In the 1920s, Colonel Edward J. Baker had ambitious dreams. After returning to his native St. Charles, Illinois, he could sense the small midwestern town was about to experience big things and he wanted to get in on the action. His dream was to build the finest hotel in the burgeoning town that would offer rest and relaxation at a low price. At that point in time, only Chicago offered such respite. Chicago was several miles away and not everyone could afford to stay in the Windy City’s hotels.
When a plot of land along the Fox River became available in 1926, Colonel Baker purchased it at a cheap price. It was discounted because it was the old city dump and the remains of Haines Mill that burned to the ground in 1918 were still standing. The old mill was the lifeblood of the town and Baker was determined to replace it with his hotel.
When the Hotel Baker opened two years later, Colonel Baker called it, “The world’s finest small hotel,” and many citizens of St. Charles agreed wholeheartedly. Although Colonel Baker was a wealthy man, he never forgot his humble beginnings. He still considered himself to be just a farmer and that sincere modesty endeared him to many people from every walk of life. It was that modesty that kept his hotel full and his guests happy.
Perhaps the most celebrated feature of the hotel was the Rainbow Room, the hotel’s restaurant and ballroom. In its day, the Rainbow Room hosted several stars of the screen and stage. These celebrities included jazz musician Louis Armstrong, Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo. Through it all, Colonel Baker never turned a profit and as far as he was concerned the only thing that mattered was his guest’s comfort.
As the 1950s came to a close, time and age caught up with Baker and in 1959, he passed from this world. In his will, Baker left the hotel to his beloved niece, Dellora. Eventually, Dellora, became too infirm to run the hotel and sold it to Lutheran Social Services. The once beloved hotel became an assisted living home in 1970.
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As the years passed, the building fell into disrepair and Lutheran Social Services took to selling the art and antiques to pay the bills. With the outlook of the retirement home looking bleak, the building was sold at auction.
In 1996, two local investors bought the Hotel Baker and set about restoring it. The Hotel Baker was once again open to guests. The hotel offered tastefully decorated rooms, a lovely view of the Fox River and an added bonus the owners never expected: ghosts.
According to local legend, before the hotel was sold to the Lutherans, a young woman allegedly committed suicide. When her husband left her at the altar on their wedding day, the young woman decided to end her heartache. She walked into the cold, rushing waters of the Fox River and was swept away, never to be seen again…well, not in life anyways.
The sixth floor, a penthouse, appears to be the young woman’s favorite haunt. Guests have reported hearing the unmistakable sound of a woman weeping inconsolably. The penthouse is also said to have a feeling of deep regret permeating it at times and an inexplicable cold breeze that fills the room even on hot days.
Unexplained voices and cold spots aren’t the only phenomena at the hotel. Guests have called down to the front desk complaining of some unseen person tearing the blankets from their beds as they sleep. When they go to investigate a possible intruder, they find nothing.
Lastly, a number of people have witnessed the apparition of a maid carrying out her daily chores. When someone attempts to engage the maid in conversation, she vanishes before their eyes. No one can say with any certainty who this maid was in life, but she certainly must have enjoyed her work enough to continue doing it from beyond the grave.
Since opening its doors a century ago, Hotel Baker has been an integral part of St. Charles life. Not only is it a hotel, it’s also a meeting place for the community and it hosts banquets and weddings. Hotel Baker is a mainstay in this small Illinois city, and its ghosts are there to stay.
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