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Renfro Hotel -- 612 Douglas St, Wichita KS
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 37° 41.170 W 097° 19.866
14S E 647152 N 4172306
Quick Description: The newly-renovated Renfro Hotel at 612 Douglas Street is a contributing building in the East Douglas Ave National Register Historic District.
Location: Kansas, United States
Date Posted: 5/1/2013 9:08:58 AM
Waymark Code: WMH08T
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
Views: 2

Long Description:
The wierdest thing about the Renfro hotel are the not one but TWO ghost signs on it -- FOR OTHER HOTELS!!! ???

This sparked the Blasterz to do a little digging, and we found a perfectly reasonable explanation for all the ghosts: There has been more than one or two or even three hotels here over the years.

The now newly-renovated Renfro Apartments building began life in 1908 as the Layle Hotel. Built across the street from Wichita's Rock Island and Union Station depots, this was a busy place for rail travelers back in the day. The hotel had 50 rooms and was billed as "a European Hotel." Source: (visit link)

In 1917 the Layle Hotel was sold and became the Alton Hotel. Then the Alton Hotel became the Minnich Hotel after 123. By 1949 the Minnich Hotel had closed and the Renfro Hotel operated here.

Two of the old names of this historic building are preserved in a couple of ghost signs on the western wall of the building. One goes across the top left to right, the other is vertical from top to bottom on the south edge of the building.

The Layle hotel signs is obscured by a larger ghost sign for the Alton Hotel -- which makes sense once you understand the history here. The Alton hotel sign is most easily deciphered in black and white, so we have provided that photoshopped image here.

See here for some excerpts of newspaper articles about these old hotels, from which we have tried to piece together the story of these signs: (visit link)

"Dr. Edward N. Tihen (1924-1991) was an avid reader and researcher of Wichita newspapers. His notes from Wichita newspapers -- the “Tihen Notes,” as we call them -- provide an excellent starting point for further research. They present brief synopses of newspaper articles, identify the newspaper -- Eagle, Beacon or Eagle-Beacon -- in which the stories first appeared, and give exact references to the pages on which the articles are found. Microfilmed copies of these newspapers are available at the Wichita State University Libraries, the Wichita Public Library, or by interlibrary loan from the Kansas State Historical Society.

Wichita Beacon, Friday, March 13, 1908, page 9:

Judge J. N. Haymaker will soon construct a three story brick building adjoining on the west the building at 614 East Douglas, which he owns and which has been occupied by J. C. Dunn but will soon be vacated. The new building will cost about $15,000. Details.

Wichita Beacon, Saturday, August 22, 1908, page 12:

W. G. Layle has leased the three story building now under construction at 610-612 East Douglas from J. N. Haymaker, and will operate a new 50 room hotel there.

Wichita Eagle, Sunday, August 23, 1908, page 5:

W. G. Layle has leased the three story building at 610-612 East Douglas now being constructed by J. N. Haymaker and will occupy it with an European hotel when it is completed about October 1.

Wichita Eagle, Sunday, December 12, 1915, page 10:

The 50 room Layle hotel, 610-612 East Douglas, has been remodeled at cost of $6500.

Wichita Eagle, Thursday, April 12, 1917, page 5:

The Layle hotel, 612 East Douglas, was purchased yesterday from W. E. Ault by S. C. Adair, hotel broker in the Butts building, for $10,000. It contains 50 rooms. The Pennsylvania hotel on West Douglas was also sold yesterday to W. B. Beverly by Mrs.L. H. Kistler for $8000.

Wichita Beacon, Friday, June 8, 1923, page 8:

Frank M. Dean, real estate dealer, is taking a 99 year lease on the three story building at 610-612 East Douglas from J. N. Haymaker, local attorney. Building is 50 by 140 feet. First floor occupied by B. M. Levitt Clothing Company and office of the Alton Hotel, which occupies the other two floors.

Wichita Eagle, Monday, July 25, 1949, page 5:

Report of death yesterday of Roy Minnich, age 65, of 1337 South Broadway, a Wichita hotel operator. Born in Wichita April 13, 1884. Started as a bell boy at the Carey Hotel. From 1922 to 1942 was owner and operator of the old Jefferson Hotel, and from 1942 to 1945 he supervised the Jefferson hotel and operated the Minnich Hotel, which is now the Renfro Hotel, 612 East Douglas. Details. Photo." [end]

Today the Renfro has been renovated into spiffy new apartments that are leasing now (Mar 2013).
(visit link)

The Renfro Hotel building was built ca 1890 to serve the traveling public who came through Wichita. It is across Douglas street from the Rock Island and Union Station train depots.

The link to the nomination form for the East Douglas Ave historic district and relevant text pertaining to the Renfro can be found here: (visit link)

"612 East Douglas, Renfro Hotel, (c. 1890) Key Contributing
This three story building is representative of the commercial activities that were drawn to the nearby railroads. It is one of the few remaining hotel buildings in the proposed district, which at one time housed nearly a dozen." [end]

Three separate hotels advertised on this building, all being in business there at one point! ha! :)
Name of Historic District (as listed on the NRHP): East Douglas Ave Historic District

Link to page with the Historic District: [Web Link]

612 E Douglas Wichita KS

How did you determine the building to be a contributing structure?: Narrative found on the internet (Link provided below)

Optional link to narrative or database: [Web Link]

NRHP Historic District Waymark (Optional): Not listed

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Benchmark Blasterz visited Renfro Hotel -- 612 Douglas St, Wichita KS 3/16/2013 Benchmark Blasterz visited it