Once in a while a photo in my collection captures my attention, tells stories and demands investigation. Such was this view taken about 100 years ago looking west on P Street from the 11th Street intersection.
Much of Block 35, on the right, is well within my memory, but most of the other two- and three-story buildings are well lost in the dustbin of history. Even the two wooden barrels on the left must have a story to tell, but that corner was then occupied by the Kobalter Bros. Pool Hall about the time of the photo so their presence must remain a mystery. The pool hall business remained until Commonwealth built its new building only to be razed in turn for the current Grand Theatre.
The three-story masonry building at the far left was an empty lot in early Lincoln due to a spring on the site which made basement construction a challenge. After several aborted attempts in 1869, the building pictured was finally completed by Dr. Scott as a drug store with rooms on the upper floors. In 1873 J. J. Imhoff enlarged Scott’s building, converting the entire structure into the Commercial Hotel. This building was again enlarged, as shown, and renamed the Capital Hotel which could accommodate up to 300 guests with rooms renting for $1.25 and up.
When the southeast corner of the building collapsed about 1916, the hotel was purchased by Eugene Eppley of Omaha, who built the extant 10-story Capital Hotel on the site. After serving briefly as the YMCA Hotel, when the new swimming pool and gym to the west were constructed, most of the 10-story building became the current Georgian Place condominiums and apartments.
Just behind the Capital Hotel, to the west, is the Quick Building. As Lincoln fire chief Turnis P. Quick began digging the basement for his west-facing building, he was offered a breath-taking $12,000 for the lot. Undaunted, Quick finished the building on July 1, 1881 at the reported cost, including the real estate, for $22,000. It was noted in an 1882 newspaper supplement as “one of the best built houses in the city…his billiard parlor and saloon were the finest in the world when opened.” Even after the great temperance crusade, the saloon survived later becoming first a confectionery around WWI, then a fruit market/grocery until ultimately replaced by the Continental Trailways bus depot, Boomer’s Printing and now, once again, a saloon.
Next, to the west, is the park north of the old City Hall just occupied by, but not visible, the first third of the new post office, now the Grand Manse Building.
On the right in the photo is the Ledwith Block built by Joseph Ledwith in 1886 where his coal yard previously stood. Within five years Ledwith had converted the upper floors to the Merchant’s Hotel with offices still rented out on the first floor and walk-under basement. At about the time of the photo, the entire building had been converted to the 65-room Savoy Hotel with rooms going for 75 cents a day or $5 a month. With the opening of the Orpheum Theatre a block east, two floors were added and room rates increased to $2 a day as the Savoy became known as a vaudeville hotel.
In 1931 Sam Lawrence bought the hotel and put his name on the business. Closed in 1975, the hotel, then occupied only by McGuffey’s Restaurant, was razed along with the entire block for what was proposed to be the nucleus of a huge downtown redevelopment shopping center but which instead became a city-owned ground level parking lot until the Embassy Suites Hotel was ultimately built.
The many two- and three-story buildings west of the Savoy Hotel held a vast number of local businesses in 1912 ranging from several dry goods stores, cigar stores, second-hand dealers, barbers, restaurants, pool halls and pawn shops.
The three-story building to the west, at what would become the northeast corner of 9th and P Streets is the State Journal Co. That building, erected in 1881, replaced a hotel built from the 1864 Methodist Female Seminary, the first real building built in Lincoln, then known as Lancaster. The Journal’s building, as shown, stood until the 1950s when the first portion of the present Journal-Star Building, which now covers over half of the entire block, replaced it. The only other building on the P Street front of the block today is the City Bank & Trust which occupies the old Greyhound Bus Terminal on the northeast corner of 10th and P Streets.
A photo taken at the same vantage point today would show the Capital Hotel/YMCA on the left. Embassy Suites, the City Bank and Journal-Star Building would be the only visible structures on the north, right side.
Another way of looking at it; there were more than 30 active locally owned businesses in the 1912 photo while today’s would show six.