‘The Finest Hotel West of New York’: Joplin’s Connor Hotel a Source of Community Pride

It was the center of Joplin’s social scene, and located mere blocks from the Joplin Junior College campus.

Opened in 1908, the Connor Hotel was named in memory of the late Thomas Conner, who owned the previous Joplin Hotel at Third and Main Streets. He demolished that building in 1906 with the grand vision of a more ambitious and opulent structure.

The 200-room Connor opened for business on April 12, 1908. The neo-classical design featured an exterior of Carthage limestone and brick, and an interior that sported stone, marble, bronze and mahogany. An open-air rooftop garden, billiards parlor and barbershop were among the amenities.

A total of 125 patrons booked rooms that day, and 350 were served in the hotel dining room. An additional 200 people were turned away from dining at the hotel, as the event drew throngs of locals eager to check it out.

The line to get in sported “handsomely gowned women with waving plumes on their hats and men attired in evening dress,” according to a story in The Joplin Globe newspaper.

A ninth-story ballroom was added in 1915, and a nine-story annex with more than 150 additional rooms opened in 1928.

Visitors had their choice of five different room rates. For $2 per night, one could rent a room that had a lavatory. The $2.50 and $3 had tiled bathrooms, while the largest corner rooms ran $3.50 to $4.

The Connor, described by management as “the finest hotel west of New York,” continued to thrive for the next few decades. Community pride in the business was evident in a Globe editorial timed to the opening of the new annex.

“Not only is the new Connor a hotel finer than any other commercial hostelry in any city the size of Joplin in the entire world, but it is a hotel property that would be a source of pride for a city two, three or even four times as large as this town; a hotel that even the largest cities would hold in high esteem.”

The Connor’s decline was tied to that of the area mining industry, and exacerbated by competition from new motels. Its doors were closed in 1969.

As the building was being fitted with dynamite for demolition, the structure collapsed in 1978. Two workers were killed, while a third was rescued after being trapped for more than 80 hours.

The Joplin Public Library was built on the site of the hotel. In 2017, a new library was built on East 20th Street. The old library building was acquired by the Missouri Southern Foundation with an eye toward creating a downtown presence for the university.

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