Save Hotel Baker
This blog is regarding the plight of the spectacular and historic Hotel Baker in Saint Charles, IL that is in serious trouble because the owners went bankrupt.
St. Charles Public Library - Hotel Baker History
**!! Sealed Auction Information site - bids due July 22nd 2003 !!**
City of St. Charles website
City of Geneva website
Hotel Baker iPix Tours
AIA Chicago 1998 design awards page
AIA Chicago 2000 design awards page
Other weBlogs by Daniel Stafford:
The Great Lakes Zephyr - Wind Energy & Hydrogen Journal
Save Hotel Baker
Uncle Harold's Farm
Saturday, October 04, 2003
A hint of the Baker's fate:
Hotel Baker just might see more splendor
Published in Sun Publications 09/24/03
Some say it's hard to put a good lady down. This is true in the case of St. Charles, especially when the "good lady" is Hotel Baker.
The five-story hotel has stood on the west bank of the Fox River in the heart of downtown St. Charles since 1928. The magnificent building has been a key piece in keeping downtown St. Charles alive. As a hotel, it brought all kinds of people into the area.
According to information from the St. Charles Public Library, Col. Edward Baker sought to build the "biggest small hotel" with money he inherited when his sister died. The building took on a Spanish romantic revival style similar to that of the Arcada Theater building on the east side of the Fox River.
The hotel has 55 rooms and was one of those luxurious hotels you see in old movies, complete with a lady's dress shop, a barber shop and restaurants. According to some sources, the hotel's first guest was Amos Alonzo Stagg, a close personal friend of Baker.
One day when I was a kid, my grandmother brought us to breakfast in the restaurant that looked out onto Main Street. My dad told me he used to park cars for the hotel. He said he saw some big names. Among those who have been at the hotel include entertainers Tommy Dorsey and Louis Armstrong, as well as politicians such as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.
Another story that surfaces about Hotel Baker is that, on occasion, there was a gentleman from Chicago by the name of Alphonse "Scarface" Capone who would do some business in the valley area at what is now known as Capone's Hideaway. After his business, Capone would hop on a boat and travel down the river to the hotel, where he would play cards with Col. Baker all night long. Whether the story is true might be debatable, but it does add to the mystique surrounding the hotel.
In 1971, the hotel closed and the building was used to house the elderly. This actually turned out to be a bit of a boon for downtown St. Charles. Those who lived in the hotel did not have to venture far to go to the drugstore — they had a choice of Bagge's on Second and Main streets, Klick and Worthley's on First and Main streets or Burgers just across the bridge. Blue Goose grocery store was only two blocks away, Manor Restaurant was nearby and a few barber shops and beauty salons were right on the main strip.
The Rainbow Room and the Trophy Room were open to the public and many a wedding and other occasion was celebrated in those rooms. When I was in eighth grade at St. Patrick School, our graduation breakfast was held at the hotel. And at each place setting was a silver dollar donated by the man who ran an Army surplus store in town.
Eventually, Carroll Towers was built and the organization that ran the Hotel Baker found it could not afford it anymore and sold the hotel to two local businessmen. Those two vowed to bring the hotel back to its glory.
And they did.
During my daughter's class trip to downtown St. Charles I toured the hotel, where I heard some of the stories my father told me. I also had a chance to see the outdoor splendor in the back during my niece's wedding. At the time, I had heard the top-floor rooms were booked years in advance for New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July so guests could sit in the hot tub and watch the fireworks.
Unfortunately the times caught up with the owners, and they had to let go of their dream. But, in recent weeks, a Wayne businessman and his partner purchased the grand beauty and promised to bring it back into glory.
The plans sound feasible, and I believe it will help spark the downtown development plans.
Who knows? With the revival of live theater at the Arcada, some of the big-name entertainers will need a nice place to stay. If the names are big enough, I might be able to help park a car or two.
Dan Wagner writes Trails of the Fox. He is a lifelong resident of St. Charles and has 15 years of experience writing and editing at area publications. Contact him at email@example.com.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Letters in support of this fine old hotel continue to come in on occasion:
I grew up in Northern IL and have fond memories of St Charles, and particularly
the Hotel Baker. Splendid architecture situated in some of the finest geography
in Illinois, if not the Midwest. I was in St Charles in '99 for my
grandfather's funeral and was fortunate enough to stroll through the renovated
lobby and ballroom, and have a drink at the bar. I always wanted to return and
stay at the hotel, but have not had the chance. Too bad the current owners
couldn't make a go of it. Regardless of whether the building stays a hotel, I
hope the next owners will do the right thing and retain the grandeur of the
building. I wish I had more to offer you than this brief message, but know that
my thoughts and prayers are with you and your community as you work to save this
"I saw your blog on the Hotel Baker and wondered what is the present state of the hotel.
My wife and I stayed there three years ago and enjoyed it. We then bought a $200 gift certificate for my brother and his wife for their wedding. They never got a chance to use it. I was hoping that someone would reopen the hotel, or is it still in limbo?
Thanks for your efforts.
"Do you know the current status of the hotel? I am anxiously awaiting the re-opening of the beautiful, historic landmark and to see it bloom back into a full scale hotel and banquet facility.
"Hi Daniel. I am interested in what you are doing to save Hotel Baker. (*I no longer am actively involved - DS) I am glad that a few people have stepped up to save yet another beautiful example of architecture and community history. I have read through all your postings to date on your weblog and find some of your ideas for the property (processes) very “doable”. By “doable” I don’t necessarily mean successful, but any effort to involve the community and set a guide for what residents want the Hotel Baker to become will play a role in what it actually does become no matter who ends up owning it. As for me, I have only attended a reception there once and fell in love with the hotel. I have an Associates Degree (not much) in Hotel and Restaurant Management, have supervised/managed the front office of a 4 star premiere property in Kansas City, MO as the charge for VIP and corporate groups. My husband has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years in the front of the house and in the franchise/corporate partnership. My non-profit experience includes the American Heart Association in Florida, the Northwest Burn Foundation in Seattle, Washington and Northwest Benefit Auctions in Seattle. I have fundraising, grant writing, and event planning experience. Most of all right now I am a stay-at-home mom who would be interested in giving some time to this project. As you can see below I do run my own business part-time from home. As I babble on I should tell you that I am pretty good at research (a hobby of mine) and that I started researching this project when my husband told me today that he was interested in finding out more about why the hotel closed. We were in hope of finding out about some angel investing to operate the hotel and restaurant as is. I find your reasoning for wanting to use some rooms for terminally ill patients heartfelt and touching. My prayers are with you and your family in your time of need for your mother. I do feel, however, that the property would bring much more to the community and garner more support for this project to run it as a hotel property. A viable plan may be to get the restaurant up and running and open the hotel public areas for special occasions and the concerts that you had talked about leaving the occupancy of the rooms for the last project. This would give the project a chance to raise funds to operate the hotel as a whole property. These are just my ramblings and thoughts and I hope that nothing I have said has offended you in any way. I truly admire that you started this project on your own out of sheer passion for the Hotel Baker. More babbling….here are some links I thought you might find interesting as well. The Hotel Baker is still listed on a website for hotel employment opportunities as being managed by Allied Hospitality Group, Inc. in Des Plaines. They may have some say in what happened and what might happen in the future. Also, http://www.landmarks.org/award_projects_copy.htm is a link for the LPCI award for landmark preservation projects and importantly is the link on the page at the top for endangered building grants (the hotel is not endangered, yet, but it may be helpful). I’m not sure what I can do for the project or how much time I can give but let me know.
Sarah S., IR"
I am trying to find out the status of the Hotel Baker. I and some family members have a great interest in it. Is it for sale?
Any information you have would be much appreciated.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
I just received an e-mail from a kind gentleman informing me of a website detailing a sealed bid auction for the Hotel Baker with bids due on July 22nd 2003. Full details may be found at: http://sheldongood.com/hotelbaker.htm
I have forwarded this information to at least two parties that were interested at an earlier date.
Friday, April 18, 2003
I just received an inquiry for status on the hotel, and I've forwarded it to both Thomas and Melody as I am somewhat out of date on this issue. I am also inviting either or both of them to have access to publish to this weBlog. No response as yet, but it's only been in the past few minutes.
Thursday, April 10, 2003
This activity is currently on hold. I suspect there are people far more capable than I am pursuing returning the hotel to service. I am currently working on building my resources in another direction. I will be checking in on the progress of the hotel and those trying to get it in operation as I am able. I may be busy, But I have NOT forgotten.
Monday, February 10, 2003
From Thomas Morsch of the Northwestern University SBOC:
"We appreciate the more complete description of your dream for the Baker Hotel. My parents took me there for dinner on a couple of occasions more than 50 years ago. I remember well how beautiful and well-situated it was (and still is).
We are not taking on new clients at this time, and I have doubts whether we would have the resources to help you in any event. You need a lawyer skilled in bankruptcy, real estate, zoning and nonprofit organization law and, if there is a major remodeling effort required, some expertise in architectural contracts, waivers of lien and related subjects. It is going to be very difficult to identify such a person, and perhaps impossible to find someone who is willing and able to undertake such a substantial project on a pro bono basis.
Of course, even before you begin looking for a lawyer, it would be a good idea to think about how much it will cost to bring the dream to fruition and where the money is coming from.
I wish you luck, and thanks again for contacting the Small Business Opportunity Center."
Not all bad news, at least we have an idea of what type of attourney to look for.
Friday, January 31, 2003
A couple of additional items:
There is a full scale restaurant in the Baker that I would like to see back in opration as it was or close to it.
There was a small gift shop located at the front of the hotel that might well serve as the museum gift shop or for-let space for an independent shop of some sort.
A more readable outline of how I'd envision the Baker operating that I'd forwarded to Melody:
The Baker is 54 rooms. Here's how I was thinking to divide it:
15 rooms terminally ill patients with motile issues.
15 rooms family / friend caregivers.
7 rooms nurses
17 rooms paying guests.
One downstairs banquet room converted to a small hotel industry museum w/ gift shop.
Banquets / weddings receptions / performance arts in the remaining banquet rooms & Rainbow Room.
Internships hopefully for maintenance personnel & at least some hospital staff. I'd like to get with a vocational / Junior college to get the maintenance internships set up for students in commercial maintenance programs under teacher supervision. I think the Baker represents a unique opportunity for students in that regard, especially with the hydro-power dam and boat house, not to mention the Rainbow Room lighting system.
I will personally oversee communications services and equipment, that is my main area of expertise, and I may do some mentoring in that regard. I've already trained several junior technicians at Global.
And that's about as far as I've gotten. I think that's pretty ambitious in it's own regard.
Contacted by another person in the area that has making investigations along the same lines we have, Mr. T.N., and a preliminary conversation looks good. Advised Melody as well.