The Hotel Muehlebach ( //) is a historic hotel building in Downtown Kansas City that was visited by every President from Theodore Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. It is currently operated as one of three wings of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown hotel.
The property, then the site of the First Baptist Church, was acquired in 1914 by the Muehlebach Estate Co., owned by George E. Muehlebach, whose father, George E. Muehlebach Sr., founded the Muehlebach Beer Company. Muehlebach demolished the church and built a 12-story, 144 foot (44m) high brown brick hotel building designed by Holabird & Roche at a cost of $2 million. It opened as the Hotel Muehlebach in May, 1915. The younger Muehlebach also built Muehlebach Field.
On December 5, 1922, the hotel was the location of the first regular radio program broadcast by a band, when Carleton Coon and Joe Sanders began broadcasting the performances of their Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra nationwide.
Manager Barney Allis took over the hotel in 1931, and during his lengthy tenure, the hotel welcomed celebrities including Helen Keller, Ernest Hemingway, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles. The hotel also hosted Presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, while Missouri-native Harry S. Truman stayed in the hotel’s Presidential Suite so frequently that the Muehlebach became known as White House West.
In 1952, a 17-story western annex, called the Muehlebach Tower, and a parking lot, were added to the hotel. Allis later sold the hotel in the 1960s. The Radisson Hotels chain acquired the hotel in 1976, making it their flagship property at the time. As a result, it underwent a major six million dollar renovation, and began operating as the Radisson Muehlebach Hotel before closing a decade later in 1986.
Operation as a wing of the Marriott Kansas City Downtown
In 1996 Marriott Hotels bought the Muehlebach and made it into an extension of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, a huge adjacent hotel originally built in 1985 as the Vista International Hotel. They imploded the 1952 Muehlebach Tower annex building and in 1998 built a new, modern Muehlebach tower, with a similar facade, in its place that met current building code standards. A "skybridge" was also built that connects both hotel buildings on their second floors. The original 1915 Muehlebach building's lobby and ballrooms were restored to period and are now used as banquet and convention facilities by the Marriott; the original hotel room floors above have been gutted and remain unused.
Barbershop Harmony Society
The Barbershop Harmony Society (SPEBSQSA, Inc.) traces its beginnings to a chance meeting in 1938 in the Muehlebach's lobby between two businessmen from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The two found two other men and sang their way through a snowstorm that had marooned all four at the hotel. A few weeks later, they convened several like-minded singers at a meeting in Tulsa, and from that the 25,000 member international organization was founded. The two businessmen's original meeting is now commemorated on a plaque in the restored original lobby of the hotel.
The Muehlebach was the White House headquarters for Harry S. Truman during his frequent visits to his home in nearby Independence, Missouri. Truman stayed in Independence but conducted business in the Presidential Suite in the hotel's penthouse. Truman signed the Truman Doctrine legislation aid for Turkey and Greece at the hotel on May 22, 1947.
Truman predicted his upset victory to staffers at the hotel during election night 1948 (although he spent the night out of the media spotlight at the Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri). The Presidential Suite was later renamed the Harry S. Truman Presidential Suite following his terms of office.
In 1959 the Society of American Registered Architects (SARA), founded by architect Wilfred Gregson in 1956 with the mission of "Architect Helping Architect", held its first national conference at the Hotel Muehlebach. Gregson reported to those assembled: "You are the ones who have made the first great step toward a unified profession of architects. You are a living report that will go to every part of these fifty United States".
In the fall of 1974, President Gerald Ford stayed at the Muehlebach when he was in town as the keynote speaker for the National FFA Convention. He shook hands with many of the FFA band members that were standing in a rope line in the lobby. The band members were also staying at the hotel the same week.
Immediately following the 1976 Republican Convention, Robert A. Heinlein was the Guest of Honor at the 34th World Science Fiction Convention held at the Radisson Muehlebach and the Hotel Phillips, directly across the street. He was booked into the Muehlebach's Harry S. Truman Presidential Suite for the 5-day convention held during the 1976 Labor Day weekend.
- Arnett, Dugan (April 20, 2015). "The Muehlebach — once KC's heart, still a proud monument". The Kansas City Star. Kansas City, MO: The McClatchy Company. Archived from the original on April 22, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Karash, Julius; Montgomery, Rick (2001). TWA: Kansas City's Hometown Airline. Kansas City: Kansas City Star Books. p. 30. ISBN 9780967951997.
- "To Honor Walt Disney: Famous Artist to Marceline Park Event Wednesday" Kansas City (MO) Times 6/29/1956
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