The Eldridge Hotel: Martin Luther King Jr. and Teddy Roosevelt slept here.
Downtown's Eldridge Hotel is an eclectic assemblage of suites, fountains and velvet-covered furniture that harkens to times gone by.
But it wasn't always that way.
Rob Phillips led a group of investors who bought the dilapidated hotel in 1986 for $700,000 and poured $1.2 million into renovations intended to return the hotel to the position of grandeur it enjoyed while boasting an elite guest list.
Among the storied hotel's guests: William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt (during campaign tours); Martin Luther King Jr.; Lord Clement Atlee, once prime minister of Great Britain; and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.
The original Eldridge House Hotel was built in 1866, replacing the Free State Hotel destroyed during Quantrill's Raid in 1863. The new building -- whose Crystal Room provided the venue for the founding of the Lawrence Rotary Club in 1919 -- had deteriorated by 1924 and was razed.
The current five-story building cost $250,000 -- with financing organized by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce -- and was built in stages, from 1925 to 1928. William Hutson owned and operated the hotel, the first for a Lawrence native who would go on to prominence in the hotel business, adding others in Kansas City, Mo.; Wichita; Boulder, Colo.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and La Jolla, Calif.
The hotel closed in 1970, and was converted into 40 apartments. Its main lobby became a private club.
Then Phillips stepped in. He had more or less managed the Eldridge House Apartments since early 1980, and soon assembled his team of investors to return the hotel to glory.
The restored hotel, recognized for its architectural significance and importance to local commerce, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 1986. Its Second Renaissance Revival style remains in excellent condition, preservationists say, and it remains among the most significant investments ever made in the downtown.
Phillips wants to keep it that way, even if he no longer will be an owner.
"The Eldridge Hotel is a crown jewel of the historic downtown Lawrence," he said. "We intend to keep it that way into the next century and beyond."
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.