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Local History

Razing of the Old Elms Hotel

 Dr. J.R. Smith stands on the front porch of his home 527 St. Louis street.Take a look at former homes on St. Louis Street before the razing of the old Elms Hotel in 1954.  In the late 1800's the property was the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Rathbone, a descendent of Thomas Keet.

From Bias magazine, July 27, 1954, pages 14 and 15.

Razing of the old Elms hotel, 527 St. Louis, once one of Springfield's finest homes, has a special nostalgic meaning for Mrs. Claud Rathbone.  Mrs. Rathbone, the former Elizabeth Cooper, and her sister Mary, who's now Mrs. Risdon McBride, were born in the house, lived there many years with their mother and grandmother and recall the gay socials once held in the spacious white frame structure.

Mrs. Rathbone's mother is Mrs. George Cooper, who'll be 88 this fall and who now is visiting Mrs. McBride in Orlando, Fla.  She'll return this winter to the Rathbone home at 1530 Washington.  Mr. Cooper and his brother, the late Harry Cooper, owned the Cooper Brothers Plumbing Co., (now the Harry Cooper Supply Co.) and George Cooper died of pneumonia while visiting in England when daughter Elizabeth was 16 years of age.

 The Cooper sisters playing on lawn in 1896.  In the background is the home of Thomas Josiah Keet.Mrs. Cooper was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J.R. Smith and Mrs. Smith was Fannie Keet, daughter of Thomas Josiah Keet, Springfield pioneer.  T.J. Keet at one time owned property extending from the Elms hotel site east to Kimbrough and it was through him that his daughter, Mrs. Smith obtained the handsome home which became known as "the Smith place". [Note: The location would have been on the North side of St. Louis Street about half way between N. Benton and Kimbrough Ave according to the 1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, page 65.]

Mrs. Smith and the Cooper family lived there together.  Both ladies loved to entertain and as the Cooper girls grew up there were many parties for "the high school set" held there.  As Mrs. Rathbone recalls it,  the lower floor included a front parlor, sitting room, library, music room, large dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms and bath and the second floor, reached by a beautiful stair extending up from the wide front hall, held exactly as many rooms-all bedrooms.

When Mr. and Mrs. Cooper decided to move into the home with their mother, they remodeled the house extensively.  An old barn on the place was whitewashed and made into living quarters for the family while the remodeling was in progress "just like a garage apartment today" Mrs. Rathbone said.

Mrs. Rathbone doesn't recall just when the Coopers decided to move to a more modern home on Cherry Street but the property was rented for a time then sold.  It's been purchased now by Postmaster C. Arch Bay at a sheriff's sale for $47, 500.  Mr. Bay said the site will be made into a parking lot; it's convenient to the Shrine Mosque and the new Sears-Roebuck building.

As far as Mrs. Rathbone can remember the house was never occupied by the Crenshaw family, notwithstanding statements published to the contrary.  The Crenshaws, she said, lived up the street where the American Laundry is now located. [Note: In the 1953 Springfield City Directory the American Laundry was at 720 St. Louis Street, which was just east of the Kentwood Arms hotel.

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