While sifting Kevin’s Wonderful World of Oddities, I stumbled onto a faded prospectus for a building that has been a big part of the Danville skyline since 1926: the Hotel Wolford.

The hotel, at Harrison and Hazel streets, was, for years, the finest in east-central Illinois. Its heyday was before my time, but I heard about the top-floor “Sky Room” where famous Big Bands played, and the Vermilion Room cocktail lounge.

I do remember the Regency Room, where the annual Eagle Scout banquet was held (I was roast-beefed there in 1970), the barber shop, rooms where civic and service organizations met for lunch, and the fancy lobby where I helped greet visiting Legionnaires at the state 40/8 convention, circa 1966. (Dad was active in Post 210 then.)

The hotel closed many years ago, but thankfully, the building was saved and converted into very nice, affordable apartments.

The undated prospectus was published by the Danville Hotel Company, which proposed a stock sale and bond issue.

John H. Harrison was corporation president and a director. He was publisher of The Commercial-News, and the man behind Harrison Park.

“Hotel Wolford will be erected with the thought of catering to those who appreciate the art of living and will unquestionably be the social center of Danville,” the flyer begins. “Only the sort of people whom you might invite into your own home will be welcome, for the Wolford will be the home of many families and individuals, with all the luxury, comfort and privacy, but taking the maze of housekeeping detail upon ourselves.”

The old M. J. Wolford home was to be demolished to create the hotel site. It was a half-block from streetcar lines and within two blocks of the heart of the shopping district.

Plans called for a nine-story building of reinforced concrete, faced with brick and embellished with terra cotta, with “the same exquisite taste exhibited in the interior, as well as the exterior. Its public spaces, dining rooms, open garden and ball room will be equal to any hotel in the state.”

Dining options were to offer “more than most homes could provide,” accommodating “a party of two or 200.” In the basement, “a popular priced cafeteria” was to serve “Wolford food … with the same elegance and taste.”

Other basement attractions: a barber shop, beauty parlor and Turkish bath.

Hotel guests could welcome their visitors in several second-story “salon rooms,” each “furnished in quiet elegance with a harmonious blend of colors.” There were restrooms, a ladies’ lounge, a writing room and a card room.

The third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors each was to contain 35 guest rooms, with a five-room apartment on the corner of each floor. The seventh and eighth floors were reserved for apartments of from one to five rooms.

And, finally, “The ninth or top floor will consist of a large banquet hall and ballroom or roof garden, about which will center all of the social activities in Danville.”

What stories the Wolford could tell!

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at irishhiker@aol.com.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at irishhiker@aol.com.

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