Jefferson City is the only city that was built for the express purpose of being a state capital. Incorporated in 1825, though some records say 1839, it had 31 families, a general store, a hotel, and a few other buildings. Neither the name of the hotel or its exact location is known.
There are numerous references in Missouri Historical Review that a hotel stood on Madison Street across from the Governor’s Mansion. Mrs. Alfred J. Basye, in 1846, conducted a family hotel at that location for the benefit of state officers and members of the legislature.
Best records indicate the Madison Hotel was built in the early 1870s at that same location.
One well documented event took place January 1872. The Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich, third son of the Tsar Alexander II, visited the United States during President Ulysses S. Grant’s second administration. Arriving in St. Louis on Jan. 6, 1872, the Grand Duke included Jefferson City on his tour Jan. 23-24. Luncheon was served at the Governor’s Mansion at noon and the Grand Duke adjourned to the Madison Hotel at 3 p.m. to receive visitors for an hour before his return to St. Louis.
The Madison Hotel served as a meeting place for many political conventions and other festive gatherings. Richard H. Sylvester, a member of the Owl Press Club, said, “The Madison House at the State Capital was the principal rendezvous day and night. It was in the lobby of this Hotel that such men as Marmaduke, Crittenden, Joe Shelby and Jim Burns used to gather and shape the future of state politics.”
Surviving the turn of the 20th century, the Madison Hotel continued to serve politicians and other dignitaries in Missouri’s capital. However, it did not survive the 1930s. In 1931, a fire damaged the Madison and nearly took the lives of several legislators and lobbyists. A second fire destroyed the historic hotel in 1939.
The loss of the Madison was a blow to the capital. As Howard Cook, president of Central Trust Bank, wrote to a potential developer in 1940, “Because of state conventions and for dozens of other excellent reasons, Jefferson City hotel facilities are not nearly ample at the present time. Many other gatherings, large and small, would naturally come here, if comfortable hotel accommodations could be obtained.”
It would be another ten years before any attempt would be made to build another hotel. Eventually, another hotel was built across from the Governor’s Mansion, but the Madison Hotel was gone forever.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.firstname.lastname@example.org