The Hotel Carpenter

221 S. Phillips Ave.

On Tuesday October 15th, 1912 the Hotel Carpenter opened its doors for the first time. It's proprietors aimed to provide courtesy, cleanliness and service.

This postcard was sent just two months after the hotel opened. It still had that new sheet smell in most rooms.

Rumor has it there were wire cages with a mattress in the basement that could be had for a quarter a night.

Notice the trolley passed right in front of the hotel.

The Hotel Carpenter was keen on attracting business from other nearby hotels that had a history of burning down. Namely the Cataract and Merchant's hotels. The Carpenter was constructed with concrete to make it fire proof. Here we can see that this was positively screamed from the rooftop.
The Carpenter was, as we can see, once run by the Sheraton hotel chain. The ginormous "Fire proof" sign once suspended precariously over the street has been removed. In my imagination, it came crashing down upon a parade of clowns. Clowns are creepy.

Notice the schlocky marquee used to update the old-looking hotel. This was later removed completely.

Update 6/4/2006

Here we see the Carpenter at rock-bottom. Even the backlit awning over the door is broken and sad-looking. Even the retail space below the once comfortable and welcoming rooms is unused. and a hideous facade is placed over the former entryway. Seemed the style at the time.

In 2006 the Carpenter is on its way to a renewed glory. The addition of a beautiful marquee restores dignity to this wonderful landmark. They have yet to add the giant clown-crushing sign, but there's time.

Thankfully destructive urban renewal petered out before it took this beauty. The Cataract hotel was not so lucky.

Here's the gorgeous lobby of the classic hotel. I'm not sure what year this is, but it was a more enlightened time when there were spitoons available for the public. Try to find one nowadays.
The lobby has been restored and updated. Not quite the same as the lobby pictured in the postcard, but pretty nice. You don't see the full columns because the space on the other side is being used for Mrs. Murphy's Irish Gifts.

Note the blatant dearth of spitoons.

I have bleary recollections of this area from the late '80s or early '90s. Beyond those doors was The Mad Hatter, the place to go to chug Killians on tap and listen to whatever band was in the area at the time.

Not long before that, this space was occupied by D'amato's Restaurant. At that time, a friend and I did some tresspassing upstairs. The pigeons were furious. We almost didn't make it out alive.

The upper floors are now being used for apartments, and nice ones from the looks of things. Downtown is getting a new life and it's a great thing to see. The glory of Phillips avenue's heydays faded, taken over by the malls. Downtown fell into disuse and atrophied. Now we can see it begin to breathe again. Developers are grabbing even the nastiest historic spaces and renovating for commercial and residential use. At least for the time being, the mindless destruction of all historic buildings downtown has come to an end.

Thanks to Koch Hazard for the pre-restore photo of the Carpenter. Also for

doing such a wonderful job of puting a shine back on this historical gem.

This page last edited June 4, 2006

© www.GreetingsFromSiouxFalls.com