Hotel Statler: 1000 rooms, 1000 baths
The Statler in photos
E.M. Statler: The Father of the American Hotel

E.M. StatlerAny telling of the story of Detroit's Statler Hotel that omits the story of E.M. Statler and his extraordinary hotel chain would be incomplete. Here, in brief, is the story of E.M. Statler. For much much more I recommend the book "Statler: America's Extraordinary Hotelman" by Floyd Miller.

E.M. Statler was born on October 26, 1863 near Gettysburg Pennsylvania into the family of a poor pastor. The Statler family soon moved to Bridgeport Ohio, across the river from Wheeling West Virginia. There the young E.M. Statler started to work at the LaBelle Glass Factory. He was only 9.

Statler proved a hard and determined worker. But the glassworks was not for him. He had developed a fascination with the McLure Hotel in Wheeling. By his 13th year he had obtained a job as a bellboy. Thus began a life in the hotel industry.

Statler quickly worked his way up. By age 15 he had become head bellboy, then night desk clerk, and finally day desk clerk. From this experience he learned the functions and jobs of hotels. He also began to develop ideas to improve hotel service and efficiency He began to test these ideas with business ventures.

The first such venture was a billiard room in the McLure Hotel. He turned an unprofitable low class establishment into a profitable high class establishment. He then went on to develop a bankrupt bowling club into a profitable venture, complete with a pie shop. These ventures gave Statler a reputation among businessmen and lenders as hardworking and reliable. It was clear to many that he would go far.

Statler's RestaurantHis most ambitious move came in 1894 when he opened Statler's Restaurant in the new Ellicott Square Building in Buffalo. Buffalo had a reputation as a poor restaurant town. Despite Statler's best efforts to make the restaurant as efficient as possible it lost money. But then Statler discovered the power of advertising. A series of newspaper ads and publicity stunts later, Statler's Restaurant was a resounding success.

With a tidy profit from his restaurant Statler returned to the hotel business. In 1901 he opened a massive temporary hotel for Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition. Sadly the exposition was a failure. Statler was lucky that he managed to gain a small profit. Despite the less then glamorous results of the Buffalo venture Statler built the Innside Inn for the 1904 St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition. This time the fair and hotel were successful. There was, however, a dreadful accident with a coffee machine which nearly killed Statler. He was bound in a wheel chair for many months.

Innside InnWith the end of the St. Louis fair Statler was prepared to build his first permanent hotel. It would be in Buffalo and would incorporate all he had learned from his previous ventures. This hotel, the Buffalo Statler, quickly became famous and successful. It would be a long, though interesting, story to tell of the success of the Buffalo Statler and the events which lead to the construction of the other Statlers. But that will soon be covered in brief bios I will add here. A list of Statlers is as follows... Buffalo (1907), Cleveland (1912), Detroit (1915), St. Louis (1917), New York (1919), Buffalo (1923), Boston (1927), Pittsburgh/Hotel William Penn (1938), Washington D.C. (1943), Los Angeles (1952), Dallas (1955), Hartford (1956).

Only the first seven hotels were built by Statler. He died on April 16, 1928. The hotel company he founded lasted tell 1954 when it was bought by Hilton. However, his influence on the hotel industry and American culture has been everlasting.

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Copyright 2001, David Kohrman
Last updated on 6-24-01