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Hotel Faust

The Midway Hotel Company was formed with the purpose of constructing a hotel in Rockford. The directors of the company were Levin Faust; W. A. Brolin; John Wester; Otto Milburn; Eric S. Ekstrom; Chad W. Holmquist; J. H. Hallstrom; Fred Arnold; B. A. Wilson; Eric E. Hall and Burt M. Allen. While the hotel was being constructed the first name considered was the Midway Hotel as it was across the street from the Midway Theater and halfway between downtown and the Seventh Street shopping district. A community contest was next held to give the hotel a name, prizes were offered and nearly 100,000 suggestions were received. The winning name was the Abraham Lincoln Hotel as shown by the 1928 postcard above. The sentiment however by the directors when that name was selected was to name the hotel in honor of its largest investor Levin Faust, president and chief backer of the project.

A view of the Faust Hotel under construction in 1928. The 400 room Faust Hotel consisted of two wings eleven stories high that were joined by a center tower rising fifty feet above the rest of the building (186 feet). The exterior was of terracotta for the first two stories and above was brick with elaborately molded terracotta trim for a total of fifteen stories above ground. The first floor contained a lobby and a Turkish bath, various stores, a commodious lounge and the main dining room adjoining. The hotel administrative offices, various service departments and a garage occupied the remainder of the first floor. The second floor contained a larger lobby, four attractive private dining rooms and 16 guest rooms. The third to tenth floors inclusive were used for guest rooms exclusively, while the eleventh floor was occupied by a banquet room, a ball room and lounge, all of spacious dimensions. The tower was used for smoking and rest rooms, the housing of necessary storage tanks and the upper portion provided a promenade, penthouse and observatory and was capped off with a flag pole on top of the tower section that flies the American flag 24 hours a day.

Hotel Faust, 618 East State Street opened to the public for the first time on April 30, 1929 with the formal opening held May 25, 1929. The tower was capped off with a flag pole that flies the American flag 24 hours a day. Seven of the nine stores would also open in the hotel at that time; Maxine Art & Gift Shop, Faust Ladies Ready to Wear shop, Faust Bootery, Faust Coffee and Food Shop, Faust Pharmacy, Faust Flower Shop, Hallstrom Insurance Agency. Two other stores would soon follow including a barber and beauty shop. The Black & White Taxi Cab Company would relocate their business here as well. In the 1929 photo shown here you can see the Midway Theater at bottom left and the State Street Baptist Church at far left. The Black & White taxis were waiting outside to whisk guests to their destinations as a street car passes on State Street, at that time the area was surrounded mostly by houses and apartments.

Black & White Cab advertisement from 1929

In this 1931 view of East State Street on the left is the Hotel Faust and on the bottom right is the Shumway Market Building, 713 East State built in 1920 as a scale house, office facility and restroom for the Shumway public farmers market or more commonly known as the City Market, a tradition dating back to 1904. Top right is the 1918 Spanish Renaissance style Midway Theater Building located at 721 East State. Featuring a 90 foot tall clock tower and 2000 seat auditorium, the theater was built by the Ascher Brothers theater chain of Chicago. The Midway Theater was billed as the "Midwest's Largest Theater" at the time.

Hotel Faust Lobby Lounge 1929

Levin Faust was a Rockford industrialist and civic leader who along with several others founded Mechanics Universal Joint Company and National Lock Company. Levin Faust also helped to organize several other companies including ELCO, Rockford Drop Forge, Sundstrand and Estwing Manufacturing. He was also credited with helping launch the Rockford Park District. Because of Levin Faust’s heavy investment in the hotel, during the 1933 Depression the hotel went bankrupt and Levin Faust lost his fortune and the hotel  entered receivership. Federal Judge Charles E. Woodward appointed Will C. Sparks of Rockford as receiver.

In 1935 the Rainbo Room would open in the space formerly occupied by the Faust coffee shop. The room was host to numerous local and national big band and jazz performers who played for the many customers who dined and danced. An outside entrance was added for the benefit of the customers. Declared to be the most beautiful night club in Northern Illinois or Southern Wisconsin, The Rainbo room was resplendent with color and attractive modern appointments. Shining chromium fixtures, brilliantly colored semi-circular leather booths, a solid mahogany bar and elevated orchestra stage were just some of its features.

After several years during which trusteeship of the hotel was in the hands of a receiver, a reorganization plan was approved and the National Hotel Company assumed management control in July 1937. In taking over the hotel the chain company announced the outlay of more than $100,000 in remodeling and improving the facilities. This included large scale installation of new culinary equipment, redecorating the lobby and the hotel’s 400 rooms and 36 apartments

The Hotel Faust’s new coffee shop opened in 1938 and was located at the southwest corner of the first floor. It was completely modern throughout and air conditioned. The color scheme of the restaurant, which could accommodate 170 patrons at one time, was in harmonizing yellow, blue and red. The coffee shop was serviced from a new kitchen especially built for this purpose and featured the latest in cooking equipment.

A view of East State Street in 1939 ten years after the hotel opened, by this time the surrounding area was one of Rockford's finest entertainment districts with the Midway Theater - the Midwest's Largest Theater, many restaurants, lounges, ballrooms and the popular Rainbo Room of the Faust. Notice the "Cities Service” service station on the left.

On December 31, 1941 the Hotel Faust advertised what was probably the biggest New Year's Eve celebration in the history of Rockford's most popular hostelry. There was two big parties, one formal in the Rainbo Room at which Curtis Arden and his band played and featured a floor show of exceptional class.. In the eleventh floor ballroom Larry Barrett and his 12 piece orchestra played an informal party with favors and entertainment.

Arthur E. Dufenhorst, an auto dealer and hotel owner would take a controlling interest in the hotel in 1946. Dufenhorst entered the auto business in 1923 as a dealer for Hudson and Essex cars and later became distributor of Marmon cars for the state of Wisconsin and upper Michigan and operated his agency in Milwaukee for many years. He became interested in the hotel business when he became president of the Racine Hotel Company of Racine, Wisconsin. The Faust Hotel thrived during the 1940’s and 50’s under Defunhorst’s ownership.

The Old Colony Room at the Faust opened on September 1, 1954 as part of a re-building of the northeast section of the main floor when three new dining rooms were created. Each dining area was individual and a new kitchen was created to serve the new dining areas. As part of the project new entrance doors were installed on the hotel, shops remodeled and signs changed. The Old Colony Room was exquisitely done in a Colonial design offering the ultimate of gracious dining. With fine Swedish linen tablecloths the room was decorated with golds, ivories and reds and was said to offer its patrons the ultimate in gracious dining.

The Viking Grill opened September 1, 1954 and was Swedish modern in style and featured a sloping beamed ceiling, Viking stained glass windows, massive crab orchard stone pillars, rich wood paneling and traditional furniture all combined to make the room a most distinctive room, entirely new air conditioned and exquisitely done with every thought of the patrons dining pleasure.

The Lobby Lounge at Hotel Faust, originally built in the 1930's and upgraded to a more modern look shown here during a major $1.2 million interior and exterior modernization of the hotel between 1947-56 by Dufenhorst.

Faust Recreation Alleys were located in the lower lobby of the hotel and opened on August 19, 1949.  The six lane alley was among the world's best so claimed the hotel, air conditioned and sound proofed with shadow proof lighting. The Pub was also located in the lower lobby; it was a secluded nook reminiscent of old England. Original in conception and flawless in detail, gracious in service. The bowling alley and pub were added as part of the six year renovation of the hotel.

The Terrace Lounge opened on September 17, 1956. The lounge got its name from the various levels in the room. It was designed by Alex Rindskopf to create a striking Persian effect. Tables with inlaid tops and etched glass dividers combined with a charcoal gray, rose, gold and beige color scheme to carry out this theme. A handmade Deutsch ceramics pagoda in the center of the oval bar was the most unique feature in the Terrace Lounge. It was made of colorful ceramic tiles in lovely Persian design. The jewels at the base of the pagoda were brought from Bavaria by the designer. The sides of the bar were carpeted with a modern Persian influenced raised level fabric. The ceiling of the room was perforated for heating and cooling to eliminate all drafts. There were two synchronized television sets built into the walls of the lounge.

The Bill Engberg Orchestra one of Rockford’s most popular bands during the big band era of the 1940’s played at the Hotel Faust on several occasions.

In its heyday, the Faust was known as the premier hotel for Rockford, hosting such dignitaries as President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the 1960 Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, as well as one of the Kings of Sweden during a visit to the Swedish community located in Rockford. It was home to many conventions, meetings, weddings and celebrations of all kinds. The Faust Hotel was in decline by the mid 1960's when Interstate 90 and U. S. 20 Bypass were built on Rockford's outskirts and diverted downtown traffic from U. S. 20 and U.S. 51 that went through the city.

In September 1966 Dufenhorst offered to remodel the hotel and sell it to the Rockford Housing Authority for use as 250 housing units for the elderly. His offer was not accepted. In 1971 he was successful in selling the hotel to Dale and Donald Levinson who owned the Rockford Trust and Talcott buildings downtown. By 1973 the Levinson’s were bankrupt and the hotel was sold at auction to Rockford’s Tebala Shriners and the hotel was renamed to Tebala Towers. Since 1929 the hotel was adorned with a set of large 14 foot red neon letters in a double row that proclaimed Faust Hotel. The Shriners would follow in the same path and replaced the letters with ones reading Tebala Towers on north top side and the east top side of the building. In the early 1980s a fierce windstorm knocked down some of the letters, damaging the building and putting pedestrians & residents at risk. All of these letters were taken down shortly after this incident.

After twelve years of ownership by Tebala Shrine the building was sold to Guilford Management Corp. in 1985 and converted the 400 hotel rooms into low income apartments for the elderly. The hotel was once again renamed to Faust Landmark and continues as such today.

Our friend Matthew Gibbons has one of the bowling balls from the old Faust Recreation Alleys in his collection and shared this picture with us.

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