Historical society lends a hand to Hotel Metropolitan

Jean Pinnegar, 80, from Old Eddyville and Glenda Moore, 82, of Kuttawa, work to get Paducah’s Hotel Metropolitan ready for the Eighth of August celebration. The hotel served as a place of refuge for African American travelers from 1908 to 1996 and now serves as a museum to the history of the building and its past inhabitants.

PADUCAH — The Lyon County Historical Society helped to clean up and prepare Paducah’s Hotel Metropolitan in the lead up to the Aug. 8 celebration.

The Hotel Metropolitan was founded in 1908 by Maggie Steed and served as a hotel for African American travelers until it’s closing in 1996, serving as a refuge through Jim Crow, segregation and the Civil Rights movement. During that time, the hotel saw many famous faces performing in or passing through Paducah, such as Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Thurgood Marshall and Ike and Tina Turner.

By the turn of the century, the hotel had begun to fall into disrepair after years of neglect and was scheduled to be demolished.

“Twenty-three years ago, a gentleman called it to our attention that the building was going to be torn down,” said Betty Dobson, director of the Hotel Metropolitan.

“I was one of those people that was thinking maybe it should be because it was in such bad condition. So, he began telling me that Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Thurgood Marshall — all the famous people who had ended up staying here. And so, my friend and I got a group of people together, mainly women who wanted to save it. Our organization, the Upper Town Heritage Foundation, will be 24 in September.”

The Lyon County Historical Society began to help at the Hotel Metropolitan because of Dobson, who is an Old Eddyville native. The historical society maintains a museum about Old Eddyville and Eddyville, the Rose Hill Museum.

They began working with Dobson and the Upper Town Heritage Foundation due to their connection to Dobson. Vice president of the historical society, Della Oliver, served as her Girl Scouts leader.

The cleaning is done in preparation for the Eighth of August celebration, starting Aug. 4 with public tours of the hotel and a talk from Dr. Allison Turley.

“On Aug. 4, we have partnered with the public library, to have Dr. Allison Turley to speak on emancipation Saturday,” Dobson said. “Nationally, we have Juneteenth. But in fact, there are a lot of events that are like Juneteenth, like Eighth of August that are celebrated throughout the country. And Dr. Turley will speak on that topic Thursday. That Friday, we’re having our homecoming fish fry and that starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.”

Aug. 6 brings a new event for the hotel, with guests including Duke Wade, a former road manager for Ray Charles and the last surviving member of the Louisville Black Six, Sam Hawkins, in order to hold a murder mystery at the Union Hall at 1415 S. 3rd St. The Black Six were a group that was falsely charged with inciting a riot in the Parkland neighborhood in 1968.

Tickets to the murder mystery are $25 a person and starts at 5:30 p.m. Proceeds of the event going to renovations on the hotel.

“This place has some really strong needs right now,” said Sherry Thompson, a volunteer with the hotel and friend of Dobson.

“And the board needs to be able to tap have time to work on those things. This group stepping in and helping them with the cleaning gives them a bit more of that time. The board and hotel need so many things, $25,000 for the roof, $1,500 for the ‘Purple Room.’ It’s a lot of cash and they are supported completely by donations. If the public wants to help, making donations, going on tours, and attending events can help save this building. “

The Hotel Metropolitan is available to tour by appointment, For more information on upcoming events and how to support the Hotel Metropolitan, visit its Facebook at facebook.com/greenbookstop.

Follow Levi Brandenburg on Twitter, @LeviBrandenbur3, or on Facebook at facebook.com/levi.brandenburg.1.

Follow Levi Brandenburg on Twitter, @LeviBrandenbur3, or on Facebook at facebook.com/levi.brandenburg.1.