The Georgian Revival hotel block

The Georgian Revival hotel block was a symbol that a small, mid-American city growing since becoming a railroad junction in the 1880s or 1890s had by the 1920s achieved the status of someplace among the galaxy of other towns on the prairie.

This was the largest, tallest and/or best-serviced hotel between “Dubuque and Denver,” or “Omaha and Dallas,” or “Minneapolis and Seattle,” and they could be found in places like Amarillo, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Springfield, Illinois; Bismarck, North Dakota, and Grand Island, Nebraska. Their Classical tripartite form of base-shaft-capital was invariably Renaissance Revival styled, heavy on the Georgian with an array of urns, garlands, swags and Palladian windows topped by a massive, neon-lit roof sign visible for miles across the plains.

HERRING HOTEL, AMARILLO, TEXAS, 1928 (above). Queen city of the Texas Panhandle and the Llano Estacado, Amarillo added a 1920s oil boom to its thriving ranches and prosperous banks stimulating H. T. Herring -local mogul in all three industries- to build the Herring Hotel. Just as famous as the hotel itself was its cowboy-themes Old Tascosa Room, named after the original queen city of the Texas Panhandle. The Herring still stands abandoned for decades and always surrounded by a swirl of restoration plans that if fulfilled will prove to Amarillo the glory days have returned.

ROOSEVELT HOTEL, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA, 1927. The Roosevelt went up on the transcontinental Lincoln Highway at the prestigious corner of 1st Avenue & 2nd Street in downtown Cedar Rapids. It was the tallest commercial building in the city; nearly as tall as the Quaker Oats plant and certainly within the smell of its cereal. The Roosevelt attracted the spotlight of infamy with its own film noir-like love triangle murder in 1948. Like all the other flagship hotels, hard times came with Interstate, but the hotel was saved by an apartment conversion in 2010.

YANCEY HOTEL, GRAND ISLAND, NEBRASKA, 1923. Farther west on the Lincoln Highway, the Yancey Hotel became Grand Island, Nebraska’s tallest building in 1923, opening a few blocks away from the Union Pacific depot. The Yancey’s Big City service was announced right on the street by a doorman who managed a small army of bellhops. You could order truffles, caviar and calf brains in the Scenic Room. The auto age put the hotel on the ropes just the same, closing its doors in 1982. The building was nonetheless saved by a condo renovation.

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