The Cottage House

            In 1867, George Biglin built a three room cottage and blacksmith shop at 25 north Neosho in Council Grove.  In 1871, Reverend Joab Spencer bought the property and built a two story house around the cottage and began taking in boarders.  This house is referred to as an Italianate ‘cube’ in the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, and is supposed to be the southeast section of the Cottage House Hotel.  The Spencers sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Mead in 1879.  Mead was partner with McCollom in a hardware and grocery business, you may remember their building burned in the 1886 fire.  Mead helped organize the Morris County State Bank in 1878 and became president as well.  His first wife Sarah died in 1886, and it was his second wife, Sarah’s sister Josephine, who made the hotel the pinnacle of luxury and comfort.  In fact, Aunt Jo’s gift parlor is named after the illustrious Josephine Mead.

In an interview with Connie Essington I learned that the Meads were entertainers.  Mrs. Mead was known for her delectable dishes.  They served the best food on the best China, and everything in the table arrangement was to be nothing short of perfection and elegance.  In 1898 the Meads had a 5000 square foot addition built.  This gave the Cottage House the look we recognize today; a brick, two story semi-circular front with corbelled parapet and the distinctive front porch with gazebos.

It was at this same time the Honeymoon Cottages directly south of the main hotel were built.  Originally these rooms were known as the Sample Rooms.  Traveling salesmen displayed their wares in the Sample Room and when a customer was ready to make a purchase they would use the Writing Room (in the north lobby of the main building) to fill out the paperwork.

An article in the Kansas City Star of February 12th 1911 gives a visitor’s description of the hotel.  It emphasized that the Cottage House was unlike any other hotel in that when a person entered they felt as though they were at home.  It didn’t look or feel like other hotels, it wasn’t musty and dirty with old worn furnishings.  Instead, there were expensive carpets and richly upholstered chairs and rockers, a big leather couch and a large library table.  The lobby was kept neat and clean like the parlor of anyone’s home.  The bedrooms had high ceilings and were clean, fresh and had every little detail like the guest bedroom of one’s home.   The dining room, besides having several tables, also boasted a china cupboard, sideboard and a “display of dishes around the platerail with which every housewife delights to adorn her dining room.”

In 1913 the northwest addition was made adding 12 rooms to the hotel.  Around the same time a 16’x14’ two story conservatory was added on the south side of the building.  It was said that tropical fruits and flowers were grown there.

Lewis died in 1924 and Josephine followed after in 1932.  In 1934 the Brattons bought the property at the sheriff’s sale and then in 1943 leased the building to the U.S. Government.  Partitions were added to create more rooms for the personnel employed at Delevan Airbase.   When the government turned it over again in 1946 some of the old barracks from the Air Base were moved to the property adding ten more rooms to rent.

In November of 1960, Mayor Harry Rosser, Judge Walter Hembro and Marlin Brown purchased and invested $75,000 in remodeling the building.  In an attempt to modernize and streamline the old hotel they removed the porch and most of the interior doors with transom because they looked too old fashioned.  The brick was painted white, a more modern entry constructed and it was renamed the Stagecoach Motor-Tel.

In September of 1982 the Essingtons bought the property and over the next ten years brought the Cottage House back to its former glory.  They reclaimed the old name, replaced the porches, and did extensive interior renovation.  The Essingtons continued to operate the Cottage House until February of 2010 when Jeremiah and Dawn Hershberger became the proprietors.

In 1996 the two story house at 28 N. Mission Street was purchased and became the Cottage House Annex.  Historically it is known as the Stenger/Blim house and was built by Jacob Stenger in 1863.  It originally stood at 220 W Main where the Farm Bureau building is currently.  In 1914, H.E. Blim moved the house to its present location where the west wing and porch were added.  The house was sold and became a private home a few years ago.

Of the many fond memories that stood out for Mrs. Essington was an occasion when Doran Welton Barham and his wife stayed at the Cottage House.  Barham was an architect as well as artist and painter.  He received his degree at Kansas State in 1950 and afterwards went to work for Thomas & Harris, an architectural firm in Wichita.  It was probably during this time that he drew several old and beautiful homes that were going to be torn down to make room for the hospital.  By chance, Mrs. Essington purchased this artwork at a sale and it found a new home in the hotel.   Mr. Barham saw his work on the wall in the hotel and said “oh my!”  He then related to Mrs. Essington that he was the artist that had drawn it many years before.

Addenda:

Concerning the restoration project on the Cottage House, Connie Essington and Sharon Haun purchased the property in 1982.  Sharon was responsible for much of the design and accounting. In 1986, Sharon sold her interest, leaving Connie as sole owner.
Concerning George Biglin building a blacksmith shop on the location as stated above, there does not appear to be any primary source as of yet for that story.  It has long been said that Biglin built a shop there.  Historian Ken McClintock states that Low Whitsett and Christopher Strieby were working as blacksmiths and that Whitsett’s daughter married George Biglin, which may be how the story of the Cottage House blacksmith shop came about.
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