Prior to the
in the midst of the vicious
Missouri/Kansas Border War and this old hotel was burned down twice in
the mid 1800s.
The original hotel, called
the Free State Hotel, was built in 1855 by settlers from the New England
Emigrant Aid Society. It was named the Free State Hotel to make
clear the intent of those early settlers -- which was that
should come into the Union as a free state. The Free State Hotel was
intended as temporary quarters for those settlers waiting for their homes
to be built.
January 3, 1855, Colonel Shalor Eldridge arrived in Kansas City from
New England where he purchased the American House, which General
Pomeroy had bought for the Emigrant Aid Society.
This house was
the headquarters of the
Free-State men. In early 1856, Shalor leased the Free State Hotel at
equipping it as a first-class hotel.
was burned twice
Bleeding Kansas days. It has been rebuilt
and renovated several times and continues to serve guests
today. Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.
But, just months later on
May 21, 1856 the hotel was attacked and destroyed by Sheriff Samuel J.
his posse. Jones, leading a group of pro-slavery forces, aimed a
cannon at the hotel and burnt it to the ground.
In 1857, Colonel
Eldridge, along with his brothers Edsin, Thomas and James re-erected
the hotel at a cost of $80,000, vowing that it would be rebuilt again
if it was destroyed.
statement was a prediction, as the hotel was again destroyed in
1863 when it was attacked by
Quantrill and his raiders.
William Clarke Quantrill,
an Ohio native, had joined the Confederate forces several years
prior but was unhappy with their reluctance in aggressively
prosecuting Union troops. Therefore, the young man took it upon
himself to take a more aggressive course with his own-guerilla
Quantrill began his infamous raiding career in western
Missouri and then across the border into
by plundering the towns of Olathe, Spring Hill and Shawnee. His
raids gained the attention of other desperados.
recruited others who joined his company including "Bloody” Bill Anderson
and the James
brothers. In the summer of 1863 they set their sites on
the site of their most infamous destruction.
Early on the morning of
August 21, 1863,
along with his murderous force of about 400, descended on the still
sleeping town of
Incensed by the
Free-State headquarters town,
set out on his revenge against the
community. In this carefully orchestrated early morning raid he and his
band, in four terrible hours, turned the town into a bloody and blazing
inferno unparallel in its brutality. Quantrill
and his bushwhacker mob of raiders began their reign of terror at 5:00
a.m., looting and burning as they went, bent on total destruction of the
town, then less than 3,000 residents. By the time it was over, they
had killed approximately 180 men and boys, and left
nothing more than smoldering ruins.
The proud City of
was determined to rebuild and quickly adopted the motto "from ashes to
immortality.” Using an original cornerstone from the burned hotel, Colonel
Eldridge promptly rebuilt the hotel, which opened again in 1865 with a new
name -- The Hotel Eldridge.