THE HISTORIC HOTEL WILL ROGERS, CLAREMORE, OKLAHOMA
The historic Hotel Will Rogers was dedicated on February 7, 1930, when Louis Abraham, Walter Krumrei, and Morton Harrison financed the facility. Their plan came together after Louis's father came to Claremore to take mineral water baths and was miraculously cured of rheumatism. He fell in love with Claremore, but he felt that it had limitations as a health resort for the lack of suitable hotel facilities. The fireproof structure of concrete and steel, unique for its time, cost $321,000 to build. It had Spanish interior décor and stylish furnishings. The six-story hotel with its 78 rooms and seven apartments was designated as a bomb shelter during World War II.
Mineral water baths became an important part of the grand hotel's service. Mineral water, called radium water, was discovered in 1903 on the eastside of Claremore while prospectors were drilling for oil and gas. The greenish-black, rotten-egg-smelling water was analyzed and contained 13 minerals, including sulfur, salt, and iron. Will Rogers joked that the water would "cure you of everything but being a Democrat."
The Hotel Will Rogers was known for exquisite service. Bellhops were waiting to assist with luggage when guests stepped out of their cars. There was maid service, and the hotel was known for the wonderful meals prepared in the coffee shop.
It wasn't until 1994 that the Rogers County Historical Society purchased the Will Rogers Hotel for $1 to save it from the wrecking ball. Rehabilitation of the iconic landmark began in February of 1997 at a cost of more than $2.5 million. The grand re-opening was held on November 15, 1997, when it was renamed the Will Rogers Center.
Knowing the multi-million dollar project was bigger than the historical society could handle by itself, the society entered into a partnership with Metro Plains Development, Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Wa-Ro-Ma Community Action.
In the lobby stands a statue of Will Rogers, a gift donated by the Rogers County Historical Society, entitled "I Don't Tell Jokes. I Just Watch the Government and Report the Facts." The statue represents Will Rogers's career in radio broadcasting. The Will Rogers Hotel now features 38 one and two bedroom apartments on the upper floors. Three of the famous mineral water tubs are preserved on the sixth floor.
The lobby and ballroom are open to the public. Visitors are welcome to view the hotel's lobby Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Photos of the Hotel Will Rogers Renovation Stages
Proposed floor plans for the renovation of the Will Rogers Hotel. As you can see the plan was to create a luxury apartment complex within the building.
To the left you see the fourth and fifth floor proposed build plan, above you will see the sixth floor plan to replace the radium baths with a seven apartments.
Will Rogers Blvd and Hwy 66. This is the South facing side of the Will Rogers Hotel.
This is across the street in what is today, the Walgreens parking lot. You can see the scaffolding that has been placed to work on the outside of the large brick structure.
This is the westward facing side of the building. You can see boarded and broken windows here.
Altar where the Will Rogers statue was to be set
Rear of the Will Rogers Hotel Northwestern view.
North side view of the rear of the Hotel Will Rogers.
Receipt from when the hotel was still serving guests. This is the cost for a honeymoon suite!
The photo above is from approximately the 1970s, while the photo below is of the alley behind the Hotel Will Rogers and this part of the building was used to pump the Radium water to the top of the hotel on the sixth floor. The lower photo was thought to be taken sometime between 1930 and 1950.
Statue of Will Rogers as a radio personality for the KVOO radio station.
Here you can read the report by one of our very own historian -JC about the history and fate of the Hotel Will Rogers. (Courtesy of RCHS archives and Oklahoma Preservation Grant.)
Below is a magazine from 1941 that details all the best hotels in the Midwest area at the time. The man on the cover is John C. Reeves, Manager of the Hotel Muskogee.