Although it was not built until 1930, plans to build a large, modern hotel in downtown Pratt had been discussed since 1925.
In the beginning
Although it was not built until 1930, plans to build a large, modern hotel in downtown Pratt had been discussed since 1925. Several hotels — the Briggs at the corner of Fourth and Main and the Calbeck just across the street, the Maxfield where the current KFC sits, the Central at 120 West Third, and several smaller facilities — were already operating, but with the potential for conventions at the new Municipal Building, interest in another hotel was high. A hotel committee was appointed by the Pratt Chamber of Commerce early in 1929 and plans for a four-story structure, costing approximately $200,000 were drawn up. By October the hotel-on-paper had grown to seven stories and its price tag increased to a quarter-million. The Chamber of Commerce financed the property and gave it to the hotel committee.
A skyscraper emerges
The Pratt Hotel Company Inc., headed by Pratt Union editor S.P. Gebhart, offered 14,000 shares of stock at $10 per share to finance a loan of $110,000. Excavation began on Jan. 3, 1930, and in spite of a very cold winter, progress was made at the rate of a floor a week. The building, eight stories high by then, was completed in six months, but a grand opening was delayed until September. More than 3,000 entries were received in a contest to name the hotel. Gebhart was the most popular, in honor of the hotel’s number one promoter, but he declined the honor. The Roberts, honoring Forrest Roberts, who had leased the building for 15 years with a 25-year option and would be its first manager, suggested by six people, was the winner. Other suggestions included Royalview, Hoover, Taft, Prattonian, The Cannonball and Kansas Jackrabbit.
A national Depression
With only two floors completely finished, the hotel opened for business in June. Room rates were $1.75 for rooms with a lavatory and stool and $2.50 for rooms with a complete bathroom. The hotel contained 85 guest rooms, three apartments, a Grill Room, barber shop, drug store, and a ballroom and was considered the ultimate in luxury.
The hotel lost $500 in the first month but made $750 the next month. The Pratt Hotel Company failed to reach its goal of $120,000 and the Elson Construction Company assumed ownership in 1933.
“In retrospect, it is obvious that in view of world economic events the timing was completely wrong, but if these loyal citizens (shareholders) had not invested in the project it would have never been completed. Their faith in Pratt was strong,” Dorotha Giannangelo wrote in “Did You Know — Stories of Pratt County Kansas.”
Monte “C.C.” Parrish of Great Bend purchased and renamed the hotel in 1957 and operated it until 1974. Gary Dunnegan had some ideas for remodeling that were never realized, and since the late 1980s the building has been owned by The Peoples Bank.
“We took it over with the idea some day we would find a use for it, and that day hasn’t come yet,” Howard Loomis, chairman of the Board of Directors, said.
Vacant for nearly 20 years, it housed an ice cream shop, a fabric shop and an office for a railroad workers’ union in its post-hotel period. From time to time, rumors surface of the hotel’s development as apartments with convenient downtown access for seniors, a fitness center or for other uses, but for now the “prairie skyscraper” awaits a vision.
Built of reinforced concrete, Loomis says the building is indestructible.