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The History of Midland Railroad Hotel



Originally built in 1899 by Philadelphia transplant Wilke Power as the Power Hotel, the Midland Railroad Hotel was once considered among the premier hotels in the Midwest.

A magnificent, limestone building rising three stories high and comprising 28 elegant rooms—and lit by the day’s latest method, acetylene gas—it was a popular stop along the Union Pacific Railroad between Kansas City and Denver. Businessmen stopped there so often to show their wares that, in fact, the hotel’s basement became known as the Sample Room (and still is today). 

After a November 1902 fire gutted the hotel, it was restored and reopened as the Midland Railroad Hotel. Rebuilt with modern heating, it maintained its status through the roaring 1920s as one of the finest, modern-day hotels in the region.

Once the Great Depression hit, the hotel suffered with the rest of America, making ends meet by raising chickens on the third floor to serve to dinner guests. Over the next several decades, the Midland continued to operate, even serving as a backdrop for many scenes in the 1973 film “Paper Moon,” starring Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum.

The Midland was one of 11 of the state's old hotels that were told they had to meet life safety codes or close. At least one: of the 11, the Warren, in Garden City, did close. A second Garden City hotel, the Windsor, was inspected in the fall of 1976 and soon closed its doors. Agnes Hill, who had operated the Midland Railroad Hotel alone since her husband's death in 1973, was determined not to close the hotel. Improvements were made to comply with the codes, however, due to health concerns, Mrs. Hill was forced to retire and sell the hotel in the late 1970s.

Around 1980, the hotel was purchased by Phil and Mairtha Cloyd and then by Daniel and Cheryl Phillips. Mrs. Phillips mother, Ruthelma, ran the hotel for a short time. Later, a man named Kansas Walker operated the hotel. He advertised the famous 80-ounce steak, free to anyone who can eat it in one sitting. The Walkers, the latest in a succession of owners, were in the process of purchasing the hotel when it closed in 1988. The hotel has stood vacant since that time.

Then in 1997, the Wilson Foundation purchased the historic building for $35,000, launching a six-year, $3.2 million renovation, earning the organization a Kansas Preservation Award for its painstaking restoration.

The Midland Railroad reopened in 2003 to its 1920s glory and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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