A nod to the past: Hotel Baker

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The Hotel Baker was Col. Baker’s home. Col. Baker was a farmer. He and his niece Dellora Norris inherited the fortune of the founder of Texaco Oil, Col. Baker’s brother-in-law John Gates. Col. Baker and his niece Dellora invested the money in the town. With every gift they gave, they gave with quiet graciousness. Col. Baker gave in abundance and ran the Hotel Baker at a yearly deficit. He was friends with people from all walks of life and wanted people to enjoy beauty and luxury no matter where they came from. When he decided to build the Hotel Baker, he told the architects to build their masterpiece. He lost his son and then his wife, and instead of living alone in the house, he moved into the Hotel, where he was always there to welcome people.

After Col. Baker was gone, his niece Dellora Norris was left with “that white elephant of a Hotel,” as she called it,  she told him not to leave to her, but she ended up with because there was no one else with the money to operate it. No one in the family showed an interest in the building, so they donated it to the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and the Hotel was made into a retirement home. When the Hotel was a retirement home, the property was subdivided and sold, and the Hotel Baker Garage was torn down and replaced by the assisted living facility Carroll Tower.

Over the years, the building fell into disrepair. Overwhelmed by operating costs and the deteriorated condition of the building, the retirement home began selling the furniture and artwork from the Hotel before eventually announcing a sealed bid auction for the Hotel which caused public concern about the future of the downtown. Condos were planned, or a casino. However, from his office at the Arcada Theatre, Craig Frank could look out and see the Hotel and thought how neat it would be to have the Hotel and the Arcada back how they used to be. His mother Ruby Frank started Frank’s Employment and had an office in the upstairs of Colson’s Department Store, next to the Hotel. When Colson’s caught on fire and her office was destroyed, Lester J. Norris offered Ruby the Arcada Theatre before he passed away. She bought the Arcada, and they began restoring the building, partnering with Willis Johnson of Classic Cinemas to completely restore the Arcada to its grandeur and bring it back as a movie theatre. With the experience of restoring the Arcada, Craig Frank partnered with Neil Johnson and bought the Hotel Baker. The town was thrilled that the Hotel would be saved, that not another part of the town would be lost. Craig Frank completely restored the Arcada and the Hotel Baker and was celebrated as “Mr. Landmark St. Charles” in 1997.

For more information on Hotel Baker visit http://www.hotelbaker.com/