Essay by F. Cunningham, Hotel Founder
Before today [first Farmer’s Day on Dec 15, 1923] the Grand Opening of the Wheat Growers Hotel had been the largest gathering in Kimball. It was almost five years to the day that I swung open my doors and welcomed the city into the first class Wheat Grower’s Hotel. Everyone marveled at the decorations that I put in the lobby. I heard them all say, “Frank Cunningham’s gone crazy for building such a fancy place in Nebraska.” I even heard one little kid say, “Mr. Cunningham must be really rich or really stupid.”
Well the hotel did cost me a pretty penny. About $100,000 if I remember right, but it was worth every penny. I made sure it stayed true to the roots of Kimball – wheat farming. Right in the middle of the floor is an inlaid shock of wheat in the tile and there is a huge mural of wheat thrashing in the lobby. Not to mention the bricked in name on front of the building.
That was just the decoration, though. I built a quality hotel, right down to the cheapest single bed room in the place. I made sure every room had all the modern day conveniences, a person would expect in a larger town. All 86 rooms were furnished with electricity, plumbing, and steam heating. I also helped design the heating system that kept the entire building very comfortable, even in the worst storms Nebraska could throw at me. Every room that had an outside wall was heated directly, while the inner rooms stayed warm just because the cold air never reached them. That was a pretty slick piece of work if I do say so myself.
Like I said, it was quiet a scene the first time I opened for business. I think there was over 200 people here, and that was back in 1918. I enjoyed playing tour director; showing off my pride and joy. All the rooms on the top floors, a plush lobby and restaurant on the ground floor, and Kimball’s largest ballroom in the basement. I kept hearing the same question, “Frank, why build it in Kimball?” Well why not?
The way I figured it the railroad brings the whole country right to my front door. Who knows this cross country road, the Lincoln Highway I think they call it, might actually become popular someday, and bring even more people to Kimball. And all those people need a place to stay. I think I built the best hotel between Lincoln and Salt Lake City, well there might be a place or two in Cheyenne that comes close, so this will give travelers a reason to stop in Kimball. I’ll say it again, why not build a first class hotel in Kimball?
The Wheat Grower’s Hotel is my dream come true. How did I get the money to make my dream come true? Well like most everyone else in the area I was a wheat farmer. During the first world war the government was paying a premium for wheat. They needed all the supplies they could get. So, like most people I buckled down and grew as much wheat as humanly possible, you know to help the war effort. Also to make a nice profit on the side.
It sure helped that the five best years for growing wheat that Kimball has ever seen happened at the same time. Farmers are always complaining about the rain, the sun, and the wind; but during that time nobody could say a bad thing about the weather. I had been a farmer for all my life, and I had never seen such a prosperous stretch; indeed, I have never seen one since. I knew anything that good couldn’t last. Owning my very own hotel had always been a dream of mine, so I took the opportunity to move out farming and into the hotel business.
Right now I am happy just to run the “Jewel of Western Nebraska.” That’s the nickname for this place – the Wheat Grower’s Hotel. If you’d excuse me, I have some matter to attend to in the ball room.
Source: Frank Cunningham (presumably), written in 1923, 4-page essay, appears to have been re-typed from an original source.