton when the alterations and decorations are completed and 90 girls take up their abode there and call the place "home." The young women in charge of the new recreational center had hoped to get the building in order for a big reception on Thanksgiving evening, but from present indications they will be disappointed, although great headway is being made in the work. The house is being redecorated and repainted throughout, and the large rooms on the upper floors are being divided and made into two smaller apartments. In each of the larger bedrooms will be two single beds, a dressing table, two chairs and a wardrobe or cupboard. There is also a bell in each room, in order that the guests can be called from upstairs when they are wanted below. The bedrooms are all papered in light and attractive colors, making them present a very restful and delightful appearance for their occupants. On the main floor a great change has taken place, one of the main ones being the removal of the former office. In the place of the old desk and office fixtures there will be a delightful corner filled with soft seats and decorations. A small registration office and information desk will be located to the right. A young woman will be in charge of this desk to give any assistance which she can to visitors to our city. The southwest parlors will be used as parlors and reception rooms, and will contain easy chairs, writing desks and so forth for people who might drop in while in town shopping. The parlors on the other side of the main entrance will be used as club rooms for the girls living at the home. In the parlors, furniture of the Mid-Victorian and earlier periods will be used. On the upper floors will be the matron's room, a sitting room for the guests who reside at the house permanently, and a small dormitory of four beds for transient callers. Bath rooms, shower baths and toilets are being placed in the building in great numbers, in order to have sufficient facilities for use of all staying at the house. One large room is being equipped as a laundry, in order that the girls might do their own laundry work if they so desire. The laundry is a well-lighted room on the west side of the building. It will contain two large stationary tubs, a dryer, and several light sockets to which irons can be attached. This is a great advantage and will give valuable help to the girls. The cafeteria feature of the house will be carried out as was announced in the Telegraph early last week. The cafeteria will not be ready for use for several weeks, due announcement for the opening to be given. The large kitchen in the rear of the building is undergoing a complete change, all the former apparatus being torn out and is being replaced with newer and more modern facilities. The house is well heated, a vacuum heating system put in by its former owner doing duty. Grates are in various rooms in the house, including the parlors, and these will beautify the house. The decorations of the house have been in the hands of a corps of very capable women, who came from the East to get a recreational center established in Alton. Wise judgment has been shown in the selection of location, decorations, and so forth of the center, which will be a pleasing addition to Alton.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 21, 1919
All the thrills of the ten-twenty-thirty melodrama, or the modern movie, were provided Saturday night when a fire in the barber shop in the Dolly Madison building routed all the young lady boarders from their beds and caused to take flights of various kinds, ranging from fire escapes to the leaps into the arms of men on the ground, dressed in their night clothes. The fire occurred just after midnight. It did not matter to the young ladies that the fire was a small one, and destined to do but little damage. Neither did it matter that safety and convenient means of exit were provided by the doors of the building. The Easter Bonnetry of all the young women was in danger and the first thought was to get out and get out they did. Some of them came down the fire escapes clad only in the flimsy night gown, but fondly clasping a new Easter hat. A crowd soon gathered which watched the spectacle of the young women leaving the building by any means possible, as though it were a show. One young lady, of ample proportions it is said, seeing the men standing below and unwilling to await her turn down the fire escape, yelled to one man that she was coming and he held out his arms and bravely tried to imitate the knight of old. But either the knight of old was stronger than the knight of Saturday night, or the lady rescued by the medieval social Hon was closer to the "perfect thirty-six" than the Alton girl is distress, for the weight of the leaping girl bore him to the ground. He bravely clasped her as she came and both escaped alive. The girls, in their hasty exit from the Dolly Madison, even forgot their dainty feet as they climbed down the sharp steps of the fire escape or jumped to the hard pavement below. Most of them too, perhaps, forgot the chilly winds of the night as they stood with only the thin muslin between them and the winds. The fire in the barber shop did not spread and it was not long before the frightened young ladies were able to return to bed and continue their slumbers in peace.




Mansion House, Alton, ILColonel Alexander Botkin was born in Kentucky, March 4, 1801. He moved to Ohio, and then to Alton, where he was a justice of the peace and operated the Mansion House. He was an anti-abolitionist, and spoke at a meeting during the uprising against Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, trying to maintain peace. In 1841 he moved to the Wisconsin Territory, where he practiced law, and served in the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature as a Whig. He was later elected to the Wisconsin State Senate, where he served for two terms. He died March 5, 1857, at the age of 56. He is buried in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Mansion House was one of Alton's oldest boarding houses. It was located at 506 State Street in downtown Alton, and was known for its fine table and courteous service.

John Harnard bought the hotel from Colonel Botkin in July 1837, and enlarged and remodeled the building. It was during the ownership of Harnard that the legend of the one-eyed Indian fighter, Tom Boothby, began. Boothby was an old Indian fighter during the Black Hawk War, and came to stay in the Mansion House in 1836. He occupied the southwest corner room on the second floor. Boothby became obsessed with the idea that an Indian was after him. During his spells he would scream, and told others that an Indian would strangle him. One night during one of his spells, he became more violent than usual. Harnard rushed to his room, but the old man was dead of fright. He was found with his hands at his throat as though trying to pull hands away. People began to whisper that perhaps the Indian finally caught up with him and taken his revenge. Through the history of the hotel, guests would hear Boothby crying out, or his frantic footsteps in the hall.

The Mansion House changed hands many times throughout its history. It was used by the Daughters of Charity in 1856, when they conducted a boarding school. In 1864, the hotel was used as a hospital, caring for the sick and wounded at the military prison. Sometime after this period, the hotel was remodeled and brick was applied over the stone front.

In 2010, after 174 years of existence, the building caught fire. It was decided the building could not be saved, and was torn down.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 29, 1836
We are happy to announce to the citizens of Alton and the public generally, that Col. Alexander Botkin has this day opened his large, well furnished, and pleasantly situated State Street Mansion House. From our knowledge of the competency and gentlemanly deportmant of its proprietor, we feel no hesitation in recommending this establishment to the patronage of our citizens, travelers, and all who may desire good living and comfortable quarters.


Source: Alton Telegraph, August 24, 1836
At a large and respectable meeting of the citizens of Alton, friendly to the election of Gen. William Henry Harrison of Ohio, convened, pursuant to public notice, at the Mansion House of Col. Botkin, on the 13th inst. On motion, Samuel L. Miller presided, and John R. Woods was appointed Secretary. On motion of John Hogan, Esq., Representative elect for Madison County. Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare resolutions for this meeting. Whereupon the Chair appointed William McBride, Col. A. Botkin and William K. Grimsley, who reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were read in a spirited and emphatic manner by Mr. McBride......

Resolved, That a Committee of five be appointed to hold correspondence with individuals and meetings throughout the State, friendly to the election of Gen. Harrison. John Hogan, Esq.; F. B. Murdoch; Col. Alex Botkin; Col. John Bostwick; William McBride.


Source: Alton Observer, March 9, 1837
The Mansion House of the subscriber in Lower Alton is offered for sale, but if not sold soon, will be much improved and leased for a term of years. The situation presents a desirable point, as a business stand, being on the main street of the town, and at the corner where the road turns to Upper Alton. Terms will be liberal and possession given on the first day of April next. Apply to C. W. Hunter, Alton, March 9th, 1837.


Source: Alton Telegraph, March 29, 1837
Travelers, and the public generally, are respectfully informed that the subscriber, having taken the afore well-known stand, on State Street, Alton, is now ready for the reception of travelers, as the house has undergone many necessary repairs to make it comfortable. To those who may favor him with a call, he pledges himself, on the post of his beds and table, that every exertion will be used for the comfort and satisfaction of his guests. Its situation is the most convenient of any public house in the place for travelers ascending or descending the Mississippi, being a few rods from the steamboat landing, on a beautiful eminence, commanding a splendid view of the town, country around, and Mississippi river, as far as the mouth of the Missouri. The subscriber, having been favored with the St. Louis and Springfield stages, travelers can at all times be accommodated with sc___. There is a livery stable attached to the house, where the greatest attention will be paid to horses entrusted to the care of the proprietors of the stable, and horses, gigs, carriages at all days to hire; in short, a call on the subscriber, one and all, will results in attention. William Harned.


Source: Alton Observer, July 27, 1837
Mr. Editor - I had occasion the other day to visit the "Mansion House," formerly kept by Col. Botkin, and was highly delighted, and indeed somewhat astonished, to find such a great change for the better, in the extensive enlargement and beautiful appearance of the building. The present proprietor and owner of this establishment, I humbly conceive sir, deserves great commendation, as well as a liberal share of patronage, for his unremitting exertions, and the great expense to which he has been at in erecting and completely furnishing such a commodious and convenient house for the comfortable accommodation of his friends and fellow citizens. Those, therefore, who may chance to visit the city of Alton, either on business or otherwise, will find it at present (the "Alton House" having been destroyed by fire) more agreeable to spend their time comfortably and quietly at the "Mansion House" on State street, at present kept by Mr. John Harnard, who is himself a temperance man, and who keeps to all intents and purposes a well-organized Temperance House. I have made these remarks without the knowledge of Mr. H., and hope that they will be received and considered as entirely disinterested, (except so far as the general good is concerned) and as coming from one who seldom speaks either for or against any person without just and plausible reasons for so doing. W.


Source: The Telegraph newspaper articles
Mansion House, the oldest boarding house in Alton, was located at 506 State Street in downtown Alton. It was built by Capt. Botkin, and was a three-story building. The second proprietor was Louis Kellenberger, and the third was William Harned. Harned remodeled Mansion House, and boasted "large airy bedrooms; private sitting rooms, carpeted and furnished with the latest periodicals; the best table the market can afford; proximity to steamboat landing and the business district of Alton; and it was the best hotel in Alton. William Harned was a follower of Elijah Parris Lovejoy, and was a member of the "60 Militant Friends" of Lovejoy. Harned donated a first-story room in the Mansion House for the last Lovejoy meeting, held the evening before Lovejoy was assassinated. William Harned's son, John Wesley Harned, was also an eyewitness of the Lovejoy tragedy.

The ghost legend concerns Tom Boothby, a veteran of the Indian campaigns, who had fought in the Black Hawk War of 1831-32 against the Indians. Boothby came to the Mansion House to stay in about 1836. He seemed to have plenty of money, but was closed-mouthed about his past life. Boothby had only one arm, and an Indian arrow had put out one of his eyes. He was of advanced age when he came to Alton, and legend says he never left the Mansion House after his arrival until his body was carried out for burial in 1838. He was supposed to have occupied the southwest corner room on the second floor.

After he had been in the Mansion House a short time, his mind became affected, and he became obsessed with the idea that an Indian was after him and would torture him to death. He screamed when these spells came on, and told his listeners that this Indian would strangle him so that his soul would never leave the body (an Indian curse in which Boothby believed).

Boothby was in his room during the last Lovejoy meeting, and had one of his spells. He became so loud and unruly, that Mr. Harned went to his room to quiet him.

Between his spells Tom Boothby was likeable, and spent his time spinning yarns for the children of the downtown district. One night a fit seized him that was more violent than the others. He screamed the Indian had found him and was strangling him. Harned rushed to his room, but the old man had died of fright, his one eye staring as though he still could see, and his hands at his throat as though to pull hands away.

After he was buried, people claimed the Indian spirit had found Boothby and strangled him, and that Tom Boothby would never have any rest. This story spread throughout Alton and became one of the best-known ghost stories of that day. For that reason, Boothby's old room was unoccupied for some time. During storms of high winds, folks declared they heard Boothby’s ghost crying out, and his frantic footsteps up and down the hall. In time Boothby was forgotten, and the place of his burial is not known. The hotel business took a downturn, and Mansion House was closed by Harned in 1839. It opened again as a hotel from 1849 to 1855. In about 1856 the Daughters of Charity took over Mansion House and conducted a school there, boarding students. In time the sisters left, but they re-occupied Mansion House in 1864 when nurses of the order were sent to Alton to care for the sick and wounded at the military prison. At the close of the war the sisters remained and started the hospital in Mansion House that was in later years St. Joseph's Hospital.

Mansion House was torn down following a devastating fire on January 14, 2010. The building at that time was used as an apartment house.




The Mile House, Alton, IL


The Mile House was located at the corner of State and McPherson Streets in Alton. It was an early inn, one mile from the stage coach stop at the Franklin House in downtown Alton. Legend has been told of a lady in black walking back and forth at the deserted inn in the 1870s. She was supposedly one of two sisters who married a soldier in the Civil War, and was murdered at the hands of her husband. Loud knocks are often heard in the home by residents. The building still stands.









August and Herman Luer began the construction on their Mineral Springs Hotel in 1913. It was located at the southeast corner of Broadway and Alton Streets in Alton. The architects for the hotel were Helfensteller, Hirsch and Watson of St. Louis. The original building was of brick and terra cotta, and was triangular shaped - 200 feet on Alton Street, 75 feet on Broadway, and 100 feet on Front Street. It was two stories in height on Broadway, and three stories on Front Street.

During construction of the hotel, a mineral spring was discovered, and this was developed into mineral baths. An Alton plumber, P. C. Kortkamp, suffered severe hiccoughs that disabled him to the point of being unable to work. He sought help from doctors to no avail. Finally, he was told to try drinking the mineral water recently discovered at the Luer Brothers property. He agreed, and began taking sips of the water, since the hiccoughs and the spasms that followed were so violent, it was impossible to take a long drink. In ten hours, the hiccoughs ceased completely.

The Luer brothers favored local merchants and builders, and the contract for supplying the silverware for the hotel went to C. L. Goulding. The contract called for knives, forks, spoons, sugar spoons, salad forks, etc., for about 80 rooms.

The hotel was christened “Alton Mineral Springs Hotel” in May 1913, and opened in June 1914 under the management of August F. Ratz. The hotel included a restaurant and saloon, 80 hotel rooms, swimming pool with Turkish and mineral baths, a telephone for each room, summer roof gardens, and a beautiful view of the river. Ratz stated that the water from the artesian well in the hotel was similar to sea water, with medical properties of unquestionable value. The pool had water running in and out at all times. Three inlet pipes kept the mineral spring water bubbling, while water flowed out when it reached a certain depth. A rule was made that no woman was allowed to enter the pool who did not have a pair of stockings on as part of her swimming outfit. There were specific times for men, women, and children to swim separately. James Coleman, a young man from Alton, was in charge of the pool and gave swimming lessons.

The hotel was popular in its day, but closed in 1971 after the addition of a ballroom on a lower level failed to attract more business. The building still stands, and contains a variety of businesses.

                                            Mineral Springs Hotel, Alton, IL


Source: Alton Telegraph, August 21, 1913
Architects have completed, in colors, a picture of the Luer Bros. big building now being erected on the site of the old Illinois packing house on Front and Second streets and the picture shows a very attractive looking and very imposing structure. It is in a display window at the store of Bennie Winters and is attracting a great deal of attention. It will entirely change the appearance of Front, Alton and Second street in that block, and will be one of the distinct and substantial improvements of Alton. The annex on Second street, that low building between the Heuser & Meyer garage and the old retail store of the packing company, is to be built up as high as the rest of the building and the restaurant and saloon will be in there. There will be an entire new front put in the building on the Second street side and handsome stucco work will adorn the building on all sides. The entrance to the baths will be on Alton street. The summer garden will be on the river side and will extend from Alton street one block east. The top floor will be devoted to large airy sleeping rooms and the entire building will be modernly furnished and equipped throughout. There will be several entrances and exits of course, but the main ones are as stated above.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 6, 1913
August F. Ratz was in Alton today conferring with the Luers about the plans for the proposed new hotel to be erected on the site of the former Illinois Packing Company plant. The name "Alton Mineral Springs Hotel" has been decided upon. Mr. Ratz says that he is planning to get the hotel opened the first of next October, and that he will have rooms at popular prices and the best accommodations for mineral water baths. He says that the water from the artesian well is the nearest possible in some respects to sea water, white its medical properties are of unquestioned value, and he believes that the new hotel, once well advertised, will do a big business, attracting invalids to the city for the baths. He intends having meals there, as well as rooms. It will be run on the European plan. Mr. Ratz said he has been looking for a good job for two months, and within the last four days he has had four good jobs offered to him, but that he is now fixed until the time comes to open his new Mineral Springs Hotel at Alton.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 14, 1913
The Globe-Democrat this morning shows a view of the new Alton Mineral Springs Hotel, which the Luer Packing Company is erecting on the site of the old Illinois Packing Company, and which will be managed by August F. Ratz. The Globe-Democrat said:

"Work has begun on a $100,000 hotel in Alton, Illinois, to be on Front Street overlooking the Mississippi River, and which will be completed by January 1, according to August F. Ratz of St. Louis, who has been chosen manager of the hotel. It will be called the Mineral Springs Hotel, because it is built over a mineral spring which comes to the surface near the river. Luer Brothers of Alton, well-known real estate owners and contractors, are building the hotel. Helfensteller, Hirsch and Watson of St. Louis are the architects. Baths will be a feature, and a large swimming pool will be on the first floor. The building, of brick and terra cotta, will be a triangular shape, 200 feet on Alton Street, 75 feet on Second Street [Broadway], and 100 feet on Front Street. The building will be two stories in height on Second Street and three stories on Front Street. It will be built fireproof, or slow combustion, and will be a big ornament to the neighborhood and an important addition to Alton's attractive features.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 27, 1914
With no ceremony whatever, the different departments of the new Mineral Springs Hotel will be put into operation. The first dinner will be served in the hotel tomorrow evening at six o'clock, and after that it is expected that other things will follow along until within another week the entire hotel will be running full blast. The first departments of the new hotel were opened today when the bar and the barber shop were put into operation this morning. After the first meal is served tomorrow evening, arrangements will be made for letting out the rooms. It is expected that the first rooms will be opened to the public about Monday, when the clerk's office will be established in the hotel. Sometime about the middle of the week, the swimming pool and the bath features of the hotel will be put into operation. Notwithstanding the fact that the hotel is one of the best and most modern equipped in this part of the country, there will be no ceremony about the opening. Each department will be put in operation as soon as it has been completed.

The mechanics who are putting the finishing touches on the interior of the building have been working many hours overtime to have it in condition for service next week. Even today while hundreds of people are inspecting the interior of the building, the workmen are busy putting on the finishing touches. Some of the rooms are completed now, but they will not be thrown open to the public until next week, at which time all of them will have been completed.

The new hotel will be conducted under the management of August Ratz, who was in charge of the Illini Hotel at Alton before M. G. Baker took charge of it. Mr. Ratz told a reporter for the Telegraph this afternoon that a number of applications had been made for rooms, and he expected to have the building filled soon after it was opened.

Thomas Hawkins, who did the plastering, says that the job was the biggest by far, that has ever been done in the city of Alton. He has not finished, as he must wait to do the stucco work on the south side until such a time as the weather cools off a bit. He says it would be impossible to do this work with present weather conditions.




The Kate Nash Boarding House was a Victorian-style hotel overlooking the Mississippi River. It was located at the southeast corner of  West Third and Market Streets in Alton, where later the Illinois/Stratford Hotel would be erected. The Nash Boarding House was later the St. Elmo Hotel, and then the Eagle Hotel. The building was razed to make way for the Illini Hotel.




Pieper Hotel/Savoy Hotel, Alton, ILThe Pieper Hotel was located on the northeast corner of Front and Market Streets. The hotel was erected in 1896, and had 30 rooms.  J. C. Harford operated a saloon in the hotel. In 1897, a fire started in one of the rooms on the third floor. The fire department quickly put out the flames, and the hotel was repaired. In August 1918, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Angel purchased the hotel and renamed it the Savoy Hotel. During the first few years of operation, the Savoy guest list was made up of mostly vaudeville entertainers. When vaudeville faded, business slowed for a time, but picked up again when the new Lock and Dam was constructed.  Good word spread, and the hotel was soon used by rivermen traveling up and down the Mississippi.  In 1921, a restaurant was opened in the hotel.  Mrs. Angel continued the business after the death of her husband, but sold the building in 1969 due to poor health. The building still stands.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 24, 1911
The Pieper Hotel building and furnishings at the corner of Front and Market Streets will be sold early next month at public auction to the highest bidder, the owner of the property, Mrs. Pieper, desiring to retire from the business which she and her husband, the late Frank Pieper, founded many years ago and conducted very successfully all of the time. The business has been conducted by the Piepers on that corner for more than twenty-two years, and before that they conducted a similar business elsewhere in the city. Frank Pieper Jr., who was associated with his father in the saloon part of the business during the latter's life, and who has conducted it successfully himself since, never like the business and is anxious to quit it for good. It will be sold with the building or later to other parties.




1867 map, showing the Piasa House in AltonThe Piasa House, at the northeast corner of Piasa and 4th Streets, was a three-story frame building, said to have been “commodious and contemporary.” It was built by Judge Hezekiah Hawley, previous to 1835, when Alton was a fledgling town.

According to the Telegraph, the building was U-shaped, but on an 1867 map, the building was not drawn that way. At the north end an enclosed yard stood for wagons and stagecoaches. There were long porches running along the three sides facing the inner court. On the property was a “fine carriage house.” No picture of the Piasa House has survived the years.

Of those who kept the hotel were Mrs. Elizabeth Wait (described as a motherly, kind-hearted old lady), Mr. Reno, William Wentworth, Captain William Post, Samuel Brooks, Jacob C. Bruner, and John Hart and sons. On April 12, 1837, Mrs. L. Wait placed an advertisement in the Alton Telegraph for the Piasa House. The ad stated "She is prepared for her friends and traveling community's reception and comfortable accommodation. Feeling fully confident that every necessary arrangement will continue to be made which will ensure success to the establishment, she respectfully solicits and fondly anticipates a reasonable share of the public patronage." This is the first mention of the Piasa House in The Telegraph that I could find.

The Piasa House later became the Eagle Tavern and Hotel, ran by Post and Wentworth. Daniel Webster, the great orator, delivered an address from a balcony of the old building in 1843.

The Piasa House was razed in the 1890s. The foundation of the building was later used for the Garstang Foundry and the Beall Shovel factory. Later the Sears Hardware & Automotive stood here.


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 12, 1837
Mrs. L. Wait begs leave most respectfully to inform her friends and the traveling community generally that she has taken the large and commodious house know by the name and style of the "Piasa House," on the corner of Piasa and Fourth Street, where she is prepared for their reception and comfortable accommodation. Feeling fully confident that every necessary arrangement will continue to be made which will ensure success to the establishment, she respectfully solicits and fondly anticipates a reasonable share of the public patronage.


Source: Alton Telegraph, February 28, 1838
James Reno (formerly of Carrollton) would inform his friends and the public that this House has been refined and opened under his superintendence; and to the traveling community he tenders accommodations neat and convenient to themselves, and good stabling for their horses. A few permanent boarders, either families or single gentlemen, can be furnished with commodious apartments, and all who honor his house with their patronage may be assured of receiving unremitting attention to promote their comfort.


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 18, 1840
The subscribers, having thoroughly repaired and fitted up the Eagle Tavern (formerly Piasa House), corner of Piasa and Fourth Streets, Alton, Illinois, feel justified in assuming their friends and the traveling public, who may favor them with a call, that their recommendations are such as will give entire satisfaction to the most ________(?). Their table will always be supplied with the very best that the season and the markets will afford, and as they have employed a cook of long experience and indisputable _____(?), they feel no hesitation in saying that the tastes of everyone will be gratified. Their servants are obedient and attentive. Their bar will be at all times stocked with the choicest wines and liquors. Attached to the house is an excellent stable, and good and sufficient carriage houses. Drays will always be in readiness to convey baggage for travelers to and from steamboats, free of charge. A share of public patronage is respectfully solicited. Rate of Faire: Board per week, with lodging - $4.00. Board per week without lodging - $3.00. Board per day - $1.25. Signed, Post & Wentworth.


Source: Alton Telegraph, June 11, 1852
The stable in the rear of the Piasa House has been removed to make way for the coal depot of Messrs. R. Emerson & Co., to be established where it stood.


Source: Alton Weekly Courier, June 17, 1853
The Piasa House is doing a good business, we should judge. Mr. Harry Hart, its landlord, is well versed in his duties, and has a host of friends. He has just erected a balcony around his hotel, which greatly adds to its appearance, and makes a cool and pleasant shade for the weary traveler.


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 7, 1865
Mr. Samuel Williams has purchased the lease of this well-known house, and intends to make it a pleasant and agreeable home for those who may favor him with their patronage while in Alton. Mr. Williams has made quite a number of improvements in the details of the house, and contemplates others. He is well known to our citizens generally, as a young and enterprising business man, and one who will have a just regard to the wants and needs of customers. The stabling and yard accommodations for teams and stock are unsurpassed by any in the city. It has, for several years, been the home of farmers while in our city. Call on Mr. Williams.


Source: Alton Telegraph, July 21, 1865
Two or three days since, a gang of wandering “Amateur Minstrels” made their way to Alton, and put up at the Piasa House. They stuck up a few posters around the streets announcing a series of first-class concerts. The city papers were ignored by the celebrated band, and consequently they failed to pay expenses. They attempted to swindle the proprietor of the Piasa House of their board bill, but Mr. Williams put an attachment on their instruments, and they were obliged to pay. We advise the public to keep an eye on the gang.


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 6, 1866
It will be seen by reference to a notice in another column that this well established and popular house has changed hands, and will hereafter be carried on by Daniel Williams, who is so well and favorably known as its former and successful proprietor. Give him a call.


Source: Alton Telegraph, May 8, 1868
The well-known and valuable hotel, the Piasa House, with all its fixtures and appurtenances, is offered for sale by its present proprietor, Mr. D. Williams. Immediate possession will be given. The “Piasa” has long been well and favorably shown to the traveling public, and is a very desirable hotel stand.


Source: Alton Telegraph, July 3, 1868
The Piasa House is assuming a decidedly rejuvenated and attractive appearance. When the repairs are completed, it will be more popular than ever with the farming community.




Sleepy Bear Travel Lodge, Alton, IL

The Sleepy Bear Travel Lodge in Alton was constructed in 1963, and was located at 717 East Broadway, just east of the old Burger Chef. The site chosen was the former Luer Packing Plant, and while under construction, it was discovered the ground was made of “gumbo” – a combination of sand and clay mixture. The Travel Lodge foundation had to be constructed on 68 piles, made of concrete 24 inches in diameter, from 16 to 28 feet deep. The opening of the motel was delayed until June 1964.

In about the year 2000, the motel was razed and a McDonalds erected. Just west of the Sleepy Bear Travel Lodge on Broadway, was the Flamingo Hotel. The Flamingo was located also on the south side of Broadway, near Langdon Street, while the Sleepy Bear was near Ridge Street.






Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, May 12, 1879
The Union Hotel is well kept, and the proprietor, Mr. H. C. Dresser, is in every way alive to the comforts of his guests, and there is no better table set anywhere. There should be a large hotel built in Alton and placed in the hands of Mr. Dresser, and we will vouch for it that no traveler would ever come and go and have aught to say but praise of Mr. Dresser as a first-class hotel man.




Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 3, 1905
J. E. Rodgers has bought of the McHugh-McGinnis heirs the old building just east of the Telegraph building on West Third Street, and is having the edifice wrecked. It is one of the oldest buildings in Alton, and was quite a pretentious one in early times. It was a hotel, and was patronized by many men distinguished in the state and nation. It became a tenement house of late years. The timbers are of oak and are in good condition. The removal of the building is an improvement to the street.



VIRGINIA HOUSE/CENTRAL HOTEL – Corner of Market & Broadway

Source: Alton Telegraph, May 15, 1841
The subscriber, grateful for the patronage extended him while in the Eagle Tavern, takes this method to inform the public that he has taken the Central Hotel, late Virginia House, at the corner of Main and Market Streets [southeast corner of Market & Broadway Streets], immediately in front of the river, where he intends keeping a public house. All those who may honor him with a call may be assured no pains will be spared to make them comfortable, and themselves agreeable. William A. Wentworth.


Source: Alton Telegraph, April 22, 1843
Between one and two o'clock on last Thursday morning, a fire was discovered breaking out of the roof of the building at the angle between Front and Second [Broadway] Streets, generally designated as "the Virginia House," in this city [Alton]. The alarm was promptly given, and the different fire companies immediately hastened to the spot. The devouring element, however, had made so much progress that in spite of all their exertions, it was found impracticable to check its ravages until the entire building was consumed. It was at the time occupied by nine families, numbering fifty or sixty persons, all of whom succeeded in effecting their escape, some of them not without difficulty, and with the loss of their goods. The others saved the most of their effects. The building, although large, was of comparatively little value, and was partly owned by the State Bank, and partly by S. G. Bailey, Esq. The loss of the tenants, although inconsiderable in amount, is large to them, as most of them are poor. Fortunately, the efforts of the fire companies were seconded by the wind, which blew the flames from the adjacent buildings, and consequently the fire was confined to the tenement in which it originated. It is supposed to be the result of accident.




Source: Alton Telegraph, January 20, 1844
Sparr and Green, former proprietors of the Virginia Hotel on Vine Street, tender their thanks to their numerous patrons for favors heretofore conferred, and respectfully inform them that they have removed to the corner of Main [W. 9th Street, from Belle to State] and Prune[?] Streets, where they are prepared to receive guests under their old sign. Their hotel has received extensive additions, and is now capable of accommodating 150 persons; the old rooms have been thoroughly repaired and newly papered and furnished, and that guests may receive proper attention, are all hung with bells, and are spacious and well ventilated. Their table will at all times be provided with the best that the market may afford, and their cellar supplied with the best of wines and liquors. The location of this hotel being in the immediate vicinity of the best steamboat landing (only 100 yards), adapts it in a pre-eminent degree to the convenience of the traveling community, and the proprietors are determined to spare no pains or expense which may add to the comfort of their guests, and place their house on equal footing with the best hotels in the west. They, therefore, respectfully solicit a continuance of the patronage of their friends and the public. Their rates of charges are: Board, without lodging, per month, $12.00. Board and lodging, with fire, per month, $22.00. Board per day, $1.00. Signed by Sparr & Green.


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