By Michael Bushnell
The Hotel Victoria, located at the northeast corner of Ninth and McGee streets, was a fine, substantial hotel when it originally opened in 1888. It was especially popular with cattlemen who were in town to transact business at the stockyards. This was, of course, by design, given the hotel’s owner and builder was George Holmes, a former Western Freighter who had worked with Alexander Majors in the promotion and development of the Santa Fe Trail in order to develop commerce with Mexico.
Holmes was born in England in 1834 and immigrated to Independence, Mo., in 1850. He moved to the city of West Port and worked as a bookkeeper in a general store there. In 1857 he entered the livestock trading business and operated in an office in the old Livestock Exchange Building in the West Bottoms, adjacent to the Stockyards.
A write up on the hotel in “A History of the American Hotel,” gives the Victoria credit for having a first in hotel history. The reference notes: “The first to make the boast of having a bath in every suite appears to have been the Victoria Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, built by George Holmes on Ninth Street between McGee and Oak and opened on May 14, 1888.”
The Victoria had 240 rooms, all parlor and bedroom suites with a bath for each suite. Hotels of the day normally had common, shared facilities “down the hall” but the Victoria was the first to embrace privacy for all.
The hotel underwent a major remodel early in the 20th century under the direction of Proprietor L.V.E. Moore. According to a published account in the 1915, Pen and Sunlight Sketches of Kansas City, the hotel “won its way into the favor of the traveling public and is now one of the most liberally patronized hotels in the city.”
On February 12, 1960, the Victoria succumbed to a fire of unknown origin and the building was declared a total loss. Firefighters who were on the scene were covered with water and ice due to the frigid temperatures. Icicles hung everywhere throughout the scene, creating an eerie sight in the shadows of the flames. Four nearby buildings were damaged in the conflagration, including the old Frederick Hotel. Thirty-five people were evacuated from the fire, but no fatalities were reported.