T.B. Baker got his start in the hotel business as the night clerk of the Avenue Hotel in Beloit, Kansas at approximately age 23.
After only eighteen months in Beloit, in 1899 T.B. began leasing the Greenwood Hotel in Eureka Kansas, which was known as “The Grand Princess of the Prairie, The Center of Everything.” The Mo-Pac Railway had just been extended to Eureka in 1882, bringing in a steady stream of business, and allowing T.B. Baker to rub shoulders with prominent and powerful cattlemen and businessmen.
It would be the first hotel he would purchase soon afterward, and the phrase “The Center of Everything” would be one that T.B. would go on to use to describe many Baker Hotels in the future. The Greenwood was not only T.B. Baker’s first wholly owned hotel, but it was also the location where he both met and married his wife Mamie “Mae” Crawley in 1903.
A reporter from the Kansas City Star described the prosperous Greenwood hotel this way:
“The lobby of Eureka’s largest hotel is a sort of small livestock exchange. There are the same men with broad-brimmed hats and whips that the visitor sees in Kansas City’s exchange building in the first floor’s corridors. Always they are “talking cattle.” Ask for proof as to how powerful they are, and the evidence is that when a petition of the Eureka cattlemen for a new railway stations went to officials of the Missouri Pacific, work on that station began in less than two weeks. And the Missouri Pacific, it is believed, is not a railroad that is building new depots everywhere that there is a request for one.”
It is estimated that over $1 million dollars worth of cattle changed hands at the Greenwood Hotel in its heyday – a very large amount in it’s time.
T.B. operated the Greenwood Hotel for about eight years before selling the property in 1907, the same year that he purchased the Goodlander Hotel in Fort Scott, Kansas.
For more information about the historic Greenwood Hotel, which has since been renovated, click here.