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Hotel Lafayette

The Lafayette Hotel building located at North Church and Mulberry Streets was financed by local real estate investor and capitalist Max Liebling at a cost exceeding $400,000. Built from plans created by Edward P. Lewin, Chicago architect, the building was erected the Security Building Company. The Lafayette Hotel Company leased the hotel. The management consisted of Sig Mayer, who operated the Mayer Hotel for many years, and dabbled in real estate, insurance and the automobile tire business is president and managing director of the corporation. His brother Si Mayer, a Chicago businessman was vice president; Roy D. Skorberg, auditor and Arnold V. Lindquist was secretary-treasurer. In their employ was a staff of 30 trained personnel including clerks, bell captains and bell boys, telephone operators, elevator operator and cigar and news stand attendants. Named after the Marquis de Lafayette, the hotel’s most famous guest has been Eleanor Roosevelt.

One of the most handsomely appointed and furnished hotels in the Middle West, the four-story Lafayette Hotel opened to the public on June 2, 1927. Located near the heart of the downtown Rockford business district, the building is faced with white Terracotta combined with the floodlights thrown upon its red color tiled roof, the structure could be seen for a considerable distance at night.  Straight  ahead from the revolving doors of the Mulberry Street entrance to the hotel is the  front desk, to the left of the desk is located the news and magazine stand and  cigar counter. Visitors were impressed with the rich warm tones of the gold and old rose decorated lobby with its green slate floor and French walnut wood trim and period furniture. The lobby was a restful, commodious entrance hall to the home like hotel.

The upper three floors of the fire proof hotel were reserved for the 160 single and double guest rooms, all with outside exposure. The rooms were modeled in design and furnishings similar to those of the Palmer House and Stevens hotels in Chicago. Color schemes had been made to agree perfectly, with the rest of the interior of the hotel. The desk lamps provided a cheery glow in the rooms, the best of furniture, bed springs, mattresses, bedspreads, curtains and carpets furnished the rooms and included a shower bath or tub. Running ice water was provided in all of the corridors and nothing was left undone for the comfort of every guest.

All of the specially built furniture was made Rockford factories and as much of the other equipment was purchased of Rockford concerns as was possible. Lighting fixtures are unique and attractive; corridors have been lighted and carpeted to the best advantage. The two elevators were finished in red lacquer and attractively decorated. The gentleman's lounge and smoking room and retiring rooms were located on the Spanish Floor, while the ladies parlors were just off the lobby.

Yellow Cab company operated the taxi stand in the Lafayette.

Named after the Marquis de Lafayette, the hotel’s most famous guest had been Eleanor Roosevelt.

Opening in conjunction with the Lafayette Hotel were two culinary enterprises, the coffee shop and cafe operated by the Schrom trio of Frank, George, and Arthur on the main floor of the hotel and the rich attractive Spanish tea room located underneath and managed by Mrs. Brownie Shelton. The foursome opened the restaurants to be located close to the heart of downtown. The three Schrom brothers are enjoyed capacity crowds at their cafe at 128 North Main Street and Mrs. Shelton was well known as the former manager of the Martha Brownie tea room. The general design of the two restaurants was different than any of the type of cafes and tea rooms in Rockford at the time. The cafe on the main floor had a 40 foot frontage on Mulberry Street and a depth of 66 feet. The tea room on the Spanish floor was of the same size. A total of $30,000 was spent in furnishing and equipping the upstairs restaurant. The coffee room and cafe was entered by two entrances, one from the street and the other from the hotel lobby. It accommodated 125 persons, The Spanish tea room located on the Spanish floor to the hotel entered by three ways. One entrance is provided from the street, one from the lobby and one from the upstairs café. The tea room was large enough to accommodate 135 persons and was unusual and metropolitan in design and had a small private dance floor in the center of the room. The floor was covered with a velvet carpet. A carpet of the same material covered the dance floor when not in use. A baby grand piano and latest type electronic phonograph had been provided for dancing of private parties in the Spanish tea room. The room had been attractively decorated in the period and design of its title and hosted many fashionable parties. Both upstairs and downstairs restaurants had separate kitchens, fully equipped with all of the latest cooking and baking utensils at that time. dining rooms located on the Spanish Floor, the Chinese Room, the Peacock Room and the Colonial Room. These allowed small parties wishing private dining service accommodations for from eight to thirty people.

Picture courtesy of Crystal Ball

A large electric sign was installed in Mulberry Street for the Schrom Restaurant. There were also three private dining rooms located on the Spanish Floor, the Chinese Room, the Peacock Room and the Colonial Room. These allowed small parties wishing private dining service accommodations for from eight to thirty people.

Other businesses would also open in conjunction with the opening of the hotel such as the Lafayette Hotel Barber and Beauty Shop  located on the lower level Spanish floor operated by James Gallagher and Mrs. Von DerVellen and others as shown below.

The corner room at Church and Mulberry Streets in the new hotel was soon occupied by the Royal Rapid transit company who built a new bus station and waiting room and the Bus Stop Soda Shop. The new space would afford the company much additional floor space and a more convenient location for the traveling public than the present station 323 Chestnut Street. The waiting room was 100 x 24 feet with an entrance into the hotel lobby. The new waiting room was also in conjunction with the plan to relocate the company's general office and headquarters from Madison, Wisconsin to Rockford. The company's fleet of buses was also moved to a bus barn here and Rockford became the center of the Royal Rapid Transit network of "Blue Bus" lines which covers northern Illinois Southern Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa. The bus line ceased operation around 1930 and the former bus station waiting area would be turned into The Mandalay Lounge.

In 1934 Sig Mayer, retiring operator of the hotel sold the property to the Church and Mulberry Corporation with Carl E. Swenson as president, Eugene A. Bliss, vice president and Richard Deming Jr. secretary - treasurer. In September 1938 the Lafayette Hotel was leased to Edwin A. Boss, Des Moines, Iowa, president of the Illinois Boss Hotel Company. Boss Hotels at that time operated 37 units in the Midwest and Mississippi.

A $10,000 remodeling project was undertaken at once by the Boss chain for architectural changes to the Spanish Room and the coffee shop and all the rooms were redecorated and refurnished. Changes were also changed for services offered by the hotel.

A remodeled Lafayette Hotel dinning room circa 1940's

The owners at that time were Carl E. Swenson and Associates. The hotel built in 1927 by Max Liebling and acquired by the Church and Mulberry Corporation in 1934.  Arthur E. Dufenhorst, president of the Faust Hotel Corporation bought the Lafayette in the fall of 1962 from Edwin Boss, head of the Boss Hotel chain. In 1965 Milton A. Fischer, president of Rockford Investment Corp. and Arthur E. Dufenhorst, former owner turned the hotel into an apartment hotel.

A formal opening was held on December 29, 1934 for the Lafayette Tap Room

The Lafayette Hotel is still a fixture in downtown Rockford where it mostly serves as an apartment hotel.

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