A few days ago on the To Purge This Land With Beer post reader Pat Jones mentioned that the Free State Brewing Co. is located nearby the historic Eldridge Hotel. I thought I’d flesh that out for everyone who may not be up on their Kansas history and did a little surfing. I knew the hotel played a prominent role in “Bleeding Kansas” and in the Civil War, but I wanted to get a little more info so I went to the horse’s mouth, in this case the website of The Eldridge and that of the Kansas Historical Society. Like so many other historic hotels (Chattanooga’s Read House and Willard’s of Washington, DC), the present day Eldridge, while situated on the original site, is not the same structure which was present when the historic events with which it is associated occurred. The first building, The Free State Hotel, was constructed in 1855 and was to serve as temporary living quarters for members of the Boston based New England Emigrant Aid Society. This organization was funneling settlers and money to Kansas in order to assure its admission to the Union as a free (non-slaveholding) state.
Pro-slavery forces under Sheriff Sam Jones burned down the Free State Hotel in 1856. Prior to burning the building, a contingent of South Carolinians called the Palmetto Guards flew this flag from its roof. Proprietor Col. Shalor Eldridge soon rebuilt the hotel, but in the infamous William Clarke Quantrill led raid on Lawrence in 1863 it was again burned to the ground. Rebuilding the hotel once more, Col. Eldridge lent his own name to the establishment. That hotel stood until 1925 when the deteriorated structure was torn down to make way for yet another incarnation of the Eldridge Hotel. In 1970 the building was converted to apartments, but was renovated and converted back to a hotel in 1985. In 2005, the current owners executed a multi-million dollar renovation.
I’m sure I could write a lot more on the Eldridge Hotel. That’s what usually happens when you pull a thread. Pat really knows her Kansas history, and I encourage her to post as much as she likes about the Eldridge Hotel in particular or Civil War Kansas in general in the comments section here. That goes for all of you…if you’ve got something you’d like to share, please do! That’s why I have the comments feature turned on.