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Morning Sun
  • Miners Hall and how Southeast Kansas works

  • Basic human needs remain the same century after century. One of them is for people to have a safe, hopefully comfortable place to sleep when they’re far from home.

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  • Basic human needs remain the same century after century. One of them is for people to have a safe, hopefully comfortable place to sleep when they’re far from home.
    “The Way We Worked in Southeast Kansas - Hotels/Lodging” is the focus of the  February special exhibit at the Miners Hall Museum, Franklin. These monthly special exhibits are leading up to the Smithsonian traveling exhibit “The Way We Worked,” which will be on view May 11-June 23 at the museum.
    Putting together “Hotels/Lodging” were Lawana Esch, general  manager of the Holiday inn Express, and Sherri  Stephens of Himmel House Bed and Breakfast,
    “Phyllis Bitner of the museum board asked us if we would sponsor this exhibit, and it was a good idea,” Stephens said. “We divvied up the responsibilities and went to work. Karen Cuendet, who used to have a bed and breakfast in Pittsburg, helped us.”
    She added that Randy Roberts, Special Collections curator at Axe Library, Pittsburg State University, was also a huge help.
    “Pittsburgksmemories.com was a great online resource,” Stephens said.
    “A lot of generous people helped us and lent us things,” Esch added.
    Both were surprised at all the hotels in the area from the late 1880s to the  early 1900s.
    “We had no idea there were that many bed and breakfast hotels in the area,” Esch said. “We also found hotels in Girard, Arcadia, Arma and Weir. People in Weir were surprised to hear there was a hotel in their town. It was where the post office is.”
    The oldest hotel the two found was the Hotel Cissna, located at 202 S. Broadway in 1886.
    “We found an ad for it, and there was a picture, but it was so pixilated you really couldn’t see anything,” Stephens said.
    The historic Hotel Stilwell came in 1889. It and the Besse were the two grandest hotels in Pittsburg, but there were many more humble establishments.
    “There was one place that didn’t even have a name,” Esch said. “There was just a sign that said ‘Rooms’.”
    The Hotel Leland was located where Kutz Music Store is now in business. At Third and Locust, around the area of the current Brenner Mortuary parking lot, was the Crescent Hotel.
    “In conversation with someone I learned that there’s a couple in Pittsburg who have an almost floor-to-ceiling mirror from the Crescent Hotel,” Stephens said. “Girls in Pittsburg who took dancing lessons would go in the Crescent lobby and practice in front of that mirror.”
    She said that many hotels of the time also had restaurants, businesses in their lobbies and served as social centers as well as providing lodging for travelers.
    The two also learned some unpleasant social realities of earlier times.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We found out there was a separate hotel for blacks,” Esch said. “That just blew me away.”
    The exhibit includes a mock-up of an 1880s hotel room as well as up-to-date accommodations, and a reception desk with mannequin clerk. There are photos of hotels of the past, and a map indicating general locations.
    “People would come into town by train, and that was kind of the path of where the hotels were, close to train stations,” Stephens said.
    It’s been work, but all in all Stephens and Esch are glad that Bitner invited them to sponsor the exhibit.
    “This has been a fun project for us, and makes you appreciate your hotel more,” Esch said. “We’ve learned a little history and hopefully we’ve shared a little history.”
    “The Way We Worked in Southeast Kansas: Hotels/Lodging” will be on view through February. Miners Hall Museum is open free to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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