In a snapshot representative of the early, lean days of the Columbia Art League, paintings are leaned against a wall in the bright sunshine along Cherry Street near the Tiger Hotel. The photo is undated but might have been taken circa late 1950s or early 1960s.
Built in 1928 by Simon Construction Company, The Tiger Hotel was the most lavish hotel in Columbia, with modern amenities seen nowhere else. Designed by Alonzo Gentry, a member of the Statler Hotel architectural team, it was the first skyscraper between Kansas City and St.Louis. The construction was a point of interest for local residents: people were often seen watching as concrete and other building materials were hoisted high into the air. With over 100 rooms, elevators and a circulating ice water cooling system, The Tiger Hotel set the bar for comfort and convenience. The Tiger sign on the roof became, and is to this day, the most notable landmark in Columbia.
Operating as a hotel for many decades, the ownership often changed, usually accompanied by various renovations. With the decline of rail travel and the increase in modern cars, The Tiger was reinvented as The Tiger Motor Hotel. With advertising showcasing free guest parking in automatic garages, it maintained its prestige for many years. Eventually the increase in vehicular traffic on the major interstates took its toll, and in 1987, The Tiger was renovated once again to become The Kensington, a retirement community.
In 1979, The Tiger Hotel was nominated for the National Registry of Historic places and was named one of the top ten most notable places in Boone County in 2000. Sold again in 2011, the current owners of The Tiger Hotel embarked on the most magnificent renovation to date.
Over the years and numerous incarnations, many of the historical elements were lost. The original chandeliers are one of the features that were saved and reconditioned for modern use. All of the terrazzo inlaid floors have been stripped and polished back to their original splendor as well. After taking room floors back to nothing but the outside brick walls, they have now been carefully appointed with modern layouts and features that rival that of any luxury hotel.
The Tiger Hotel has ushered in a new wave of technology and outstanding comforts that have once again made it a destination and leader in hospitality excellence.