The first images the Hotel Fontenelle and Hotel Castle I saw were those included in Nebraska Memories. I didn’t know anything about the hotels and there wasn’t a lot of information about them included in Nebraska Memories. I decided to do a bit of research hoping to find a few interesting tidbits that I could share with you. I found more than just a few tidbits; I found what I consider to be a research jackpot. The Omaha Daily Bee newspaper did multiple page specials on both hotels when they opened. These special supplements are made up of multiple stories that tell about the hotels. Many of the companies that built, furnished and continued to work with the hotels also had advertisements in the supplements highlighting how they were connected to the hotels. These supplements were fun to read. I learned a lot about each hotel but it was also amusing to see what things were important to write about in 1915.
The Hotel Fontenelle opened in February 1915 on the corner of 18th and Douglas streets. It operated as a hotel until 1971 and was razed in 1983. The supplement covering the Hotel Fontenelle in the Omaha Daily Bee was published on February 28, 1915. The supplement is 15 pages long and was published in two sections. Both parts contain photos of the inside of the hotel.
Here are a few things in the article that caught my attention for one reason or another.
- “There are really sixteen stories in the Fontenelle – above the street. And there are two stories, very busy stories below the street. Total height, eighteen stories.”
- The architecture is Gothic. The first 10 stories are dark brick, above that is white tile and “the building design is of fretted and gabled French chateau style, with gabled roof painted a pleasing green.”
- The land cost $215,000.
- The land and building were owned by the Douglas Hotel Company. The supplement includes a list of officers and directors of the Douglas Hotel Company. The Interstate Hotel Company of Nebraska leased the hotel and ran it.
- William R. Burbank was the director general of the hotel. Abraham Burbank was the managing director.
- The hotel has 350 guest rooms. The room rates varied depending on if they faced the street and the size and configuration of the room. The cheapest room listed was $2 a day while a corner suite that had a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room was $10 a day.
- “Sample rooms will rent at $2.50 up, according to size and location.” Traveling salesmen stayed at the hotel and used a sample room to display their products. The sample rooms were located on the tenth and eleventh floors. The rooms had thick carpeting, telephones and private toilet and bath rooms.
- All of the rooms in the hotel had a telephone. Telephones were also placed in other locations such as the kitchen, barbershop, lobby and elevator. A very long article explains the 63 miles of telephone wire used and the switchboard could serve a town of about 3,000 people.
- Every room had “ice water on tap”. The water was “cooled to a temperature of forty degrees by ammonia coils” before being distributed through the building.
- The L. G. Doup Co. of Omaha provided the box springs and mattresses for the hotel. The mattresses were of the “very best quality — the hair used in the mattresses is long curled horse hair of the quality known as drawings…”
- “Big Electric Signs on top of New Hotel” – A short articles talks about the importance of the electric signs. “It is so built that it harmonizes with the gable roof of the French chateau style of architecture.”
- Included in the supplement are the floor plans for the ground floor and the main floor.
- “Hotel on Cow Stable Site” This column talks about the land the hotel was built on and how it was “far remote in the outskirts of a frontier country village fifty year ago; today the location of Omaha’s $1,000,000 modern and palatial hotel…”
- “Hotel Has Its Own Laundry” – I was surprised to read that the laundry was located on the 13th floor. “This is the only original motor driven laundry in Omaha. … big “extractors,” which turn on their vertical axes at a speed of a thousand revolutions a minute. These are for drying the wash. They remove the moisture by centrifugal force instead of by the slow and primitive process of drying.”
- Thomas R. Kimball was the architect for the hotel. According to the article, he was also the architect for the S. Cecelia’s cathedral, the Burlington station, designed the city library and the Methodist hospital.
- I’ve never heard of a telautograph but the Fontenelle had one. “A telautograph is an instrument that will reproduce your handwriting perfectly at a distance.”
The Hotel Castle was located on corner of 16th and Jones Street and opened in March 1915. The main building was six stories high. The hotel had 150 rooms. All of the rooms had a toilet and running hot and cold water. One hundred of them also had private baths. Rooms rented for $1.25-$2 a day. Attached to the hotel is a two-story building referred to as the annex. The 50×80 feet convention hall or ballroom is located on the second floor of the annex.
The special supplement about the Hotel Castle was published on March 21, 1915 in the Omaha Daily Bee. Here are some of things I found interesting about the Hotel Castle.
- “The Hotel Castle is absolutely fireproof. From basement to proof [sic] there is hardly a splinter in the construction that can be consumed by fire. The doors of the rooms are about the only inflamable things, the rest being concrete and marble.” Multiple times in the article, fireproofing is mentioned. This may seem odd at first but keep in mind that in 1913 a fire destroyed the Dewey Hotel killing around 20 people. If you would like to read about this fire there is an article about it in the Mach 1, 1913 issue of the Omaha Daily Bee.
- “even the smallest rooms have three lights,…and a third at the head of the bed so that guests can enjoy the luxury of reading in bed.”
- Miss Clara Fry was proprietor of the cigar stand. Miss Fry also owned a cigar stand in the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne Wyo.
- “Vinegar, pickles, olives, sauerkraut, ketchup and the like will be supplied to the new Castle by Haarmann Vinegar and Pickle Company…”
- The supplement contains a picture of a guest room and a bathroom and other rooms in the hotel.
- Yourex silverware was used at the hotel.
- “The Eckman Chemical Company was the first outside concern to rent one of the store buildings facing Sixteenth Street on the ground floor of the Castle.” According to their ad “If you have sick hogs, try Eckman’s special treatment for sick hogs.”
- If you need a laugh, I’d suggest reading the article “Some Guests to be Barred – Messrs. Rat, Mouse, and Bug and Their Families to Find No Homes Here.” It is a rather long article that tells the story of how Mr. Rat and his family were not able to find a place to live in the new Castle Hotel.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Hotel Fontenelle and Hotel Castle.
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