The tall tales of the DoubleTree Hotel building.
Memories are a funny thing. If asked, many would say their memories are highly accurate. However, time and time again, experiments have proven that human recall is not as reliable as we believe it to be.
Jefferson City has its own memory test in a way. Ask a handful of people in town if the top floor of the old Holiday Inn building, located at 422 Monroe St., ever rotated. Chances are, at least a few would say yes. Some might even recall visiting the location as a child and remember the top floor spinning. Any such memories have been altered by time or perhaps mixed up with memories of visits to a different building in another city. The top floor of the Holiday Inn building never rotated — nor were there ever plans for it to turn.
The top floor features several windows that provide a panoramic scene of downtown Jefferson City, so it’s easy to see why some might think it rotated. Built in 1967, the Jefferson City Holiday Inn is the second-tallest building downtown (the State Capitol building is first). Since then, it has served as a defining piece of local architecture and culture. Although it never spun, for decades, residents and visitors have enjoyed the unique perspective of seeing so much of downtown Jefferson City from several stories up.
Mid-century modern architect Leonard Lundgren originally designed the “corncob” style building. He had been hired by Holiday Inn in the early 1960s to create the first round hotel in the world. Leonard remembered that when inspiration struck, he drew out the first few floors in a matter of hours. The first building of this type was built in Austin, Texas. Holiday Inn used his design for the next several years to recreate this building style in communities throughout the country. Unfortunately, few of these buildings remain today.
Internationally known structural engineer Tung-Yen Lin also contributed to the building. Lin was a Chinese-American structural engineer and pioneered the standardized use of prestressed concrete. The Holiday Inn corncob was one of Lin’s first designs, which utilized clear-spanning concrete techniques. In 1969, the Jefferson City Downtown Holiday Inn was named in the top 8% of 1,150 Holiday Inns throughout the world.
Vinca Enterprises purchased the property in 2005 and began a dramatic restoration and reconstruction project. The building was gutted and rebuilt on the existing concrete and steel-reinforced frame. During the remodel, Vinca Enterprises put great effort into recycling as much scrap materials as possible. Upon finishing, the building reopened as a DoubleTree Hotel, a member of the Hilton Family hotels, with 151 guest rooms. Currently, the hotel rooms are being remodeled again, with the project expected to conclude this summer.
Before the hotel was constructed, the site was home to Central School, Jefferson City’s first high school. Built in 1871, the building served all ages of students, with the lower grades occupying the first and second floors of the building while the high school used the third floor. The first class at Central School graduated in 1875. A year later, records show that 13 pupils were enrolled at the school. The original Central School featured a mansard roof which was a style popular in the latter part of the 1800s. The mansard roof was removed when the building underwent a renovation in 1904. The entire structure was sold in 1923 to the Lutheran Church, which also used it for a school until 1961. The building was demolished in 1962, and the lot sat empty until 1967, when the Holiday Inn was erected.
The current building sits on a site that might not typically be considered beautiful at first glance. It is, undoubtedly, eye-catching with its cylindrical shape topped by a wall of reflective windows that have made people stop and look for almost 60 years. Like an interesting piece of art, it makes one ask questions. It pushed the envelope for architecture when it was built and serves as a physical reminder of an era that is now gone.