#52 Hotel Savoy in Kansas City
Odd and Eerie
It was oddly peaceful for being downtown in a city, on a weekday at rush hour.
The Hotel Savoy is a well known Kansas City landmark, so I expected more tourist traffic around this 126 year old hotel.
The Hotel Savoy opened as a luxury hotel in 1888, so I imagined somewhat of a spotlight on this grand building.
We wandered to find the entrance, then walked through the brass doors into a dimly lit hall, that felt more like the entry to an apartment building than a hotel.
The retro tiled floors took us past an old slotted box, directly below a broken clock, held up by two angels.
Found the Doors
Towards the end of the hall we found doors that brought us into a large 2-level space.
Pale light lit up cloth covered cafe tables beside a wall of Art Deco stained glass.
Up a Step
The upper level of what had once been the spacious elegant lobby, held the desk and a few lounging chairs beneath a stained glass dome.
A ponytailed man working behind the desk, looked more like a professor than a hotel clerk. He continued to play the role of intimidating teacher as he checked us in and gave us our key and assignment.
The assignment was to review the breakfast menu, check off our choices for dishes, fill in the time we would be arriving for breakfast and return the completed form before 10 pm.
The "professor" suddenly became less intimidating when he gave us a hint about how to fill out our test, "Well, usually people pick about 4 items each!" We loved this insane news! These food options were a little more exciting than choosing between oatmeal or eggs!
As Don finished getting us checked in, I started absorbing details.
The glowing dome above us seemed pretty spectacular. It seemed odd that we were the only guests standing underneath. Where was everyone?
The patterns of the tiled floors made me want to get down on my knees like a little kid and touch! It was like looking at snake skin, all shiny and hypnotic!
We stepped back through the lobby doors and found the elevator. We debated for a moment whether we trusted the old thing, but our bags were heavy.
The elevator rumbled us to the 4th floor without any mishaps. Although we chose the very impressive marble stairs for all other trips.
The doors opened and we looked left down a hall with newer carpet and light fixtures. However, our "Victorian Suite", 402 was to the right... down a darker hall.
A Bit Drab
My camera flash made our hallway look much cheerier than it seemed. We were clearly in an area that made no attempts to impress.
The door beside ours had a name plate on it, hinting that there was a long term resident as our neighbor... which would have been fine at The Plaza in NYC. Our door looked more like an old office door with a wood panel, filling in what might have once been glass. I liked the fact we had a real key.
A Sweet Old Suite
We chuckled as we entered our spacious suite. It was hard to figure when the updates had occurred since 1888.
The black sofa (at a jaunty angle) and a few other pieces of furniture welcomed us with the lived in look of a student apartment. The cloth covered table with its coffee maker and cups and saucers, felt like a gracious old folks home.
But honestly, we were delighted with our funny hotel room. The price was just around 100 dollars, which is pretty darn good for experiencing an iconic hotel and getting a humongous breakfast feast.
I would rather find lacy curtains, metal venetian blinds, a.c. window units and Grandma's quilt in my hotel room, than Marriott decor when I'm trying to enjoy the past.
1880's Meets 1980's
The bathroom amused me with the mixture of old and new. I'm guessing the old tub and sink and honeycomb tile were all original.
The wallpaper and mirror made me think 1980's, which is when the hotel became a "Bed and Breakfast". And not far from the sink was small table with starched white cloth to hold all the junk I lug from hotel to hotel. How cute and retro is that?
A View and Some Phones
When I parted the bent metal blinds, I could see the parking lot (which offered free parking) and the flat horizon beyond some smoke stacks. I've seen worse views.
And when I explored a little more, I found myself quite intrigued by all the doors and phones in our suite. I counted 6 doors and 3 phones. And a coat rack. Gotta love a hotel room with a coat rack!
The Savoy Grill
If we had been hotel guests when the Grill first opened in 1903, Don would have dined alone. No women were allowed at that time. But the Grill wised up and women have been enjoying the restaurant ever since. It is the longest continuously operating restaurant in Kansas City.
You can enter through revolving doors from the street or follow the "Snake Floor" from the lobby towards a beastly buffalo head mounted on the hall wall. Simply look in the direction of the buffalo's gaze and enter the double doors to the Grill.
The dark and cozy space was jammed with tables, set with pink and white china and water carafes.
Some of the cozy booths were decorated with Western murals, painted by Edward Holslag for The Grill's opening in 1903.
And Stained Glass
Other booths had the soft glow of light from stained glass windows. Harry and Bess Truman had a favorite booth at the Savoy. I'm not sure if this was it, but it would have been a nice one.
A different Harry visited the Savoy long ago. When Houdini was here, someone played a joke and locked him in a phone booth.
Don and I needed to experience the cozy oak bar before disappearing into our booth. We had martinis in curious, vintage glasses and spoke with a number of chatty wait staff wearing white jackets and bow ties.
Most had been working at the hotel for decades. Our young bartender was the newest, but his parents and grandfather had all worked at the Grill before him.
We slept well despite a number of train whistles in the night. (You just have to learn to love train sounds if you want to enjoy old hotels!)
At 8:30 we headed down to the breakfast parlor, which was once the barber shop.
Breakfast was ridiculous!
Or rather, we looked ridiculously greedy, since we had ordered 8 dishes! We were barely seated when coffee, juice and sweet rolls appeared.
Then, without laughing or rolling his eyes, our white jacketed server began appearing every few minutes with a new dish. Lobster Bisque, Kippers with Scrambled Eggs, Eggs Benedict, Lamb with Sautéed Artichokes, Baked Oyster Rockefeller, Corn Beef Hash, Scallopine Veal Marsals and finally, Smoked Salmon with Caviar!
It is almost not safe to eat that amount before hitting the road... but we had a lot of caffeine!
I will always remember The Savoy as being an odd mixture of worn and classy. The stained glass, old dishes, the tile floors and the even the food felt classy and elegant. I didn't mind seeing the peeling paint or even the yawning staff. I was just glad The Savoy still existed. I was especially delighted that we enjoyed out oddball Savoy Stay, when I later learned that the hotel closed its doors a couple weeks after our visit.
A kitchen fire was the reason. Luckily the hotel has been bought and will be gutted and refurbished and once again enjoyed. But I'm glad we saw it before a classy restoration. I'm sure it will be lovely and I'm glad it will be saved, but I feel lucky to have memories of our eerie, weary stay at the Savoy.
7/2/2017 08:15:15 pm
Enjoyed your photos. A former boss of mine in the late 80s and early 90s would have receipts and matchbooks ever so often from Savoy Grill (he enjoyed grilled steaks and baked potatoes). Learning that it was still open about 10 years ago, my wife and I stayed at Hotel Savoy and explored it. It was eerie and fascinating how exploring the area beyond the refinished area of the halls was like being transported back in time what with the plaster walls and ceilings still having a 1950s or 60s feel, plaster falling and the lath showing through, the residents' rooms at the ends of the halls, see the huge windows were in some of the rooms, imagining the sounds of the bustle in the hotel lobby and halls and what it would have been like to have gotten a haircut in the Savoy's barbershop. Thoroughly enjoyed exploring the staircases, the back hallway to the kitchen with its tiled flooring and in which hung either a letter or a guest check-in signed by Harry Truman, viewing the various historic photographs, stepping into the Savoy Grill and imaging it in its heyday. Disappointing that after all of the decades a fire in the kitchen closed the Savoy Grill and Hotel Savoy; I can't imagine that the refurbished hotel and Grill will have the same historic, step-back-in-time feel.
7/2/2017 08:20:51 pm
P.S. Also, a fascinating place to stay is The Mansion at Elfindale in Springfield, Mo., with a colorful history...and a tunnel (originally built as a home, it served as a convent with a chapel and girls school added on, and then in the early to mid-70s was owned by the Shah of Iran as a possible safe-haven.
7/3/2017 12:16:23 pm
Hey Dan! Thanks for sharing about your Savoy experience! I love all the details you remembered. Your interest reminded me explore the internet to see if there were signs of the place reopening. I didn't find anything recent. ??
9/8/2018 05:35:53 am
The Savoy has reopened as a 21c Museum Hotel. They've done a lovingly spectacular renovation, so you should return.
9/8/2018 08:38:04 am
Dalene, my husband and I recently learned about this amazing renovation and oddly enough are staying there tonight!! (Just now read your comment!) I’m not sure if you are connected to the newly renovated hotel or what, but we are just thrilled to revisit this iconic hotel once again. It sounds like a great mix...preserving some history, but creating a brand new atmosphere! Can’t wait to see the art! Let me know if you have any tips!
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My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!