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The Free State Hotel

Tour Stop

Directions: The Free State Hotel [ Waypoint = N38 58.268 W95 14.157 ] the present day Eldridge Hotel which is located at 701 Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas 66044.

The Eldridge Hotel currently sitting on the site of the original Free State HotelDescription: The Free State Hotel marker is on the wall to the left of the entrance to the Eldridge Hotel. The marker's text reads as follows:

“This marks the site of the Free State Hotel erected in 1855 by the New England Emigrant Aid Society. Destroyed by Sheriff Jones and his posse May 21, 1856, and rebuilt by Col. Schaler W. Eldridge. Quantrill and his raiders destroyed Lawrence August 21, 1863, burned the hotel and massacred the citizens. Col. Eldridge restored the hotel which stood until 1926 when it was rebuilt by W.G. Hutson.”

Erected 1940 by Lawrence Rotary Club.

Free State Hotel Historical MarkerCorner Stone of the Eldridge Hotel

Charles L. RobinsonSamuel C. PomeroyThe New England Emigrant Aid Company realized they would need to build a hotel in Lawrence for newly arrived emigrants. The company instructed its agents Charles Robinson and Samuel Pomeroy to compete its construction as quickly as possible. Work was begun in the fall of 1854, but work progressed slowly due to a lack of funds and supplies. As the building progressed, Pomeroy and Robinson began to advertise for a proprietor. In the end, they ended up leasing the hotel to one Shalor W. Eldridge. In October of 1855, although still not completely finished, the building was named the Free State Hotel and opened to be used as a meeting place and for social events.

Later that same month, the Free State Hotel would be used as a military barracks during the Wakarusa War. On December 16, 1855, they held the funeral of Thomas Barber in the dining room of the Free State Hotel. Barber had been killed by pro-slavery militia during the Wakarusa War. After the funeral, Barber was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.

The Free State Hotel was finally finished in April of 1856. Shortly thereafter came the finding by Judge Lecompte that called for the destruction of the Free State Hotel:

“... we are satisfied that the building known as the Free-State Hotel in Lawrence has been constructed with a view to military occupation and defense, and regularly parapetted and port-holed for the use of cannon and small arms, and could only be designed as a stronghold for resistance to law, thereby endangering the public safety and encouraging rebellion and sedition to the country; and we respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby this nuisance may be removed...”

During the Sack of Lawrence, the Free State Hotel was destroyed. The New England Emigrant Aid Company immediately directed its agents to rebuild the hotel. Once again funding and supplies were hard to come by. In February of 1857, Shalor Eldridge contacted the New England Emigrant Aid Company and submitted a proposal to buy the partially completed hotel. Partially finished in January 1858, the new hotel was used to host a celebration. Now named, The Eldridge House, the hotel would reopen for business in December of 1858. But four years later, it would again be damaged badly during Quantrill's Raid on August 21, 1863. The hotel was rebuilt and opened for business again in September of 1866.

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