I’ve wanted to stay at the Midland Railroad Hotel in Wilson for years. This place is known as a beautifully restored historic property, and I wanted to experience the past through the Midland’s lens. So even though Wilson is in fact 45 miles east of Hays, that is where I stayed overnight on my research trip.
The three-story limestone hotel was built in 1899, gutted by fire in 1902, and rebuilt at that time with the addition of modern heating. After a century of varying fortunes the hotel was bought by the city of Wilson and restored to its 1920’s glory. (Read more about its history, including the time it was a movie set, on the hotel’s website.)
The Midland shines with love and care. There’s no dust in the corners here, and the historic detail of the first floor makes it feel warm and inviting.
I made a reservation for the Sample Room restaurant in the basement but ended up canceling it when my visit to Wilson Lake ran long. I noted with regret how quickly my reservation was given to someone waiting at the desk. The restaurant is in demand.
Breakfast, included with the price of the room, is not to be missed. It reflects the Czech heritage of the city of Wilson, and includes kolache, smoked salmon, and a selection of sausage and cheese. Typical American items like dry cereal, bagels, and orange juice are also available.
My room was small, and the queen-size bed nearly filled it up. I chalked this up to the period in which the hotel was built, when standards were different.
The Midland Railroad Hotel is located just off I-70 in Wilson, Kansas, pop. 781. Wilson was settled by Czech immigrants who moved to Kansas in 1874 to work for the railroad. I visited Wilson in July, the week before the annual Czech Fest, and the town was decked out in oversize “Czech eggs,” those ornamental painted Easter eggs particular to cultures of eastern Europe. The world’s largest Czech egg is located across the road from the hotel in a pretty park.
Wilson’s best feature is its location just a few miles south of Wilson Lake, which is in my opinion the prettiest lake in Kansas. I’ll be featuring the lake in next week’s post.
I took a morning walk through Wilson’s small business district and counted three public phone booths. No one knows better than me that cell service can be spotty in rural America, but three public telephones seems a bit over the top for a town that size. I’ll bet there’s a real good story behind those phone booths. I did ask about them at the hotel desk. The clerk had no idea what I was talking about. I find this suspicious.