The Chase Hotel has witnessed much of St. Louis’s history within the last century. Built by Chase Ulman, the 500-room, nine-story hotel first opened its doors on September 29, 1922, and quickly became a well-known St. Louis landmark. In 1929, Sam Koplar built the 28-story Park Plaza Hotel right beside the Chase. The two hotels merged to become the Chase Park Plaza in 1947.
Throughout the Chase’s history its stories, secrets, and legends grew ever wilder. During Prohibition, a whiskey raid in the hotel’s posh Palm Room on New Year’s Eve of 1922 led to a headline-grabbing brawl between federal agents and furious partygoers. In 1956 the Chase hosted the Miss America contest, and Wrestling at the Chase brought professional wrestling excitement to televisions across St. Louis from 1959 to 1983. The facility has hosted eight presidents, and celebrity guests have included Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Perry Como, the Rolling Stones, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The hotel’s Khorassan Ballroom was the venue for the Veiled Prophet Ball for several years.
By 1982, Koplar had sold the hotel, and the Park Plaza became an apartment complex. Within a few years the Chase began to struggle, closing its doors on September 22, 1989. Investors recognized the Chase’s place in St. Louis history and renovated it. The grand reopening occurred in 1999. Today the National Trust for Historic Preservation lists the Chase Park Plaza among its “Historic Hotels of America.”
In the early 1940s the tall lettering of this neon art deco marquee announced the hotel to the world from its rooftop Zodiac Room. Although most of the neon tubing was missing by the time the Missouri History Museum acquired the sign in 1991, the “C” was completely refurbished for the 250/250 exhibit celebrating St. Louis’s 250th anniversary in 2014. The Museum will conserve the entire sign for the upcoming Route 66: Main Street Through St. Louis exhibit in June, 2016. If you are interested in contributing to help conserve the Chase sign, please contact please use this site or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is more information about the exhibit in which the Chase sign will appear:
Route 66: Main Street Through Saint Louis
Known as the “Mother Road” and the “Main Street of America,” Route 66 played an influential role in American history. Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west throughout the early 20th century.
People doing business along the route became prosperous as the popularity of the highway grew, and then suffered with the arrival of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. As the largest city between Los Angeles and Chicago, St. Louis was largely spared the declined of the Route 66, but the famous road has a story to tell about our region and how it has changed.
(Chain of Rocks Amusement Park)
Come get your kicks by learning about the motels, custard stands, tourist traps, and countless stories that could be found along the road as it crossed the Mississippi and headed west. Visitors will see artifacts from gas pumps to roadside signs, Airstreams to jukeboxes, and even get a chance to drive the road themselves!