Hotel Baker
Hotel Baker is a historic landmark in St. Charles, IL. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been in and out of the hotel business since 1928. The structure of Hotel Baker is made up of brick, concrete, and steel-encased utilities-elements, effectively making the building “fireproof”. The exterior of the building showcases aspects of Spanish Romantic Revival architecture. At the top of the five story building sits a square tower, while the front entrance has a peacock stained glass window centerpiece. Outside is the Hotel's Rose Garden, boathouse, and patios. Originally, the Rose Garden also had a small putting green and fishing pond, and a series of statues built that told the story of 'Little Red Riding Hood'. The Hotel suffered a lack of care, and an owner through the 1960s up until the 1990s, during which much of the original features of this hotel were stolen, or lost.

Hotel Baker was the vision of longtime St. Charles, IL resident, Colonel Edward J. Baker. In 1918, Baker inherited 20 million dollars from his sister Dellora Baker Gates, heiress to the Texaco Oil Company. In 1926, using the interest off the money, Baker started construction on Hotel Baker on the banks of the Fox River in downtown St. Charles on the site of the old Haines Mill, which had been destroyed by fire in 1919. In the 1920's the site was increasingly used as a dumping ground for garbage. Baker's inspiration for building the Hotel, was that a dump should not be the focal point of his home town. He commissioned Wolf, Sexton, Harper, and Trueax of St. Charles to design the hotel. The 55 room hotel blended the latest technology with Spanish Romantic Revival architecture. It was completed in 1928 and cost around 1 million dollars to build. The grand opening of the Baker Hotel commenced on June 2, 1928 with a dinner for 301 guests. The price for spending a night at Hotel Baker in those early years was $2.50. Col. Baker died in 1959, of natural causes, in his sleep at the age of ninety. At the time of his death he was living in rooms 504-505 of the Hotel, with a nurse on attendance staying in room 503. In his will, the Hotel was left to then manager Bud Ziegler, who started out his career at the hotel as a bellboy years prior. The youngest Hotel Manager in history, could not afford to manage the hotel as his own, and so sold it to Baker's niece, and St. Charles socialite, Dellora Norris. Norris attempted to sell the hotel, but after failing to find a buyer she donated it to the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in 1968. It closed for remodeling and reopened in 1971 as a nondenominational residence for the elderly. During its service as a retirement home, the public spaces were still kept open and occupied, but the building fell to ill-repair by neglect, many of the original furnishings were stolen and practically all appointments were lost by the end of the Hotel's service as a facility for assisted living. In 1996, St. Charles businessmen Craig Frank and Neil Johnson bought the Hotel and following a $9 million renovation, cleaning, and upgrading of utilities, the Hotel once again welcomed guests, but proved to be improfitable- Frank and Johnson filed bankruptcy and the Hotel was again closed, now held by the bank. In 2003 the Hotel Baker was bought in auction by Joe Salas. Under ownership of Joe Salas, the Hotel was reconfigured for modern business usage. The raceway that caught water to power the hydroelectric generators- was covered by a patio. The two 16-kilowatt generators themselves were removed and sold, the Generator Room was reconfigured to be merged into the new banquet space, the 'St. Charles Room' which additionally occupied the spaces that were 'Turner's Barbershop' and the 'Marinello Beauty Shop'. The El Coronado Lounge, previously re-named the 'Charlemange Lounge' by Frank and Johnson, was demolished and rebuilt into the 'ROX City Grill' a restaurant taking up the combined space of the previous cocktail lounge and the 'Horseshoe Coffee Shop'. The Trophy Room, which was the Hotel's multi-purpose Lounge and Reception Room, was re-named 'the Waterfront Restaurant' for a brief stint as a functioning restaurant, at that time, the kitchen built in the room by Frank and Johnson was expanded upon, and because of such the Hotel's original pipe organ that occupied the wall was removed and scrapped. When functioning, the Hotel's organ was connected to additional piping that would carry the sound to the Lobby and Rainbow Room Restaurant of the Hotel, the grates and pipes to those outlets, or 'speakers' are still present.

The Hotel Baker opened with the most luxurious amenities of the late 1920s. The main attractions inside the hotel were the Trophy Room and the Rainbow Room. The Trophy Room imitated a Spanish courtyard, complete with balconies, awnings, a fountain, and a simulated sky. The Rainbow Room was built as the 'Rainbow Room Restaurant' where white-tablecloth clad tables surrounded the oval dancefloor. The glass, lighted floor was a marvel and one of only two in the world at the time of its construction and implementation in 1927. Red, green, blue, and amber lights beneath the floor could create spectacular patterns, and images such as a Christmas Tree, or American flag. Unfortunately, following a flood, the lights were re-wired manually and since, the lights 'Amber, Red, Green, and Blue' can only be turned on or off and no longer animate. Though permanently damaged, the Rainbow Room is still a major attraction for guests and the public. Hotel Rooms were from the second floor thru the fourth. The fifth floor was entirely composed of apartments- and the know well-known 'penthouse' did in fact not exist. The sixth floor tower was originally an open patio and functioned as an observation tower. The space was closed in with windows and doors in the 1996 renovation which made the space a private room. The furnishings of the Hotel rooms were sold or stolen when the Hotel was converted to a home for the elderly in the 1970's. They were prominently of the 'William and Mary' style and either padded in leather or maroon fabric. One remaining icon of the original Hotel rooms, are the doors that have been kept from the original rooms. Identified as a 'Servidor' the entrance doors to every Hotel room were equipped with this feature- where the center of the door was hollowed to allow its own compartment accessible from both sides. The Servidor compartments could be used to hold shoes to be shined, linen to be laundered, or messages for the front desk. Guests would simply alert the front desk by 'phone- and their staff could retrieve parcels from the Servidor without having to be admitted into the guests' room. The Servidors, though still standing and functional- are no longer used due to the fact that the keys have been missing for several decades.

The Hotel Baker had its own garage, built in the same style and at the same time as the Hotel. The parking structure was built with marble floors, fitted with brass, and had living space in its top floor for on-duty attendants. The garage had space for cars to be washed and serviced, and was built on the lot connected to the Hotel Baker Rose Garden, access was provided through Illinois Route 31. Master Mason John Anderson constructed stone carvings that embellished the walls of the outer structure of the garage, panels displayed modern and historic modes of transportation, these are, the only remnants of the parking garage, and are displayed currently in the Hotel Baker Rose Garden. The Parking Garage was demolished in the 1970s, and on its ground 'Carrol Tower' was built as an assisted living facility, made to mimic the previous style of the parking structure and Hotel Baker.

The Hotel Baker is listed on the National Record of Historic Places. It also helped earn St. Charles the title of "150 Great Places in Illinois" and the Great American Main Street Award in 2000.