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Occidental Hotel at 304 N.Main Street; Wichita, KS
Drawing of the Occidental Hotel at 304 North Main Street in Wichita, KS. This image appeared in the 1887 Journal of Commerce and depicts the Hotel as a hub of social activity in Wichita. This structure was started in 1873, completed in 1874 and cost $31,000 to build. Although William Henry Sternberg did not originally erect this hotel, over the years he was contracted to do renovations, remodels and an even an expansion to the hotel.
This very elegant hotel opened to the public on January 16th, 1874 and is still standing in 2011. It is listed on three historic registers. A three-story structure, it was built with all the bells and whistles including a messaging system to guest rooms, a first-class dining room with large hand-painted frescoes on the walls and white linens covering the tables w/ crystal stemware, silver eating utensils balanced delicately over top the dinner plate and white linen napkins. Early owners of this hotel used colored staff to serve and cook in the restaurant (sometimes called the "colored brigade") which was a source of employment for blacks in early Wichita. Later owners of the hotel opted for attractive young white women as wait staff. In addition to the first-class dining room, the hotel also had regular shows / entertainment and balls which were open to the public for about $5.00/couple in 1874. There was a reading room, baggage room, a telegraph office, a gift shop, a upscale saloon outfitted with an elegant walnut bar brought in from Kansas City, a post office, a barber salon and even a hydraulic elevator. Later (in the 1880s) the hotel was retrofited with radiators, steam heat and new arc lights. Guest rooms and hallways were carpeted w/ patterned wall-to-wall carpet and it was a very popular place. Rooms at the hotel were often sold out w/ standing room only for shows and entertainment. In 1877, the hotel purchased and had moved in a grand piano which cost $1,400 and at the time it was reported to be, "the finest musical instrument ever brought to the City". Indeed the Occidental Hotel was not only one of the finest hotels in Kansas but it was the social hub of early Wichita. When the large 4th Ward School building (built by W.H. Sternberg) burned down on New Years Eve in 1880, classes were temporarily re-located to the first floor of the Occidental.
In part because of the crash of the real estate boom in the late 1880s and in part because the hub of downtown Wichita was moving further east and south, the Occidental was now in a somewhat out-of-the-way location, and it began to fall on hard times... In late 1877, the hotel was unable to come up with $700 in taxes and it was sold at tax auction to an out-of-state banker. The Occidental also had a hard time competing with newer hotels such as the Carey Hotel (in 1877, it was built 15 years after the Occidental). Other newer, but more mid-range hotels like the Metropole and Manhattan Hotels wooed customers away. The Carey Hotel was certainly the premier hotel in 1887 charging $2.50/night for a room. The Metropole and Manhattan were charging $2.00 and the now not so conviently located Occidental was $1.50/night. In 2010, the Carey and Occidental buildings remain standing. The Metropole and Manhattan have been razed. After the real estate crash of the 1880s, the Occidental continued to strle. It was frequently bought and sold and went through several repossessions. But it's stood the test of time including floods of the Arkansas River where water ran 18 inches deep through the first floor of the hotel in 1889. Finally in 1899, the hotel was sold yet again and the "Occidental Hotel" was officially over. It was now the "Baltimore Hotel".
The Occidental Hotel was not originally erected by William Henry Sternberg, but in 1880, the entire hotel underwent an extensive 9-month remodel including an expansion of the very popular dining room and Sternberg was the contractor for this remodel and expansion which cost $4,000. During this 1880 expansion the hotel was, "furnished throughout with new rich furniture, marble-topped dresser stands, with bedsteads and chairs to match, costing when ready to open to the public, about $10,000". Later in 1882 and 1885, 20 additional guest rooms, water lines, bathrooms, windows and four more commercial offices (to the first floor) were added and Sternberg was one of the contractors for this work as well. It was during the 1882 renovation, that the exterior brick (itself a reddish color) was painted over in a deep brick red. Still other renovations were made to the Occidental over the years and Sternberg was noted as having done and/or having participated as one of the contractors in those.
The Occidental Hotel has seen all the great booms and crashes of Wichita. It was erected just four years after Wichita was incorporated. Population was growing rapidly and people lived the high-life in the Occidental. Over th
Are you from OUG? No? I have a sister there – Rebecca.
Everytime he saw me – he would repeat the same question. Where are you from? KL? The question will then be followed with the same line. I think I answered the sweet old man at least 6 times, yet somehow he didn’t make my eyes roll. Probably because he asked with such sincerity I could only blame his short memory to the repeated questions.
I was staying at the 103 year old Cathay Hotel on Leith Street in Penang. The old man was one of the few old men looking after the hotel. The Cathay hotel was an old colonial mansion that stands right in front of the more famous Cheong Fatt zhe mansion or better known as the blue mansion.
When I began looking for a place to stay in Penang, there were a few criterias to consider. Affordable, in Georgetown, clean and safe. Somehow the price and the place didn’t seem to match. Always a sucker for old mansions, I just had to check the place out. So I called them to check on the details and make my booking. Even after putting down the phone, I wasn’t so sure I was getting what I had been told. The little rooms in the restored mansion turned hotels in the area were going for triple the price they had quoted me.
I decided to check the rooms upon arrival before sealing my stay, after all I could always find another place to stay on the other more popular backpackers lane – Chulia Street.
Let me tell you a little secret, I’ve only taken the bus to an outstation location in Malaysia thrice. All three times, I was traveling with someone from that location and they handled the tickets and everything. This trip was my first trip alone on a bus to another state and I was wondering how would I figure out which bus company to travel with.
The rain did the deciding for me. it began raining the second I got into my local bus heading towards KL. I got down from the bus 45 minutes later into a semi heavy downpour and wrapped myself in a shawl and made my way towards Pudu bus station. I discover that KL pavements are meant for walking in the rain, there goes my romantic ideas of walking hand in hand in the rain. I’m sure no such dreams included slipping and holding on to dear life to the nearest pole.
As I reached the covered sidewalk towards Pudu, a man was bellowing – Penang! Butterworth! Penang! Butterworth! Penang! Butterworth!
Actually it sounded like JB at first but somehow my please-do-not-fall-look looked like I needed a bus to Penang as the guy stopped me and asked me if I wanted a seat to Penang. After checking the price and contemplating to continue walking, a thunder sounded from the skies and with that I whipped out my purse and handed him the money. Thankfully the bus looked good on the inside, and what do you know it was pretty comfortable too.
I settled into my chair and was already freezing from getting wet in the rain. Smsed my friend to tell her I was on my way to Penang and it was raining cats and dogs in KL.
“It’s the same over here” came back her reply.
Looks like someone was waiting for my arrival. I prefer the rain anyday, who wouldn’t want to walk in cold weather on cold roads, at least I wouldn’t die of dehydration. Rain all you want darling, I;m on a walking tour – were my thoughts before I snled into the chair.
Now how would a story written by me not have its buts?
Somewhere between the last tollgate on the highway towards Butterworth, the bus suddenly stops. As I was busy chatting on the phone, I gave no notice to the words the drivers assistant was mumbling. A few passengers seem to be getting down and though I was puzzled, I ignored it. A minute later I hear something about Penang and curious I asked the guy what the fuss was all about.
Sesiapa yang pergi Penang kena tukar basla cik adik!
The people heading to Penang have to change busses love!
I quickly cut the call and stuffed the book I had been reading into my bag and hurried out totally bewildered by the situation. Later I find out it’s a common practice by busses to shift their mainland passengers with the island passengers. How would I know?
Luckily the other bus was as comfortable but I was in for another surprise. I had assumed the bus will stop at Komtar, Georgetown. It seems Google lied. Buses now stop at the Nibong terminal. Now Nibong is on the other side of the town and the moment I got down, taxi drivers began warring their taxis at the most ridiculous prices. I told one guy I’d rather walk to Georgetown than pay RM 25.
City buses don’t seem to ply the route or they were having a siesta at 4 pm. I walked futher down the road to catch another taxi. The first one demanded another exorbitant price and when I asked him if he’ll use the meter he laughed at me. So I told him to take his laugh with him in different words.
I finally got a cab for RM 12. My friends were surprised to find out I had haggled.
Just off Penang road, Leith street was one of the few places I had never been on the island but it probably ha
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