Clarke Hotel



John F. Kennedy speaks



When the Clarke Hotel was dedicated in February, 1914, it was hailed as a triumph of local initiative. The $175,000 project originated with the Chamber of Commerce, which established a corporation to construct it through sale of stock to Hastings residents.

It was designed by architect C.W. Way and built by the John Hempel Company, both of Hastings. Bricks made in Hastings formed the exterior of the building, and local craftsmen made everything from the terra cotta trim and marquee awnings to the light fixtures, oak millwork and mosaic floors. It was named for Alonzo L. Clarke, a prominent Hastings businessman.

A 1916 addition to the six-story Renaissance Revival style building expanded its size to 170 "absolutely fireproof" rooms and included a ballroom with seating for 300. For the next seventy years, the Clarke served as the social center for the region, hosting everything from daily coffee klatches to state conventions of every sort. The grill room, with its life-sized murals depicting "Wine, Women and Song," painted by an Italian member of the Royal Academy of arts, was an especially popular gathering place.

Many notables visited the luxury hotel, including former President William Howard Taft and future President John F. Kennedy. After a million dollar renovation in 1987, the Clarke Hotel became the Kensington retirement complex. That year the site was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.