the Wolf Hotel and Underground Tunnels
No matter where we travel along the backroads and byways of America, we make an effort to find the most unique, historic, or boutique hotels in the area. Not many have been able to match what we saw when we were in Ellinwood, Kansas.
The first stake of Ellinwood came 1871 when it was promised a railroad would be coming to town. Soon, Ellinwood would become a fast growing community of mostly descendants of southern German/Austrians. This heritage can still be seen through the town today in its architecture, the underground tunnels, and the brick streets.
Located in the center of town is the amazing Wolf Hotel. In 1894 John Wolf built The Wolf Hotel as an addition to the Delmonico Hotel. The addition added several rooms to the Hotel, a new lobby, and underground stores. The Sunflower dining room was added in 1924 by John Wolf's son, Fred, and was a prestigious restaurant that attracted people from many places with its amber lighting and wheat shock columns. One of the greatest mysteries of the hotel occurred in this dining room when Bernard Millet inexplicably committed suicide here on February 24, 1927. A bullet hole remains in the ceiling of the dining room to this day. No one has ever discovered what made him take this action. In the early 1980s, the hotel transitioned to antique store but was sold to Christopher McCord in 2013 with the vision of returning it to its former glory. He has done that and more!
Chris also opened a speakeasy in the underground tunnel under the hotel, serving “lemonade,” “juice,” and other “drinks,” as a nod to the Prohibition Era when beverages had to be disguised to not reveal their true nature. The Speakeasy is open every weekend and is one of the most interesting places we have ever been. Being out of towners, it is easy for us just to find a table and experience the place from a distance but Chris and his friends did not allow that to happen. They took us in like we were long lost friends and we had the time of our lives.
In the 1870s and 80s, Ellinwood experienced so much growth in businesses that many had no choice than to find space underground. The tunnels once stretched throughout the town but many have been filled. The ones that remain can be toured under the Wolf Hotel or across the street at the antique store (if you ask real sweet). The lower level had a variety of storefronts and shops: drummer rooms, sample rooms, bathhouses, saloons, and meat storage. Typically shops changed locations from time to time. Ellinwood also supported attorneys, hotels, a jewelry store, grain dealers, blacksmiths, bootmakers, millinery shops, a brewery, dentists, general stores, billiard halls, lumber dealers, a newspaper along with a jail and a town band during their heyday!
Even though many of these businesses have closed shop and the population may have dropped through the years, Ellinwood and its 2000 residents are proud of their past and excited for their future. Make sure when you stop in for a visit, that you tell them we sent you!