When considering the history of Joplin, there’s no other structure that captures the character of the city quite like the Connor Hotel.
The Connor’s history is Joplin’s history, says Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute of International Studies at Missouri Southern and author of the new book “Joplin’s Connor Hotel,” published by The History Press.
“Joplin’s history is so closely intertwined with that of the Connor,” says Stebbins. “The Connor Hotel made Joplin feel like a world-class city and helped shed its image as rough and tumble mining town. The Connor provided a sense of elegance and wealth to the state and the rest of the country.”
Stebbins will offer a presentation on the history of the storied hotel during the city’s 148th birthday celebration from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 23, in the council chambers of Joplin City Hall, 602 S. Main St.
The Connor opened in April 1908, at a time when Joplin was a lead and zinc mining boomtown. Located on the northwest corner of Fourth and Main streets, it was the creation of Thomas Connor, a wealthy land speculator who died before its completion.
“It had a spacious lobby and grand marble staircase,” says Stebbins. “It was the main gathering place for many years. If you sat in the lobby, you would see politicians, celebrities, actors, con men and gangsters (pass through its doors).”
Some of those notable figures included Harry Truman, who stayed at the Connor the night before accepting the vice presidential nomination, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pretty Boy Floyd and many others.
The Connor was in the national spotlight in November of 1978, with its premature collapse as it was being readied for demolition. Two workers at the site were killed, while a third was trapped for more than 80 hours before he was rescued.
Stebbins, who worked on the project for five years, gathered enough material for two books. The second book, which he self-published, is devoted to the Connor’s namesake, “Tom Connor: Joplin’s Millionaire Zinc King.”
Both books will be available for purchase during the city’s birthday celebration. “Joplin’s Connor Hotel” is $20, while “Tom Connor” is $10. The books can be purchased together for $25.
The celebration will be aired live on KGCS-TV, the university’s television station. KGCS can be seen on channel 21, and is also available on regional cable television systems such as Sparklight, Mediacom and Suddenlink Communications.