Hotel History

Hotel History - Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky

Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 123 - By Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC

HTrends 1. Hotel History: Boone Tavern Hotel*

Built on the old Dixie Highway and named after Kentucky explorer Daniel Boone, the historic Boone Tavern Hotel is located on College Square in Berea, Kentucky. The hotel is owned by Berea College and operated with student workers from the College Labor Program. Students earn money for books, room and board but pay no tuition (valued at $25,500 per year), thanks to the generosity of donors who support Berea College's mission of providing a free high quality education for students primarily from Appalachia who have high academic potential and limited financial resources.

Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky

Berea College was founded in 1855 by abolitionists John Gregg Fee and Cassius Marcellus Clay** as a liberal arts work college which charges no tuition. Berea was the first college in the southern United States to be coeducational and racially integrated. It has a full-participation work-study program where students are required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in over 130 departments.

In 1866, Berea's first full year after the Civil War, it registered 187 students (96 African Americans and 91 whites) who took preparatory study classes to ready them for college-level courses. In 1869, the first college students were admitted and the first bachelor's degrees were awarded in 1873.

*Excepted from my new book "Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi"

**The greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, Muhammed Ali, was also born Cassius Marcellus Clay. His father Marcellus Clay, a sign painter, named his son for the white Kentucky anti-slavery crusader.

Wikipedia's research on Berea College reports:

In 1904, the Kentucky state legislature's passage of the "Day Law" disrupted Berea's interracial education by prohibiting education of black and white students together. The college challenged the law in state court and further appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in Berea College v. Kentucky. When the challenge failed, the college had to become a segregated school, but it set aside funds to help establish the Lincoln Institute near Louisville to educate black students. In 1925, famed advertiser Bruce Barton, a future congressman, sent a letter to 24 wealthy men in America to raise funds for the college. Every single letter was returned with a minimum of $1,000 in donations. In 1950, when the law was amended to allow integration of schools at the college level, Berea promptly resumed its integrated policies.

Boone Tavern Hotel features 63 guestrooms furnished with hand-made early American furniture made by Berea students in the College woodcraft shop. The Boone Tavern Restaurant is so well known for its long-standing tradition of excellent food that in 2003 it received the Duncan Hines Excellence in Hospitality Award. The Tavern's spoon bread, a corn meal-based concoction, is so beloved that the city holds an annual Spoon bread Festival.

In order to support its extensive scholarship program, Berea College has one of the largest financial reserves of any American college when measured on a per-student basis. The endowment stands at $950 million, down from its 2007 height of $1.1 billion. The base of Berea College's finances is dependent on substantial contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations that support the mission of the college and donations from alumni. A solid investment strategy increased the endowment from $150 million in 1985 to its current amount.

In 2010, the Boone Tavern Hotel was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council making it the first LEED certified hotel in Kentucky. The Boone Tavern Hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2. Quote of the Month

Before the Civil War, Cassius Marcellus Clay wrote "For better or worse, the black people are among us... We must educate them, for one day they will be part of our governing society."

Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903), a white abolitionist who was Kentucky's greatest anti-slavery crusader and one of the founders of Berea College.

3. My New Book

My new book, "Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi" is available now. It is a paperback which tells the stories of 86 historic hotels (50 rooms or more) and each is illustrated with an antique postcard. It has a foreword, preface, introduction, bibliography and index. It has been accepted by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute for promotion, distribution and sale.

On February 25, 2014, Ed Watkins, Editor-at-Large, HotelNewsNow wrote:

I'm kind of a hotel history buff. After all, for the past 40 years I've had a front-row seat to most of the important trends, developments and personalities that have driven this business.

I'm not alone in that interest in history. Consultant and veteran hotel executive Stanley Turkel loves to look at the history of the hotel industry, particularly those decades before my time on the scene. He's written several great books on the topic, including his latest, "Built to Last," which is a look at nearly 100 hotels east of the Mississippi that are at least 100 years old.

His profiles cover large and small, famous and less-well-known properties that have stood the test of time. Besides an interesting read for hotel geeks like me, the book traces the roots of modern hospitality and offers lessons to today's hoteliers on how to find and keep guests.

Go to Stanley's website for more information on these hotels, on his career and his writing.

You can order a copy on my website ( Click on Books.

Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC

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